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April 11, 2018

"Victims of crime and reformers should work together on criminal justice reform"

The title of this post is the headline of this Washington Examiner commentary authored by Jordan Richardson, Laurie Garduque, and Mai Fernandez.  Here are excerpts:

Recent criminal justice reforms, such as the creation of alternatives to incarceration and the tearing down of barriers to reentry from prison, have resulted in significant changes around the country.  Nonetheless, there’s one thing that has remained the same: policymakers are failing to consult crime victims prior to the development and deployment of these reforms.

This National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, we urge jurisdictions across the country to bring victims to the table and ask them what they think about criminal justice reform and how they can create a criminal justice system that better takes into account how to make victims whole.  Their suggestions may be surprising, and they will help ensure that the changes policymakers create will serve everyone affected by the justice system....

Too often, reformers avoid considering victims’ views because they assume the victims’ highest priority is punishment.  But this is far from the truth.  Recent polling published in 2017 by the Alliance for Safety and Justice found that only 4 percent of crime victims believe that “too few people in prison” contributes to crime in their community.  In fact, 86 percent of victims believe that programs providing rehabilitation and drug and mental health treatment for people already in the justice system should receive more funding.

In order to encourage more crime victims to participate in improving our criminal justice system, The National Center for Victims of Crime has solicited feedback from victims and their advocates around the country. They found that victims seek reliable, sufficient, and accessible services, and they want justice system transparency and trauma-informed responses to their experiences. Crime victims also believe the justice system should be dedicated in part to making victims whole again, beginning with providing notification and protection for victims when formerly incarcerated individuals reenter the community.

Furthermore, victims think that if people are enrolled in diversion programs such as mental health courts or ordered to participate in drug treatment as part of their probation, these services should be affordable, effective, and adequately supervised.  Lack of participant accountability causes victims to distrust and not want to engage with the justice system.

Crime victim survivors deserve a voice at the policy reform table. Many are strong supporters of the exact types of reforms criminal justice experts are advocating. They want their experiences to be acknowledged, and they want our justice system to be sensitive and respectful of their needs....

Ensuring that people coming out of prison have a chance to succeed should be a top concern, and victims can play a key role in informing policymakers about how to achieve public safety while respecting the human dignity of everyone involved.

Reformers must be willing to recognize that victims have been affected by unfair justice system policies and practices. They must also respond with adequate funding, research efforts, and resources. The question is, “How can we develop and transform our criminal justice system to improve services for everyone involved?”  We cannot afford to leave victims out of criminal justice reform.

April 11, 2018 at 07:24 PM | Permalink


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