The justice system is too punitive toward offenders and too neglectful of crime victims’ needs, according to a new national survey of victims. The survey of 1,537 victims of crime, culled from a representative sample of Americans and commissioned by the pro-reform Alliance for Safety and Justice, showed victims of crime by a wide margin favor rehabilitation over punishment while complaining that their own needs were rarely met with compensation or counseling. The survey was the first of its kind by the group in six years, but its findings echoed the earlier survey even though violence has surged in the meantime.
Ninety-six percent of victims of violent crime said they received no compensation to help recover, and of the victims who did not get the help they needed, nearly half said they did not know where to turn for such help and three-quarters did not find the justice system helpful in providing information or referrals. When victims did receive support, only 6 percent said it came from a prosecutor’s office, 8 percent from a government program for victims of crime and 15 percent from a police agency. For more than 80 percent of victims who reported their crimes, the crime was not solved. Their views of the system’s treatment of offenders took an equally dark cast, with majorities favoring less incarceration and more investment in preventive services. “By a margin of 3 to 1, victims prefer holding people accountable through options beyond prison, such as rehabilitation, mental health treatment, drug treatment, restorative justice, or community service,” the report stated. The survey used a 10-year reference period, which revealed that more than 90 percent of victims surveyed reported being a victim of multiple crimes and that those most vulnerable to crime tend to be people with low incomes, people of color, and other marginalized groups, including those with criminal records.