Tuesday, July 27, 2010

What About the Victim?

HARBESON: The focus should be on reparations

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Let’s pretend you and I are 15 years old and we want to go visit a friend together in another state. We could probably think of lots of possibilities on how to make that happen.

However, it probably wouldn’t occur to most of us to order a pizza, and then attack the delivery guy with a butcher knife so we could use his car to get there.

But that’s exactly what two local teenagers did back in 1997. Fortunately the plan didn’t work out for them — somehow the victim managed to survive and they went to prison for their crime.

This case is back in the news because their sentences were cut in half due to legal details focusing on whether the attack and robbery should have been charged as one crime or two. After credit was given for good behavior and earning GED’s and college degrees, the women had served enough time to be freed from prison.

It’s possible this situation could still be appealed, but why spend time and money to appeal the release of these women if the only question is whether or not they should be locked up longer? All that will happen is that we’ll waste time and money paying lawyers and judges to battle each other.

Instead, it’s time for us to focus on what’s most important after a crime of aggression is committed, which is what can be done for the victim. These women did not attack these government officials. They did not attack you. They did not attack me. They attacked the pizza delivery guy.

It’s time to respect the victim. It’s time for these women to be held accountable for the harm done to this man by answering to him, through meaningful restitution, not us, through more prison time, which we would have to pay for anyway.

These women are now college graduates and have proven they are completely capable of working toward making amends for their past behavior. They should be able to assist their victim in making his way now that his own ability to do so has been decreased due to their actions. Certainly there is nothing they can do to ever restore his life to what it was before the attack. His life will never be the same because of the physical and psychological trauma he’s suffered. They can never truly pay him back for what they did to him.

That doesn’t mean nothing can be done though. They can at least help repair some of the damage. But if they are sent back to prison, no one will benefit and it will be even harder for them to assimilate back into society.

Their attorneys say they are very remorseful and one of the women even inquired about her victim. Being sorry is an important first step. The second step is to prove it by actually taking action to do something positive about it.

Our system does not appear to be set up to let this happen. If we are only going to discuss their years served so far, then our system is just getting in the way.

Who knows what the actual details would be for this individual restitution agreement? The details don’t matter, and are frankly none of our business. The victim could even decide not to pursue it at all, but the choice should be his.

What does matter is that we start looking at better ways to have aggressors account for their actions when we can see it’s possible. This can only happen if we start taking a critical look at our current system, one that unfortunately focuses primarily on punishment rather than restitution.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson likes to pretend she’s 15 years old but the weekly AARP mailings are making it harder.

1 comment:

  1. This illustrates why there must be a separation of court and state if there is ever to be a REAL justice system.
    Looking for justice from the government-owned courts is a futile exercise. It just isn't in their job description.