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Crime Victims Favor Justice-System Reform In 'Difficult' Era

Most crime victims want to see improvements in the behavior of their assailants rather than sending them to long prison terms, contends Lenore Anderson of the Alliance for Safety and Justice.

Anderson, a former criminal justice official in San Francisco and Oakland, Ca., believes that the criminal justice system encourages a "cycle of trauma" by seeking lengthy incarceration for crime suspects in the belief that victims favor such moves.

Anderson, author of a book, "In Their Names -- The Inside Story of Victims' Rights, Mass Incarceration and the Future of Public Safety," spoke on a webinar sponsored by the Drug Enforcement and Policy Center, led by Ohio State University law Prof. Douglas Berman.

In Anderson's view, criminal justice reform is now "difficult to achieve" in an era in which some politicians have returned to the kind of tough-on-crime rhetoric that was last common in the 1980s and 1990s.

She believes that the adversarial system of justice, involving cases pitting prosecutors against defendants, is not designed to help crime victims.

The criminal justice system "is not trauma-informed," Anderson maintains, as authorities typically define justice as delivering the maximum possible punishment.

Last week, the alliance's affiliate group Crime Survivors for Safety and Justice (CSSI) gathered hundreds of crime survivors and families of murder victims at the Florida capitol in Tallahassee to seek more support for victims.

Before the pandemic, the group helped enact a state law that removed barriers for crime victims to access the state’s victim compensation program, raised the threshold for felony theft convictions, reduced prison time for technical probation violations, and eliminated restrictions for people with convictions to obtain occupational licenses.

In Florida, the group now is seeking job protections for crime victims, prioritizing rehabilitation by improving the state probation system, and supporting record sealing for those with low-level offenses so that they can more easily return to work.

A survey found that one in three Floridians have been victimized in the past 10 years. 67% of victims describe their experience as traumatic, and only 16% felt supported by the justice system.


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