Thursday, August 22, 2013

Victims Behaving Badly

Victim’s Rights is “popularity politics.” Designed to make our society appear more cultured and caring, it has achieved the opposite effect. We come across as coddled – and utterly cruel and vindictive:
“I want you to rot in hell!” is common invective thrown by victims at convicted men on their way to the gallows. “I hope they rape you in prison, and beat you…and that you die a miserable death.” I’ve heard those cries, as well.

The courtroom is as hallowed a place as there is in a democratic society. It is reserved for laws, reason, and facts.  Victims bring pure emotionalism, which clouds everything else. Yet, the politicians have erected a stage for “victims only”, where they parade their emotions. (That is what memorials are for, not courtrooms.) The only place victims deserve in the judicial process is on the witness stand, just like everyone else. And there, it must be “just the facts.”

We are all victims of life. How many times have you had someone tell you, “Life owes you nothing”? Yet, we have erected this victim’s stage at the expense of prisoners as though we owe victims a special place in the adjudicating of punishment – even the power to tip the scales of justice. We do not. The judge owes not the victim; he owes society. His job is not to please the victim. His job is justice. 

Most defendants on trial were driven there by their raging emotions – anger, greed, lust, etc. We must not try him, sentence him, and decide his parole based upon more unbridled passions. The judicial process must be governed, as much as humanly possible, by the purest reason. Emotions are the antithesis of that. Basing any part of the judicial continuum upon a victim’s vengeance is like trying to clean a greasy skillet with greasy rag. 

Besides, putting a state for victim’s right beneath the auspices of the most powerful person in the courtroom is a mandate for mean-spiritedness. It is like the judge, himself, saying: “You want to kick him? Here, I’ll hold him for you.” Stop it.

We are a Christian society. Should we, as a nation, empower people to lash out against shackled men and women? If God were listening as one more victim stepped forward and said, “Let me kick him!”, I imagine God would say, “Cool your heels. Your courts have punished him. I, too, will hold him to account. That is enough.”

What message do we send when we allow people to stand up in our most honorable setting – the courtroom – and hurl invectives at defenseless men? It sends this message: Under certain circumstances, it is okay to say mean things.

No. It is not okay to say “mean things” under any circumstances, especially when it is State-sponsored. It is bad for the soul of the victim; bad for the soul of the nation. It will always be undignified, and wrong.
The platform that has been erected by Victim’s Rights must be dismantled and stricken from the courtroom and subsequent parole proceedings. It may have been well-intentioned at the start. But, as we have all heard, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

We can do better. We can pave a more just and dignified road for prisoners, and for the victims of their crimes.

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