This week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, and the theme is Engaging Communities and Empowering Victims, emphasizing the role of the entire community as we support and empower crime victims.
The Campaign supports victims and the rights of victims this week and always. As part of our statement of principles, we call for more supportive services for victims and contend that they should be notified about sentencing reviews related to their cases. We also believe in restorative practices that promote healing for the victims of crimes as well as the young people who have been convicted of causing them harm.
Sadly, the voices of many victims often are silenced in favor of those who desire harsher penalties for youth convicted of serious crimes. However, the CFSY works in partnership with many family members of people who have died as a result of violence committed by youth who are committed to reform of our juvenile sentencing strategies. They believe that children should be held accountable in age-appropriate ways that focus on their capacity for rehabilitation and reintegration into society. And too often we forget that the young people who get into trouble are often themselves victims of abuse, neglect, and failing public systems.
One such partner of the Campaign is Sharletta Evans, who writes this month in Juvenile Justice Exchange about developing a relationship with the boy, now man, who killed her son. She describes their first meeting, “I told him in person about [my son] Casson and about my pain. I also told him that I forgive him. Even when they are involved in serious crimes, once our children pay their debts to society, they should have a chance to return home to become productive citizens and to give back to their communities.”
Someone else who knows too much about the pain of victimhood is Jeanne Bishop, whose pregnant sister and husband were killed. She recently released a book about her own journey through pain and into redemption called, “Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with my Sister’s Killer.”
There are many events held this week, among them the Survivors Speak Conference in California. CFSY’s Family Justice Advocate and California resident Esi Mathis is in attendance, as the mother of someone who was incarcerated for decades for crimes committed as a youth and a grandmother and aunt of homicide victims. The Conference brings victims and survivors together with experts on these topics, for support, advocacy training, and skill building.