If you are a crime victim or relative of a crime victim please call in to NPR’s The State of Things to voice your displeasure about dedicating an entire week of programing to the criminal justice system and not once featuring the plight of crime victims in the system.
The State of Things has put criminal justice front and center this week on its afternoon radio program. Topics so far have featured:
– The lack of social services to support offenders
– Racial profiling
– Legal reform
– The role “legal fiction” plays in all of this
– The war on drugs
– Rehabilitation and re-entry of offenders (today)
All are classic criminal justice 101 topics and should be discussed (minus the legal fiction thing, don’t ask me why they spent a day on that).
So what’s missing? The nexus at the center of the entire system, crime victims. When I asked host, Frank Stasio about this he told me that NPR was not planning on focusing on victims, but that in a sense “we are all victims” in the process.
Yes, I get that the victim is represented in the legal process by “the state”, that the offender really offends against society. But to deny victims a voice in the process is an insult, something Organizations like NOVA and The Department of Justice, Office of Victims of Crime have been fighting for decades. That NPR can’t see the importance of balanced representation (they have had two 0ne-hour programs dedicated to offender issues) demonstrates that they just don’t get it.
It harkens back to 2003 and the reason I decided to get a Masters in Public Policy / Criminal Justice. Canada’s Federal government decides to have its first conference focusing on victims. They call it Moving Forward, Lessons Learned for Victims of Crime. Three long days of intense discussion and debate in Ottawa. They invite everyone to the table except… crime victims (correction with a floor of approx. 300 presentations and 1,000 participants, they invite 5 victims, the right victims). When the Feds are confronted on this they explain, “We (the government, the NGOs) represent the crime victims”. It is that level of condescension and paternalism that can send a crime victim into a tailspin wondering how they were once people but are now stigmatized into a corner. I will never forget when Pierre Boisvenu (if you don’ know who he is then it’s time to learn), the father of the then just recently murdered Julie Boisvenu crashed the event and addressed the plenary with: “You don’t speak for Julie, the family speaks for Julie.” – a monumental event in the struggle for Canadian Victims rights.
The show airs today and Friday at noon, EST. As their website states:
“Let us know your thoughts during the program at 1.877.962.9862 or by emailing. Send your tweets (comments and questiosn) to .”