Victims and Criminals / by kevin murray

The United States incarcerates over 2 million individuals in numerous jails and prisons, but for every criminal incarcerated there is often a human victim.  We read so much about the criminals but fairly little about the victims of these crimes.  The first question that really should be asked is justice for the victim being served properly in our judicial system, as opposed to our current system operation which appears to be strictly about punishment of the criminal.  Not every criminal should be punished with straight incarceration, as punishment seldom solves the underlying problem, and infrequently do victims have a blood-thirsty desire for punishment of their perpetrator because they recognize that punishment will not make up for what they have lost or have had taken from them.


While there are state and federal programs that do provide compensation to victims for certain crimes, a significant portion of that compensation shouldn't come from the taxpayers, but from the perpetrators of the crimes themselves.  Of course, many criminals do not have access to money or income, but this lack should not mean that criminals should not be obligated to make payments to the victims themselves, whether inside or outside the prison.  Consequently, our sentencing structure must be reformed to reflect that true justice includes both the victim and the criminal with the criminal having not only a moral but a legal obligation to make good to their victim.


For instance, in today's hi-tech world, there are inexpensive and effective ways to monitor criminals and their location so that for non-violent offenders,   there should be far more flexibility in placing these people not in prisons or jails, but in work release, supervised released, or probationary release programs.  Not only would the use of these programs decrease the cost to taxpayers for incarcerating offenders, it will also allow these same offenders to learn responsibility, earn money, and to pay restitution to their victims.


Two wrongs don't make a right.  When something is taken from you, when you are hurt or abused and the wrongdoer has been identified, you as a victim should have the right to see that you are compensated for your loss.  As a victim, your loss, your wholeness, should be as important, or more important, than some mandatory sentencing guideline which will remove the preparatory from off the street, but will not remove or will not amend the structure that helps to create the criminal in the first place.


Criminals are not born, they are developed over time, whether through negligence, or circumstances, or lack, or judgment, or a combination of these or other items not here separately  listed,   if we want less criminals and thereby to have less victims, we need to look at the big picture, because if incarceration itself, solved our crime problems, the United States would have practically the lowest rate of crime in the world, because the USA incarcerates criminals at virtually the highest rate in the world.  It hasn't been working.  It doesn't work for the criminals, it doesn't serve justice, and it is an injustice to the victims, themselves.


We owe to victims, to do the right thing for them, and that is to see that they are the first in line in receiving the restitution, care, and graciousness of this rich nation.   Let us be that Good Samaritan and that good neighbor, rather than to avoid doing what we should.