I hear constituents talk regularly about our criminal justice system and the rights we provide for those accused of crimes. They say, “Sometimes it seems like the criminals have more rights than the victims.” It may seem like that, but providing these rights – providing fairness for all – is what makes the American system of justice the model by which many countries around the world build their judicial systems.
However, there are areas in our judicial system where I believe victims are not well taken care of, not given enough information and not fully protected from those who victimized them. I plan to introduce two bills that address the needs of crime victims.
1) I will propose to set up a system where local police and sheriff’s departments are notified through a clearinghouse when criminals who committed their crimes in the department’s jurisdiction are transferrred to another prison facility, escape from prison or are released from prison. The departments would then notify the victims of these crimes of what has happened, giving them time to get prepared for any possibility.
We all have heard stories of how criminals are released from prison and immediately seek revenge against the people who put them there. Many times the criminals succeed because the victims have no idea the criminal has been released, and can’t prepare to protect themselves when it becomes necessary. This clearinghouse will cost about $250,000 per year to develop and put in operation, but we will obtain a $500,000 federal grant to begin the program. I believe it is vital that victims are told when the prison system moves or releases the criminal who victimized them, or if the prisoner escapes. Keeping victims safe and protected is worth whatever we need to spend.
The bill is SB 2482, and it will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
2) I will propose to establish an agreement between the state departments of Human Services, Children’s Services and Animal Control to share information among the agencies about the cases of abuse each investigates. The agreement is modeled after one used by the city of San Diego, California that has been very successful in decreasing the reported cases of abuse in that city.
Studies show that children who abuse animals when they are young often grow up to be physical and mental abusers of young children, siblings, spouses and others. I want to create a system where we can identify abusive children early and provide them with the treatment and counseling they need to stop the abuse and grow up to be healthy, productive citizens. At the same time I want to find adult abusers and provide them with the help they need, and provide their victims with the treatment and counseling they need to help them get past the societal and personal chaos that accompanies abuse and lead more productive lives.
Abuse is a behavior that can be prevented if it is caught early in life. Abusers must be punished, but they also must be encouraged to stop abusing. Victims of abuse deserve all the help we can give them. These pieces of legislation will provide a start to getting abusers off the streets and into treatment, and helping victims regain the sanity of a normal life.
The bill is SB2714, and it will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee.