Monday, August 8, 2011

Rise of the Non-Punitive Victim

An op-ed in the local San Gabriel Valley tribune is a strong testament to the changing sentiments of victims' families, a growing number of whom are not adequately represented by punitive organizations such as Crime Victims United of California and the like. Judy Kerr's op-ed eloquently provides a humonetarian critique of the death penalty from the perspective of the family of a murder victim.

In California, in the last ten years, 46 percent of murders went unsolved. This means over 25,000 murders remain unsolved, and 25,000 other families are waiting, like mine, to know who killed their loved ones. And it means as many as 25,000 killers roam freely on our streets. In the midst of this crisis of unsolved murders, we are also facing the biggest budget crisis in our state's history. While people literally get away with murder, the public safety network in California has unraveled. Police officers in every county in the state are being laid off. And, in every county, we are cutting back on homicide investigations and eliminating victims' services.

As thousands of family members wait for justice only to be told there is not enough money to fund an investigation, we watch as hundreds of millions of dollars are spent on the death penalty each year. Death penalty appeals, special housing for death row inmates, additional corrections officers to monitor them, a double-trial system which separates guilt and penalty phases - the costs associated with the death penalty are endless.

Many hear this and ask: Can't we just speed up the execution process? Reports from respected judges and criminal justice experts, both for and against the death penalty, have shown that the only way to make the system move faster while still preventing the execution of an innocent person is to spend even more money.

This local op-ed is notable for various reasons - its invocation of a humonetarian discourse, its disavowal of the traditional victim sentiments - but it is particularly important because a legislative proposal to abolish the death penalty in California is on the agenda, advanced and advertised for humonetarian reasons.

1 comment:

Joshua said...

Thanks for sharing this op-ed. It's imperative that voices such as this become part of the public and political debates about crime, punishment, and justice.