What do crime victims in California want and need?  – The San Bernardino Sun
What do crime victims in California want and need? – The San Bernardino Sun

What do crime victims in California want and need? – The San Bernardino Sun

“It won’t bring mom back.” Here’s what Terryln Hall told Alabama authorities when she asked them to spare the life of Joe Nathan James Jr., the man responsible for killing her mother. Despite this, on July 28, Alabama authorities ignored Hall’s wishes and carried out the execution. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshal justified the execution, saying he had to “make sure justice is done for the people of Alabama.”

Unfortunately, many prosecutors and officials pursue harsh sentences, even death, against the wishes of victims in a case. Our criminal justice system tries to balance the needs of our communities, victims and even criminals in an effort to serve the public interest and work for the people. This means keeping our neighborhoods safe, holding individuals accountable in a fair and equitable manner, and using taxpayer resources wisely.

Victims’ voices must be centered in advocacy on behalf of the people. However, far too often, the desires of victims have been reduced to only those seeking revenge for their pain, without considering those seeking redemption and healing. Victims have a wide range of opinions about punishment, but almost all agree that what they want most is to be safe. and protect others.

Across the country, every attempt to recall or impeach a modern prosecutor includes a common theme and tactic: A handful of victims are pushed front and center to criticize data-driven policies that reduce our reliance on mass incarceration . Most often we hear from victims in the wake of a tragedy who condemn these policies as unfair, unsafe and unwanted by the victim community.

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So do policies like those pursued by prosecutor George Gascón serve the public interest and focus the voices of victims? Or does he favor the victims and is Los Angeles better served by the approach favored by those who want to recall him?

Polls show that victims of violent crime in Los Angeles support policies like Gascón’s that promote rehabilitation and prevention over longer terms of incarceration by a 2-to-1 margin. Gascón’s policies also serve the larger public interest because they they show that they reduce recidivism, which means reductions in future crimes, victimization and taxpayer costs.

There are indeed victims who want the maximum sentence imposed, but to suggest that this is what most victims want ignores the truth. Victims want to make sure they are safe and that no one else will have to experience the same thing. That’s why, when asked, most victims want support for things from medical bills and therapy to home security systems that give them a sense of safety, rather than a longer prison term.

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Unfortunately, our wasteful spending on incarceration has deprived victims of the resources they want and deserve. State spending on victim services is about 1 percent of what California spends on the prison system. A recent survey of 711 crime victims by the Prosecutors’ Alliance found that nearly 40% of victims were never given support to recover from crime. .

In cases where an arrest is made and a case is filed, victims’ views on sentencing vary. As you can imagine, in the immediate aftermath of the trauma of losing a loved one, victims often want the maximum sentence. Often, however, the desire to see the harshest punishments meted out diminishes as victims make their journey from victim to survivor. Years after a tragedy, most victims simply don’t want anyone else to go through what they experienced.

It’s a sentiment reflected in research, which shows that six in 10 victims prefer shorter prison sentences and more spending on prevention and rehabilitation. Additionally, victims prefer the criminal justice system to focus more on rehabilitating people who commit crimes than punishing them by a two-to-one margin.

Powerful special interests such as police unions and the prison guard lobby spend millions of dollars to raise only the voices of victims who support harsh sentencing policies. After all, to enforce these policies we need more police, more guards and more prison cells. However, with the majority of the victim community looking for other interventions, making policy based on the most visible and most vocal is not advocacy for the people, let alone victims of crime.

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