Punishing criminals and holding them accountable is only part of a government’s proper response to crime. Also important is ensuring that crime victims are made whole, treating victims and survivors with respect, making sure they are aware of available services and opportunities for involvement, and reconciling victims with offenders where possible. Increasing evidence indicates that there is a genuine benefit to incorporating practices into our criminal justice system that emphasize victim engagement, empowerment, and restitution. These concepts have been demonstrated to yield benefits that redound not only to victims, but also to taxpayers and even to offenders, since an offender fully recognizing and acknowledging the harm they have caused another person is often critical to rehabilitation.
The criminal justice system should be structured to ensure that victims are treated with dignity and respect and with the choice to participate, receive restitution, and even be reconciled with offenders. To this end, the system should ensure that victims are provided opportunities:
- to obtain notice of all proceedings;
- to be present at all proceedings;
- to be heard at every proceeding involving a post-arrest release, delay, plea, sentencing, post-conviction release, or any other proceeding at which a victim’s right may be at issue;
- for reasonable protection from intimidation and harm;
- for privacy;
- for information and referral;
- to apply for victim compensation (for violent crime victims);
- for speedy proceedings and a prompt and final conclusion; and
- for restitution.