In the year 2000, Americans were victims of millions of crimes. Behind each of these numbers is a terrible trauma, a story of suffering and a story of lost security. Yet the needs of victims are often an afterthought in our criminal justice system. It’s not just, it’s not fair, and it must change. As we protect the rights of criminals, we must take equal care to protect the rights of the victims.…

But too often our system fails to inform victims about proceedings involving bail and pleas and sentencing and even about the trials themselves. Too often, the process fails to take the safety of victims into account when deciding whether to release dangerous offenders. Too often, the financial losses of victims are ignored.… When our criminal justice system treats victims as irrelevant bystanders, they are victimized for a second time.



Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

vendettas, and even repeated outbreaks of retalia- tory military strikes leading to full-scale war. To feel a sense of fury and rage toward a vicious predator or cruel enemy is entirely human. Revenge fantasies can sustain individuals and even give purpose and direction to their lives. For example, people who sustained terrible losses were at the forefront of a campaign to deprive inmates of whatever comforts and privileges they “enjoyed” behind bars so they would be even more miserable in bleak, “no-frills” prisons (see Hanley, 1994).

Openly calling for revenge is usually frowned upon, and most people don’t want to appear vin- dictive. They are told to forget what the offender did, to put vivid memories of the harrowing event behind them, and to move on with their lives. But vengeance has its supporters, who reject charges that the urge to extract a pound of flesh is barbaric, shortsighted, and pointless, a moral failing or a sign of mental pathology, or even a willingness to go overboard and commit a new crime. They contend that wanting to strike back is connected to a bio- logically rooted sense of justice and, when success- ful and savored, can bring about a feeling of relief, catharsis, fulfillment, and completeness. If the urge to get even is stifled, then individuals who are dis- mayed and ashamed about their own vulnerability might take out the desire for revenge on themselves and engage in self-defeating or—worse yet—self- destructive behavior (Carey, 2004; and Nesbo, 2014). A similar motivation driving victim behavior is spite (defined as the desire to punish, hurt, humil- iate, or harass someone, even when the injured party gains no apparent benefit and may well pay a cost). Studies using surveys and experiments sug- gest that men are generally more spiteful than women and that young adults are more spiteful than older folks (Angier, 2014).

However, the thirst for vengeance can under- cut recovery if it becomes an obsession. Even when fulfilled, acts of revenge are rarely as satisfy- ing as had been imagined. In the hours and days following a crime, it is psychologically useful and even cathartic for persons nursing wounds to dream of inflicting pain on those who wronged them. But a chronic preoccupation with striking

back needlessly prolongs angry memories and painful flashbacks about the incident. Individuals consumed by a desire to get even never break free of the pernicious influence of their victimi- zers. Former victims learn that the best revenge of all is to transcend their offender’s grip, put the experience behind them, rise above what hap- pened, regain the moral high ground, and strive to lead a fulfilling life (Halleck, 1980; also see Carey, 2004). The next of kin whose loved ones were murdered sometimes arrive at this conclu- sion, as the following cases indicate:

A man whose wife was killed when a right-wing extremist blew up a federal building undergoes a long and painful journey through anger, hate, and ulti- mately forgiveness. When the killer is first captured and brought to court, he confides to a reporter, “I wanted to grab my rifle, go sit by the highway and give him a proper greeting.” But now he acknowl- edges that he has reached a surprising conclusion: that the execution of the bomber is wrong. “It is not about justice—it is about revenge. It’s blood lust. And if I don’t stand up now and say this, well, it’s just cowardice,” he declares. (Goodell, 2001)

Three white supremacists, hoping to trigger racial conflict, chain a black man to their truck and drag him along a country road until he is dead. Thirteen years later, one of the murderers is about to be executed. The dead man’s sister tells reporters, “I had to forgive because if I didn’t, hate would eat me up just like it ate him up.… And I refuse to live life like that. Life is too precious to just be consumed with hate.” (Miller, 2011)

Make “Them” Get Treatment

Some persons do not look to the criminal justice system to exact revenge by tormenting their victim- izer in their behalf. Instead, they want professionals and experts to help wrongdoers become decent, productive, law-abiding citizens. Victims are most likely to endorse treatment and rehabilitation ser- vices if their perpetrators are not complete strangers.

182 CH APT ER 6

Copyright 2016 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. WCN 02-200-203

They realize that it is in their enlightened self- interest to try to salvage, save, rescue, and cure troubled family members, other loved ones, friends, neighbors, classmates, or close colleagues at work. Rehabilitation might take the form of counseling, behavior modification, intense psychotherapy, detoxification from addictive drugs, medical care, additional schooling, and job training. “Helping” offenders remains as much a part of the justice sys- tem’s mission as making them sorry for what they did. Rehabilitation was the original motivation of critics of corporal punishment and the widespread imposition of the death penalty (like the Quakers) who invented “penitentiaries” and “reformatories” and “houses of correction” in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, the ascendancy of a pessimistic, “nothing works” point of view (popularized because of a mistaken interpretation of a major study [see Martinson, 1974]) has led to disenchant- ment with the longstanding practice of investing in rehabilitation programs within prison walls.

Rehabilitation followed by reintegration into the community (currently termed “reentry”) is a long-term strategy that benefits both victims and society. Incapacitating antisocial predators is a short-term strategy that merely buys time and pro- motes a false sense of security that doesn’t last long. Angry and frustrated inmates may pose even greater threats to public safety when they are released from custody. Victims who overcome their initial emo- tional outrage over what offenders did to them might become equally infuriated about ineffective, heavy-handed, punitive policies as well as inept efforts to change the personalities and conduct of inmates in jails or prisons, or of convicts on proba- tion or parole.

Make “Them” Pay for Losses and Expenses

As a third alternative, some victims seek restitution rather than retribution or rehabilitation. They want the legal system’s help to recoup their losses and pay their bills—a necessary prerequisite for full recov- ery. Restitution collected from offenders can help restore victims to the financial condition they were in before the crimes occurred. Once perpetrators

make amends monetarily, reconciliation becomes a realistic possibility (see Chapter 12).

Whether they desire that something be done to the offender (punishment), for the offender (treat- ment), or for themselves (restitution), victims want the professionals who run the criminal justice system—police, prosecutors, judges, wardens, pro- bation officers, parole officers, members of parole boards—to take effective actions in response to vio- lations of law. What they don’t want is inaction, lack of interest, neglect, abuse, empty promises, or attempts at manipulation.

Place Your Order Here!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *