ICYMI: “Victims Deserve Equal Protection, Voice In Our Justice System”
– The Garden Island, By Justin F. Kollar
Victims’ rights will be at the forefront this week (April 19-25) as the nation recognizes National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. Kauai Mayor Bernard Carvalho also issued a proclamation to honor Crime Victims’ Rights Week and the Kauai County Council joined with a recognition as well.
Hawaii is one of 18 states in which the rights of victims are not currently protected under the state Constitution. We believe the time is right to enshrine in our state’s founding document the notion that victims of crime are entitled to rights that are central to the concept of justice. These rights would give victims a voice in the criminal justice process they have been denied for too long.
Although some statutory rights for victims were enacted in 1987, those rights do not carry the weight and force of the Constitution. Consequently, these statutes are often ignored and victims of crimes are victimized again by the system that is supposed to provide them justice.
When a crime victim or their surviving family is not allowed to participate in court proceedings — or in some cases not even notified when the perpetrator of the crime is being tried — stronger protections are needed.
When a perpetrator is sentenced to pay restitution for personal injuries or for the funeral of someone they’ve killed, but fails do so and suffers no consequences, our system needs to be fixed.
This year, the Hawaii State Legislature considered a bill to put constitutional protections for victims before voters. While action on this legislation has been deferred to next year’s session, it will be heard in time to be placed before the voters in November of 2016. This will give Hawaii voters the ability to amend the Constitution to include guarantees of victims’ rights modeled after the rights passed in California and Illinois known as Marsy’s Law.
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