June 18, 2019, 10:39 am
This past week President Trump announced new federal initiatives to make it easier for returning citizens (also known as former prisoners) to find jobs, housing, and support. His “Second Chance” initiative is a follow-up to the “First Step Act” announced in January. At the White House during the announcement, Trump invited two former prisoners to share about their successes after prison and their work to help other returning citizens succeed. He also invited several criminal justice advocates to speak, including TV celebrity Kim Kardashian. Kim announced a new partnership with a ride share service that will provide vouchers to returning citizens so that they can have transportation to job interviews and to work. As Kim noted, transportation is a major obstacle for many returning citizens.
I was excited to hear about these federal initiatives, not because they directly impact me, but because changes on a federal level normally trickle down to the states. Prison and criminal justice reforms continue to be a priority for many lawmakers. Some prioritize these issues because of the economics of reform (“rehabilitation” efforts of the past several decades have been a miserable failure), but many others simply see the immorality of our currently unjust system.
I agree that our criminal justice and prison systems are grossly unjust and in need of major reforms, but sometimes I find it difficult to focus on these injustices. It feels incredibly selfish, as a prisoner myself, to focus only on the injustices we experience in the “justice” system. However, the reach of our system’s injustices extends to victims of crime as well. When innocent people are convicted of crimes because of prosecutorial misconduct, victims suffer because the person who really harmed them is still free. When the state usurps a victim’s offense and makes itself the victim, true victims suffer because their needs and desires are ignored. When the state prosecutes an offender and fails to address how the victim’s harms will be repaired, victims doubly suffer.
The criminal justice and prison systems need to be reformed. Policies and laws of the last half century have been a miserable failure at reforming people and making communities safer. By failing to adequately reform or rehabilitate its charges, the criminal justice system is failing victims who suffer because of crime. I hope that Trump’s (and others’) reforms make significant positive changes in our criminal justice and prison systems, but I also hope that victims are not forgotten in the process. When offenders are reformed and released back to society as productive citizens, with all the support they need to get on their feet after prison, victims are honored. They’re honored when offenders are reformed because victims no longer have to fear their offender will harm them or others again.
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The opinions expressed within posts and comments are solely those of each author, and are not necessarily those of Women Against Registry. Women Against Registry reserves the right to edit or delete any content submitted.