April 19-25 is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week (NCVRW), and Justice Fellowship, the public policy arm of Prison Fellowship, is examining the six values in its restorative justice framework that pertain to victims of crime.
Today, we highlight the restorative justice value of information.
Information is vital to empowering victims to pursue their rights. Victims must be given clear information and current updates about the criminal justice process, the status of their case, and those involved.
Prosecutors need to inform victims of their rights—and not just with a piece of paper full of legal jargon. They need to ensure that victims understand how to exercise them.
Some legal rights are unqualified and available without any contingencies. Other legal rights are qualified. That is, they are limited, but only as necessary to protect the victim from harm or to protect the due process rights of the responsible party. For example, a victim’s right to attend trial proceedings can be limited in cases where the victim is also a witness, to prevent him or her from being influenced by the testimony of others. So this particular victim’s right is contingent his or her attendance not interfering with the due process rights of the accused.
Clearly, the legal process can get complicated! And it can get overwhelming, especially if victims are suffering trauma from what they have experienced.
In addition to information about their rights, harmed parties should receive information about criminal justice processes and updates on any events regarding the responsible party: prison transfer, escape, capture, parole, and/or release. This may help them regain a sense of safety and control over their lives.
Restorative justice calls our courts and communities to assist victims in their journeys by providing them with accurate and timely information.