Priority Issues: Victims
I. The Issue
When a property crime or a violent crime occurs, the primary aggrieved party is the individual victim, not the government, and thus the compensation should go primarily to the individual victim, not the government. This idea has been around for centuries, and the concept is found in the sacred texts of nearly every major religion. In the modern world, however, we have drifted away from this essential truth. A telling example is the “style” of criminal cases, which are written as ‘Defendant v. [The State],’ rather than ‘Defendant v. [Victim.]’ The case styles reveal that our system now focuses more on prosecuting defendants for the harm they have done to society at large, rather than the harm they have done to their victim. It is important to pay attention to the effect crime has on society, but we must not neglect the victim’s rights.
In the investigation and prosecution of crimes, victims must be included at every stage and meaningfully empowered. Opportunities for more informal restorative practices should also be considered for non-violent first time offenses.
Informal restorative practices are not likely to displace the modern criminal justice system, due to factors such as population growth, urbanization, and the transient nature of many modern communities. Nevertheless, a growing body of evidence indicates the benefit – to victims, taxpayers, and offenders – of integrating practices designed to empower and restore victims into today’s criminal justice process.
II. The Impact
Mediation – in appropriate cases in which participation is voluntary both for victim and offender—offers victims an expedited means of obtaining justice in contrast with protracted pretrial proceedings, jury selection, and appeals. A mediation agreement is ratified by the prosecutor or judge. Failure to comply subjects the offender to traditional prosecution and, if necessary, incarceration. Because mediation enables offenders to avoid a conviction on their record, they are often more successful in finding or retaining jobs that enable them to pay restitution.
A national study found that 95 percent of cases resolved through victim-offender mediation result in a written agreement, 90 percent of which are completed within one year, far exceeding the average restitution collection rate of 20 to 30 percent. Furthermore, 79 percent of victims who participated in mediation were satisfied, compared with 57 percent in the traditional court system. Also, the 1,298 juveniles who participated in mediation were 32 percent less likely to re-offend.
In addition to mediation, a greater emphasis should be placed on victims’ input
throughout the criminal justice process. The voice of the victim should be more closely considered by judges and prosecutors at every stage.
III. The Conservative Solution
• The criminal justice system should be structured to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and respect and with the choice to participate, recieve restitution, and even be reconciled with first time non-violent offenders.
• In appropriate cases, enable crime victims to choose pretrial victim-offender mediation.
• Expand victims’ access to offenders’ funds by lowering exemption thresholds that apply to restitution orders when they are converted into civil judgments.
• Use amount and share of restitution actually collected as a performance measure for probation and parole systems.
Aligning Incentives and Goals in the Texas Criminal Justice System by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Restitution: A New Paradigm of Criminal Justice by Professor Randy Barnett
Restorative Justice in Texas by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Treating Texas Crime Victims as Consumers of Justice by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Victim-Offender Mediation and Plea-Bargaining Reform in Texas by the Texas Public Policy Foundation
Vikrant Reddy interviewed by Matt Lewis of The Daily Caller
Vikrant Reddy joined The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis today to talk about conservative ideas for criminal justice reform. They spoke about Senator Rand Paul’s speech to Howard University yesterday, as well as our broader Right on Crime issue set. LISTEN NOW! Also, here is a blog post up at the DC where Lewis describes the interview [...]:: Read More
West Virginia Senate Passes Criminal Justice Reform Bill
A few days ago, the West Virginia State Senate passed criminal justice reform bill SB371 by an overwhelming vote of 33-0. It’s unusual for any legislative body to pass a bill with zero “No” votes, but that’s exactly what happened on Thursday. The legislation, which would help West Virginia achieve the goals of ensuring public [...]:: Read More
Right on Crime minute video: Victim Conferencing
Thanks to Will Franklin for putting together our latest Right on Crime minute video. This video shows the power of victim conferencing to restore victims, reduce recidivism and ensure that restitution is paid. Check out the video by clicking here: RightOnCrimeVictimsConferencing:: Read More
Salina, Kansas Experiments with Restorative Justice
Certain juveniles in Salina, Kansas, will now have an opportunity to restore their communities and their victims after they run afoul of the law.:: Read More
Crime and Victimization Rates: Are Our Streets Still Safe?
A new report from the Department of Justice is making waves with its declaration that victimization rates increased between 2010 and 2011. After a 72 percent decrease since 1993, the violent victimization rate rose 17 percent between 2010 and 2011, while property crime rose 11 percent.:: Read More
Renewed Emphasis on Victims at the Department of Justice
For the last two years, various U.S. Department of Justice officials have been making a federal case out of victims’ rights. The unfortunate trend is to relegate victims to mere afterthought in the criminal justice system; the Department of Justice seeks to increase their prominence and meet their needs within the system.:: Read More
How the 2012 GOP Platform Tackles Criminal Justice
This week, during its quadrennial national convention, the Republican Party released its 2012 platform. The platform is yet another indicator of how conservative leaders are reapplying basic conservative principles to criminal justice. For example, the new platform contains language explicitly emphasizing the importance of prisoner reentry…:: Read More
Governor Chris Christie Answers Crime Victims’ Pleas
It is clear that Mitt Romney has a friend in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but so do those who have been victims of crime. On August 8, Gov. Christie signed groundbreaking legislation he championed that empowers New Jersey residents who have been victims of crime.:: Read More
Paul Cassell on the Victims’ Rights Amendment
Slate.com just completed a short series of articles by prominent legal thinkers titled “How Can We Fix the Constitution?” Among the submissions was a piece by former federal judge Paul Cassell, recommending a Victims’ Rights Amendment.:: Read More
An Interview with U.S. Congressman Ted Poe
To close National Victims’ Rights Week, I interviewed United States Congressman Ted Poe about his work chairing the Congressional Victims’ Rights Caucus.:: Read More
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