Response to Victim’s Websites

It was not until Jennifer Bishop Jenkins came in to speak to our class about victim’s rights did I ever really start thinking about victim’s rights at all. To me, being a victim seemed like such a passive and depressing experience, but it really isn’t. You can do a lot of things as an active victim to ensure that you’re wishes are being considered, that the offender is serving his/her crime, and to ensure your own safely as well as your family’s. Websites such as www.murdervictims.com/Parole and http://www.citizensagainsthomicide.org have a set of guidelines to follow when protesting the parole of the offender and offer legal help. This includes writing a detailed description of the crime, a history of the victim’s life, their future goals and reasons why the offender shouldn’t be paroled. I understand why many victims would want to do this- especially if they feel that the offender is only spending a minimal amount of time in prison, yet at the same time I feel like it is a very anti-restorative justice movement. Victims don’t seem to have any concern for rehabilitative procedures, and seem to only fight for lengthening a specific offender’s sentence. They claim that it would make them feel safer, but honestly, I don’t think that’s a good enough reason. That person will be let out someday, and what’s the difference between this year and next? There are crazy people all over the place, you aren’t guaranteed safety anywhere. It is unfortunate that you have become a victim, yes, and I know you didn’t choose it, but you also have to learn to accept the fact. Unless you’re offender is being let out of prison ridiculously early, I really don’t think that victims should be getting involved.

Another thing that struck me while looking at the list of websites, was the support for the three-strikes laws in California and how they’ve supposedly decreased crime by something like 30%. Ever since putting the three-strikes you’re out policy into effect 10 years ago, the crime rate has significantly decreased. But that doesn’t mean that the policy is right! To me it just seems unfair that you should be given at least 25 years if you commit a felony for the third time, after having served time for the other two. You should serve the sentence that is pegged to the crime you commit. Period. There shouldn’t be extensions because you’ve committed crimes in the past. That’s unjust. And of course this law is going to cut down on crime- if you’re sending drug dealers to a life sentence for 3 separate accounts then that would make sense. In one quote, Bill Jones, the Secretary of State of California said  “Five years later, we now have evidence that fewer crimes are being committed, fewer inmates than expected are going to prison, and more career criminals on parole have left the state for more crime-tolerant locales.” Great. So you’re saying the crime rate is going down because people are moving to other places where there aren’t as strict of crimes? Sounds like a good plan.

I agree with the author of the rapereliefshelter.com article when she says that we need to ensure everyone’s safety, but that doesn’t mean that everyone dangerous needs to be confined. This author promotes more rehabilitative programs and structures to be created, where people such as nonviolent drug dealers could go for a certain period of time to get clean and learn other ways of making a living. “They should be given a chance to work with their problems in a supportive environment where true healing can occur. Healing and institutionalized punishment are antithetical; one cancels the other out.” She says “We need to respond not just to the behavior but to the underlying reasons… Prevention is the most obvious goal of transformative justice.” I agree with this very much, and I think that the lack of preventative programs, especially for kids, are a big reason why crime rates are as high as they are.

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