Every person who breaks the law is different. Every person who is convicted of a crime is different. Every crime and the situation surrounding it is different. And every person who is harmed by a criminal act is also different.
We understand that all of these variables make it impossible to accurately quantify the harm crime causes. This is what makes justice tough.
But that should never be an excuse to carry it out poorly. That should not give our criminal justice system a pass in failing to serve the victims of crime first. Our laws should apply to everyone impartially, and our justice system should treat everyone with equal dignity—because each man, woman, and child has inherent worth and value, being made in the image of God.
The theme of this year’s National Crime Victim’s Rights Week (NCVRW), which will be observed April 19-25, is “Engaging Communities, Empowering Victims,” and it’s a chance for us all to learn how we can support those directly harmed by crime.
Justice Fellowship, the policy arm of Prison Fellowship, will be highlighting the six principles in our restorative justice framework that pertain to harmed parties. Justice Fellowship has identified these principles as ones that our criminal justice system should provide to victims: active participation in the criminal justice process; protection from further harm; information about proceedings, status, and the rights they have; some form or forms of restitution; validation that what they have experienced is an injustice and is not their fault; and assistance and support for additional needs incurred as a result of the crime committed against them.
It is time to get informed. It’s time for our communities to stand up and support those harmed by crime. It’s time for our criminal justice system to give harmed parties right standing throughout the criminal justice process and to properly enforce victims’ rights.