Victims' Rights / by kevin murray

Because America incarcerates such a high percentage of its citizens for all sorts of crimes, somewhere lost in all that noise, is the ultimate consideration which is the victims' rights.  While one can make an argument, that justice is about following the legal code and the legal requirements of a given situation, the victim of said crime must also be taken into serious consideration.  You can make a very valid argument that it is the victim of a crime that should be of primary concern when it comes to real justice and an effort should be made to make this person whole again, and to lose track of the victim and his rights, is a fundamental mistake of legal justice.  Consequently, restorative justice is an area of law that should be studied extensively, and implemented in as many cases as practical.


For instance, if somebody robs your house of your material goods and the perpetrator is later caught, convicted, and sentenced to serve time in prison, what have you as a victim recovered from this?  The only real gain is perhaps a gain for society to which a robber has been put in jail, so as to not give him the opportunity to rob someone else.  But he hasn't paid back anyone for the goods that were stolen, further to incarcerate this man costs the taxpayer's money, and there are typically no conditions set forth to rehabilitate the man or even to understand what circumstances brought forth the crime in the first place.  None of this makes any real good sense, to have it as a policy that incarceration resolves issues is fundamentally flawed, as a far better resolution is something that helps to compensate the victim of the crime itself.


When the State makes a case against an alleged criminal, the victim and his rights must be taken into account, to which the victim should be afforded the opportunity to be an integral part of the prosecution's mindset and the construction of the case at hand.  Upon a conviction, or mediation, or plea bargain, the structure of the punishment, imprisonment, penalty, or whatever, should be looked at in such a manner that would best present the possibility of coming up with a resolution that would, in particular, satisfy the victim, while simultaneously being acceptable to the State, as well as a fair resolution for the convicted person, himself.  To accomplish these tasks in such a way as to give satisfaction and a sense of justice to all, would not be easy, but it is a necessary step in understanding that crimes that are committed by people against other people, should be resolved with those people in mind, and that the State should be facilitators of this action, rather than the State mandating this or that particular action based on its traditional treatment of this particular crime.


Having the attitude that the goal of our legal system is to "put the bad guys in jail" misses the entire point of justice to begin with.  Justice should seldom be about punishment or banishment, but should instead involve restitution, opportunity, testimony, and understanding.  The victim should not be subsumed by the State, as it is the collective victims that make up the State to begin with.  Instead, victims should be seen as to what they really are, individuals that have been denied their pursuit of happiness or worse, and consequently it is to the victim that some sort of collaborative justice should be made.