Victim Support Services, VSS, provides a brief sample of a victim advocate or impact letter. VSS also provides general guidelines and suggestions for the breadth of information that can be included in a letter to a judge, parole board or probation services.
Victim impact letters allow the people affected by a crime to present the effects of that crime to officials involved in the sentencing and oversight of the perpetrators. Letters are sometimes read aloud prior to sentencing in court or before decisions are made at parole and probation hearings. In other cases, the letters are provided to the officials to be entered into the record as written statements. Because all victim impact letters become part of the official record, offenders have access to them. Contact information should never be included.
An impact letter is not the appropriate avenue to express anger or a desire for vengeance. Its purpose is to present the effects of the crime from the victim's perspective, whereas the focus of the trial is the offender and his crime. The process of writing a victim impact letter can be an important step toward healing following the crime. VSS provides a 24-hour crisis line, referrals and advocacy services to facilitate personal recovery for victims and their loved ones.