Who Cares About Victim’s Rights?

Today, the problem of protection of victims’ rights is one of the most arguable issues of the modern criminal justice system. In fact, this problem is very important because it involves the problem of the protection of rights of people who have suffered from offenses and violent attacks. In such a situation, the current criminal justice system tends to use probation and parole wider to minimize costs spent on the maintenance of prisons and to increase the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. In fact, the probation and parole can help ex-offenders to get integrated into the community and start a new life. On the other hand, there is still a risk of recidivism which is still widely spread among ex-offenders. As a result, victims become subjects of new offenses from the part of offenders who are on probation or parole.

At the same time, there is a different view on the victims’ rights movement, according to which offenders should also have wider rights to protect themselves and avoid the misuse of power by law enforcement agencies and prosecution.

On analyzing the current situation, it is possible to distinguish clearly two opposing views on victims’ rights. On the one hand, there is a standpoint of victims and public organizations protecting their rights, according to which victims’ rights should be enforced and more protected in order to avoid a risk of ongoing offenses of victims. On the other hand, there is a position of offenders who become outcasts in the society where victims’ rights are absolutely superior to basic human rights of offenders. In fact, offenders face serious limitations in their rights and liberties because of the offenses they have once committed. As a result, they seem to be doomed to live in isolation, on the margins of the modern society because of concerns with victims’ rights.

At the same time, the growing demand for the enforcement of victims’ rights increases because of the wide use of probation and parole by the modern criminal justice system and the implementation of such measures becomes more and more widely spread today. The popularity of probation can be explained by its seeming effectiveness. In fact, it is a very effective function because it proves to be effective in regard to both the community and offenders. Obviously, community face a risk of recidivism from the part of offenders on probation, but the community can ensure its safety being aware of possible danger and being protected by law enforcement agencies and probation administrative body. At the same time, offenders have an opportunity to lead a normal life and live in the community that facilitates their integration in the normal social life.

Hence, it is possible to speak about good prospects of probation. It is possible to presuppose that probation will grow even more popular than it is at the moment because it meets the strategic direction in the development of modern judicial system, which tends to distance from punitive approach and focuses on the integration of offenders into the normal social life. In such a context, probation can be a very effective sanction compared to conventional imprisonment, for instance, while its democratic and socially-oriented nature opens huge opportunities for the further development of probation as a mainstream sanction.

Traditionally, American people have a very negative attitude to ex-offenders and they tend to protect themselves as well as their children from possible cases of offenses. It should be pointed out that the apprehension of the public concerning ex-offenders naturally stimulates legislators and law enforcement agencies to implement legislative acts, regulations, develop new programs, which target at the protection of American people from offenses and at the minimization of the risk of recidivism among ex-offenders.

At the present moment, specialists work on the problem of the development of an effective system of prevention of crimes and recidivism (Ryan, 1997). Historically, American legislative system and law enforcement agencies developed a variety of methods and approaches to the prevention of such kind of crimes. In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that traditionally American legislative and justice system developed very strict regulations in order to establish total control over the actions, life and movement of ex-offenders within the country (Witt, 2006). One of the most widely spread beliefs concerning ex-offenders is the idea that they are more likely to commit their crimes repeatedly and the strict control is essential to prevent cases of recidivism.

In such a context, it seems to be quite natural that, in the past, American justice system and law enforcement agencies tended to isolate ex-offenders for a long period of time. Basically, supporters of such a repressive approaches to ex-offenders believed that the isolation of ex-offenders for a long term can minimize their threat to the rest of society or, what is more, it could even totally eliminate such a threat (Miller et al, 1996). However, the recent findings and researches prove the contrary (Center for Effective Public Policy, 1996). In this respect, the analysis of statistics and the growing recidivism that could be traced in the US among ex-offenders also indicates to the fact that the restrictive measures based on the isolation of ex-offenders from the normal social life for a long period of time do not have such a positive effects, they were supposed to have.

In stark contrast, the growth of recidivism among ex-offenders revealed the fact that their isolation is practically ineffective in the context of the prevention of recidivism and new crimes (CSOM, 2000). As a result, the development of the absolutely new approach to the prevention of recidivism among ex-offenders was necessary. In fact, it was obvious that the isolation of ex-offenders rather deteriorates the situation and makes them even more socially dangerous because, in the result of their isolation, they felt excluded from the society and viewed other people as hostile people that are the main source of personal problems of ex-offenders and their oppressed position. At this point it should be said that the isolation of ex-offenders for a long period of time and their further exclusion from the normal social life resulted in their inability to get integrated into the life of the community they settled in (CSOM, 2000). In other words, they became outcasts and lost important social skills, which they probably lacked in the past and lost totally because of their exclusion. Consequently, they faced a serious problem with their socialization and, being excluded, they were in a really desperate position that forced them to commit crimes either to improve their socio-economic position or simply because such anti-social behavior became a norm for them. In such a situation, many specialists arrived to the logical conclusion that exclusive policies in relation to ex-offenders did not lead to the prevention of recidivism and correction of ex-offenders, but, on the contrary, became a powerful tool that simply forced them to commit crimes again (Doren, 2004).

As a result, the current situation is characterized by the absolutely different approach to the problem of ex-offenders and prevention of recidivism. To put it more precisely, instead of exclusive measures, inclusive policies are being developed. In fact, one of the major directions in the development of the contemporary policy targeting at the prevention of crimes and decrease the cases of recidivism is the involvement of ex-offenders in the community life (Witt, 2006). Naturally, such a strategy provoked a negative reaction from the part of the public, which was unwilling to accept ex-offenders in the community (CSOM, 2000). In other words, people were unwilling to have ex-offenders next door.

Nevertheless, victims feel unprotected in face of offenders who are on probation, for instance. They believe that law enforcement agencies cannot protect them from violent attacks from the part of offenders. As a result, victims and public organizations develop victims’ rights movement to secure victims. In such a situation, law enforcement agencies and the criminal justice system at large naturally oppose to the victims’ rights movement because this movement is ignorant of the long-run effects of parole and probation. This means that parole and probation being implemented along with programs which assist the integration of ex-criminals into the community can minimize the threat of offenses from the part of offenders. In stark contrast, the  ongoing enforcement of victim; rights leads to the violation of rights of offenders, while their isolation and exclusion can only increase the risk of recidivism.

In this respect, it is worth mentioning the case of Ernesto Miranda, which perfectly revealed the extent to which offenders; rights can be violated and that their rights should be protected as well. Otherwise, they can become victims too. In fact, the Miranda case produced a significant impact on the development of the American justice system and procedure of the detainment or arrest. In this respect, Ernesto Miranda maybe viewed as the victim of the violation of his rights, which are now considered to be commonly accepted and absolutely normal, while in the past suspects could be interrogated even without being informed about their rights. In such a context, Ernesto Miranda was the first person who made the US justice system and law enforcement agencies to change the attitude to suspects, because he was a victim of the ignorance of his rights. To put it more precisely, on analyzing the Miranda’s case, it should be said that he was arrested as a suspect because police believed that he was the offender who raped a girl. However, the police had no evidence but the description of the vehicle of the offender and a part of its license plate number, which met the vehicle and plate number of Miranda. In the result of a two-hour interrogation the police got the confession of Miranda on the basis of which he had undergone the trial and was sentence to a long term, twenty to thirty years, in prison. It is important to underline that his attorney was not present during the interrogation and Miranda was not aware of his rights. The following Miranda vs. Arizona case was an attempt to reconsider the Miranda’s case and release him since his attorneys, Flynn and Frank, who were reputable criminal defense attorneys, argued that Miranda’s rights defined in the 5th Amendment were violated. The court’s decision was positive and ruled that suspects should be informed about their rights before they are interrogated.

However, Miranda was not released from the prison because the ruling of the court was not valid at the moment of his arrest and all the procedures met the current norms.

Thus, it is obvious that the victims; rights movement aims at the protection of victims; rights and their security. However, the criminal justice system opposes to this movement because it undermines the effectiveness of parole and probation and enforces punitive trends in the criminal justice system, which have already proved their inefficiency. In addition, there is a different view on the movement, the view of offenders who can become victims of law enforcement agencies and overprotection of victims.

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