Do you suppose that those victims who want retribution (their idea of justice) feel that justice has been delivered when (because of police or prosecutorial error, for example) their attackers go free? The criminal "justice" system is not there to provide a forum -- or anything else -- to the victims. Witness how often the wishes of complaining witnesses are disregarded by proescutors. If it happens that the criminal "justice" system satisfies some need of some human being, it's mere coincidence. Anyone who expects it to do so or has faith that it will doesn't understand the system.
Clarence Darrow said:We have heard talk of justice. Is there anybody who knows what justice is? No one on earth can measure out justice. Can you look at any man and say what he deserves -- whether he deserves hanging by the neck until dead or life in prison or thirty days in prison or a medal? The human mind is blind to all who seek to look in at it and to most of us that look out from it. Justice is something that man knows little about. He may know something about charity and understanding and mercy, and he should cling to those as far as he can.I suppose that if I had to be a prosecutor I would have to believe that people can know what justice is. I would further have to believe, hubristically, that I knew who should be "held accountable" for what transgressions, and how. The prosecutorial venture would seem entirely hollow otherwise. But -- thank God I'm a defender -- I know that Darrow was right.
In a perfect world, I would want to see a criminal justice system based on restoration -- making whole the people who are hurt -- rather than retribution. In such a system I could comfortably operate on either side, working to heal victims as well as offenders. But that's not the system we have.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Blogversation: Does the Criminal Justice System Meet Victims' (or Anybody's) Needs?
With all the talk of victim's rights and restorative justice, I was interested to read this post by Houston defense lawyer Mark Bennett reacting to a prosecutor's email and this Grits post. From Bennett's observation, if the criminal justice system meets anyone's needs, including the victim, it's usually only by accident. He writes: