This week marked National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, a week dedicated to remembering the pain and suffering of those impacted by criminal activity, as well as highlighting solutions to prevent others from experiencing the same difficulty. Right on Crime strongly urges support and compassion for those who have been impacted by the actions of others unexpectedly and undeservedly, and advocates for practices to ease these difficult situations.
There are several opportunities to further the cause of victims through criminal justice reform; from advocating for more effective rehabilitation methods that prevent future victims down the road to restorative justice programming that allows for a more satisfactory resolution to many cases in the criminal justice system. Victims should never be forgotten in the criminal justice process, but should be able to find in it a tool to repair and make themselves whole.
Improved rehabilitation methods correct oftentimes staggering recidivism rates, lessening the probability of future victims. One such method is the drug courts that focus on treatment that keep addictions in check while the offender is still able to work and raise their family, or mental health programming within prisons and jails that lower the likelihood of reoffending upon release. Improving the programming offered can cut recidivism rates, steering offenders away from crime and preventing future victimization.
Additionally, it often seems that the victimization exists solely between the state and the offender, such that criminal cases are framed intentionally as a dispute between the state and the defendant – Smith v. Texas, or Jones v. United States as examples. What is forgotten is that while there was an offense against an individual.
One program that allows that prioritizes individual, and according to studies affords much greater satisfaction to victims, is restorative justice. Restorative justice programs focus on a form of mediation between the offender and the victim, the harm that was caused, how it will be fixed, as well as creating an avenue for an offender to understand the personal impact of their actions and to express remorse. These programs have been known to provide significantly greater rates of restitution for victims, an aspect of criminal justice that often is left by the wayside.
Right on Crime hopes to continue furthering the rights of victims in the criminal justice system, both this week, and in the future.