This one I struggled with. On the surface it is a great idea and I 100% support it. There are so many good reasons! And yet… this is where I really struggle with the American “justice” system.
So the text on the ballot will be:
Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide certain rights to victims against whom a crime has allegedly been perpetrated and allow victims to assert such rights?
The rights include things like telling a victim of a felony (rape, assault, etc.) of court dates; when the accused is up for parole or release. And the tv ads I’ve seen focus on the idea of how a woman would feel seeing her assailant at the grocery store, at her work, or he shows up at her house. OH! The humanity!
Yes. This happens. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) 29% of federal violent crimes convicted are arrested again. BUT in this article the award-winning journalist Nancy Mullane followed over 900 convicted of murder and found less than 10% were re-arrested for anything (and none for murder). Do these people deserve to have this crime follow them the rest of their lives? I don’t know if kin would be considered “victims” under this law (I couldn’t find out in timely manner) and it bothers me.
You see, the 29% sound bad – that’s 1 out of every 3! But the BJS also says “A sixth (16.1%) of released prisoners were responsible for almost half (48.4%) of the nearly 1.2 million arrests that occurred in the 5-year follow-up period.” so a bit more than 1 out of 6 (16% is 6.25/100) make up HALF – that’s a lot (and honestly what I expected). The other information I couldn’t find from the BJS report (which I find very disturbing) – how many of these offenders are arrested for a similar crime? Are they being arrested for drunk driving for beating up another person (robbing, raping, etc.)?
But the BJS only looked at federal criminals – The U.S. Sentencing Commission looked at states as well – over 25,000 released inmates and there are some interesting stats. (PDF of the report) “When considering only the “most serious” post-release offense committed by those who were rearrested, assault was the most prevalent. About one-fourth (23.3%) of those rearrested had an assault rearrest as their most serious post-release event over the study period. Other common “most serious” offenses were public order (15.5%), drug trafficking (11.5%), and larceny (7.7%)” (bold is mine)
This is the issue I have – if someone commits a crime, they are burdened by that forever in our system. more than 3/4 do NOT commit a similar crime. But…
Is 1/4 enough? Yes. For me it is. So despite my struggle that released/ paroled/ “rehabilitated” people coming out of the justice system should get a chance to stay clean… the 1/4 who even might go back and hurt their victim again (the stats don’t say anything about criminals going back after their accuser, but it IS possible). That is also 1 out 4 who are likely hurt someone. I don’t know that it’s the best solution but it is at least better than nothing.
So I’m going to vote “yes” but I don’t like this solution. I would rather we look at giving those released better tools to prevent recidivism than focus on just “protecting victims.” I get that this sells better (I mean, who can’t feel sympathy for the woman opening the door on the man who attacked her before!) but this isn’t a GOOD solution. I think it’s a terrible solution. But it DOES help protect the vulnerable in our society. So reluctantly, I think it’s better than doing nothing.