Advocating for crime victimsPublished 10:43pm Monday, April 7, 2014
For many victims of crime and violence, the violation they experienced continues to feel fresh long after the incident took place. A day in court can be an agonizing time of reliving the nightmare, complete with the new fear that the perpetrator could ultimately go free. And even the sentencing of a suspect found guilty of a crime can bring on a flood of contradictory and sometimes inexplicable emotions.
The Suffolk Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office’s victim/witness program makes a real difference for such people. “I didn’t realize there were so many steps involved in (the court process),” a burglary and theft victim told Suffolk News-Herald News Editor Tracy Agnew last week. “Everybody that I talked with in that office and dealt with was extremely helpful, and they answered my questions without reserve. They made the best of a bad experience.”
In the rush to capture suspects and then in the laborious process of getting the resulting cases through the court system, crime victims can feel alternately overwhelmed and ignored. The criminal system is designed to provide the maximum protection against innocent people winding up in jail, and those efforts sometimes are at odds with making victims feel safe or vindicated.
While neither prosecutors nor their allies in the victim/witness program are able to change the rules of law in order to give crime victims greater power during the criminal process, their efforts here in Suffolk have gone far toward making those victims feel, at least, empowered to cope with the system. And for people who have been victimized, empowerment is a great first step toward getting their lives back on track.
This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and it’s an appropriate time to thank the folks in the victim/witness program for the hard work they do to make sure the complexities of the criminal justice system do not cause even more suffering for people who already have been hurt.