State Senate Must Act For Crime Victims, Voters
– The Southern Illinoisan, By Jennifer Bishop-Jenkins
Last November, Illinois voters recognized the significance in passing the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights constitutional amendment, also known as Marsy’s Law for Illinois. The ballot measure received 2.7 million votes, making it the highest vote total of any question or candidate on the ballot.
On April 23, the Illinois House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed implementation bill HB 1121 for the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights. Upon the Senate’s approval, Illinois will finally establish the enforceable guidelines so that victims of violent crime will have assurance that the justice system protects their rights.
The sooner HB 1121 is passed, the sooner our state will be able to provide victims of violent crime with the ability to ensure the justice system enforces their legal rights. Crime victims and their families are already suffering, let’s give them one less thing to worry about by reassuring them the justice system can be relied on with these new procedures.
Crime victims have been battered, raped or abused. Their family members have been murdered. Unfortunately, these same victims are often marginalized by the criminal justice system. Just as a defendant has a remedy when rights are violated, a victim should have a remedy when rights are violated.
When my sister, her husband and their unborn baby were brutally murdered in 1990, my world fell apart. I’m still rattled that this 16-year old murderer came to my sister’s funeral with his parents. When their murderer’s sentencing day came, I wasn’t allowed to make a victim impact statement. Having the opportunity to address the court in this manner wouldn’t have provided complete closure, but it would’ve forced the murderer to hear how he’s affected me as it went into record. Though this man is now sentenced to prison for the rest of his life, I still live with so many unanswered questions on why he chose to kill them. I’ll be permanently grieving; it’s a lifelong pain that’ll never go away.
My rights were violated.
By voting “yes” for the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, voters showed their support for requiring courts to hear and rule on crime victims and their families’ requests for enforcement of their constitutional rights. The Illinois initiative reforms and improves the current Illinois victims’ rights provisions originally passed in 1992 without an enforcement mechanism, meaning victims had no remedy to enforce their rights. Too many crime victims and their loved ones have been inconceivably damaged by this lapse in the constitution. Crime victims and their loved ones need legal finality and justice.
The impact crime victims face transcends people of all backgrounds and identities. It is now time to urge the Senate to implement this common sense legislation, HB 1121, and ensure that all victims of crime receive the necessary support to address their victimizations and begin the healing process on their terms. While lawmakers finish the job of implementing the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights, now part of the Illinois Constitution, we encourage similar action in all 50 states.