THE ISSUE. When a property crime or a violent crime occurs, the primary aggrieved party is the individual victim, not the government, and thus the compensation should go primarily to the individual victim, not the government.  This idea has been around for centuries, and the concept is found in the sacred texts of nearly every major religion.  In the modern world, however, we have drifted away from this essential truth.  A telling example is the “style” of criminal cases, which are written as ‘Defendant v. [The State],’ rather than ‘Defendant v. [Victim.]’  The case styles reveal that our system now focuses more on prosecuting defendants for the harm they have done to society at large, rather than the harm they have done to their victim.  It is important to pay attention to the effect crime has on society, but we must not neglect the victim’s rights.

In the investigation and prosecution of crimes, victims must be included at every stage and meaningfully empowered. Opportunities for more informal restorative practices should also be considered for non-violent first time offenses.

Informal restorative practices are not likely to displace the modern criminal justice system, due to factors such as population growth, urbanization, and the transient nature of many modern communities.  Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence indicates the benefit – to victims, taxpayers, and offenders – of integrating practices designed to empower and restore victims into today’s criminal justice process.

THE IMPACT. Mediation – in appropriate cases in which participation is voluntary both for victim and offender—offers victims an expedited means of obtaining justice in contrast with protracted pretrial proceedings, jury selection, and appeals.  A mediation agreement is ratified by the prosecutor or judge.  Failure to comply subjects the offender to traditional prosecution and, if necessary, incarceration.  Because mediation enables offenders to avoid a conviction on their record, they are often more successful in finding or retaining jobs that enable them to pay restitution.

A national study found that 95 percent of cases resolved through victim-offender mediation result in a written agreement, 90 percent of which are completed within one year, far exceeding the average restitution collection rate of 20 to 30 percent.  Furthermore, 79 percent of victims who participated in mediation were satisfied, compared with 57 percent in the traditional court system.  Also, the 1,298 juveniles who participated in mediation were 32 percent less likely to re-offend.

In addition to mediation, a greater emphasis should be placed on victims’ input throughout the criminal justice process.  The voice of the victim should be more closely considered by judges and prosecutors at every stage.


• The criminal justice system should be structured to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and respect and with the choice to participate, recieve restitution, and even be reconciled with first time non-violent offenders.

• In appropriate cases, enable crime victims to choose pretrial victim-offender mediation.

• Expand victims’ access to offenders’ funds by lowering exemption thresholds that apply to restitution orders when they are converted into civil judgments.

• Use amount and share of restitution actually collected as a performance measure for probation and parole systems.

West Virginia Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bill

Right on Crime | March 28, 2013
A few days ago, the West Virginia State Senate passed criminal justice reform bill SB371 by an overwhelming vote of 33-0. It’s unusual for any legislative body to pass…

Right on Crime minute video: Victim Conferencing

Right on Crime | March 7, 2013
Thanks to Will Franklin for putting together our latest Right on Crime minute video. This video shows the power of victim conferencing to restore victims, reduce recidivism and ensure…

Salina, Kansas Experiments with Restorative Justice

Right on Crime | October 23, 2012
Certain juveniles in Salina, Kansas, will now have an opportunity to restore their communities and their victims after they run afoul of the law. Read more

Crime and Victimization Rates: Are Our Streets Still Safe?

Right on Crime | October 18, 2012
A new report from the Department of Justice is making waves with its declaration that victimization rates increased between 2010 and 2011. After a 72 percent decrease since 1993,…

Renewed Emphasis on Victims at the Department of Justice

Right on Crime | September 26, 2012
For the last two years, various U.S. Department of Justice officials have been making a federal case out of victims’ rights. The unfortunate trend is to relegate victims to…

How the 2012 GOP Platform Tackles Criminal Justice

Right on Crime | August 31, 2012
This week, during its quadrennial national convention, the Republican Party released its 2012 platform. The platform is yet another indicator of how conservative leaders are reapplying basic conservative principles…

Governor Chris Christie Answers Crime Victims’ Pleas

Marc Levin | August 28, 2012
It is clear that Mitt Romney has a friend in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but so do those who have been victims of crime. On August 8, Gov.…

Paul Cassell on the Victims’ Rights Amendment

Right on Crime | July 20, 2012
Slate.com just completed a short series of articles by prominent legal thinkers titled “How Can We Fix the Constitution?” Among the submissions was a piece by former federal judge…

An Interview with U.S. Congressman Ted Poe

Right on Crime | April 27, 2012
To close National Victims' Rights Week, I interviewed United States Congressman Ted Poe about his work chairing the Congressional Victims' Rights Caucus. Read more

An Important Victims’ Restitution Case in the Fifth Circuit

Right on Crime | April 24, 2012
A woman identified by the pseudonym “Amy” was the victim of child sexual abuse. The abuse was photographed, and the pornographic images are widely circulated on the internet. An…

National Crime Victims Rights Week 2012

Right on Crime | April 23, 2012
In 1981, Ronald Reagan signed an executive order establishing National Crime Victims Rights Week (NCVRW). This week marks the 32nd annual celebration of the week, which promotes victims’ interests…

Washington State Increases Victim’s Role in Juvenile Justice

Right on Crime | March 9, 2012
On a vote of 48-0, the Washington State Senate approved legislation that would permit juveniles, victims, and the community to come together to redress juvenile crime. The legislation had…
Connect With Right on Crime
STAY Informed: