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Victims, Other Crime Survivors Seek Better Inmate Rehab, Dialogue

A Council on Criminal Justice task force on long prison sentences held nine listening sessions to gather input from victims and survivors of crime, including family members of homicide victims, close relatives of people serving long sentences, and people who served long prison sentences. The task force says there was significant overlap in the experiences of participants. Many victims and survivors experienced the impact of incarceration through a family member and many former inmates and their loved ones discussed having experienced serious violence. That may show significant overlap between “victims” and “offenders.” Second, there was broad agreement between victims and survivors and formerly incarcerated people and their loved ones on most of the topics explored in the listening sessions. Among take-aways from the project: participants said prison sentences should serve the purpose of rehabilitation, a goal many participants said was often impeded by a lack of programming in prisons. Long sentences are not synonymous with accountability; rather, accountability comes from taking responsibility for the harm caused and making amends through personal changes.

Among other conclusions: People serving long sentences should have the opportunity to seek reconsideration of that sentence after a period of time through a process that bases release decisions, in part, on the cognitive, behavioral, and/or emotional growth individuals make while incarcerated. Victims and survivors of crime should have a role in a sentencing reconsiderations. Crime victims and survivors should be allowed to request specific programming for the defendant in their case to complete while incarcerated, as part of pre-sentencing investigation reports. Victims and survivors should be able to get information regarding expressions of remorse, educational or skills training, and other personal changes made by prisoners in their case. In cases of sentencing reconsideration, victims and survivors should have information about supports available to the incarcerated person post-release. There should be more opportunities for victim-offender dialogue throughout long prison sentences. Judges should have more complete contextual information about the background of the person being sentenced or resentenced, including facts about the impact of the crime(s) on victims and survivors.


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