Adding more to Grits’ Breakfast because it is an interesting post on what role victims should play in plea bargains. When I read that I said to myself: none. The prosecution does not represent victims but the Constitutional State.
I do not condone crime and acknowledge that victims’ rights were violated but as Grits for Breakfast states, those are different rights: “crime victims who say “their rights have been walked on,” but those aren’t legal rights, only theoretical ones the speakers think they should have.” He continues with the case of Former US Congressman Craig Washington.
There is one part I wish to highlight and comment on: “I find fascinating this overarching desire by the victims to tell their story to 12 people they do not know. Indeed, getting to tell their story, by their own account, was more important than any punishment Washington might receive.”
This behaviour is not so strange if you compare it to some psychiatrists’ sessions. The patient has an issue, has thoughts about it, wishes to bounce them off on a receptive sounding board to receive the official acknowledgment of a stranger that indeed, harm was done. Most patients are looking for the validation of their feelings. They tell their story to friends and relatives but their words do not carry the same cache as the word of a stranger, an expert if you will. Because, if the stranger acknowledges you were harmed, the harm really did happen. Friends and family may acknowledge the harm too but may add reservations, bring up past behaviour, suggest alternative options for future reference, etc. The stranger will listen and usually acknowledge this one fact: yes, you were hurt. Therefore, their behaviour in the case mentioned, does not surprise me at all.
What does surprise me is the lack of understanding in general for these emotional needs as Grits points out but also, the notion that it must be played out in the open to be real, valid. It reminds me of the pathetic need of celebrities to hold a press conference to publicly apologize for whatever they have done wrong. Instead of making amends, and correcting their lives with dignity, they seem to have this compulsive need to play it out in the open by tying themselves to a scaffold but they stop short of allowing us to throw rotten eggs at them!
If restorative justice is truly what we seek I do not understand why this cannot be done in a closed setting. The most victims seem to be able to reveal after they spoke on the stand is that now they have closure. However, I doubt that all their psychological issues have been resolved by just venting in front of 12 jury members. The same counts for these celebrities. What it does look like is that everyone wants to claim their minutes of fame, either big or small.
I firmly supports restorative justice and agrees with Grits who says that “restorative justice models focus more on giving victims that opportunity to confront both their victimizer and and their own personal demons – to publicly have their say and “‘re-story’ what happened to them in a way that lets them regain honor.” However those approaches have proven difficult to graft onto the traditional adversarial system, where there is no real avenue for victims to “reconcile differences” with offenders.”
Maybe we should look for less “public” and for more “integrity” to be really effective!