A prime issue concerning the innermost workings of our court system is that of Victims' Rights. Many times, it is the criminal that everyone is worried about, especially with such cases as those where capital punishment could be enforced. The real casualty of this reasoning is not the criminal but the victims and relatives thereof who have been affected by his horrible deed. It is for them that such legislation as "Megan's Law" has been passed. This piece specifically targets sexual offenders who have been found guilty a minimum of two times. When they move into a new area, their neighbors are notified of their past sexual offences. This way, they can be more aware that a similar crime is possible and are able to protect their children and others who might normally be unaware of the possible danger that exists. The conflict in such bills resides not in whether the victim has any rights, but in how one balances those against the rights of the criminal. Some people say that Megan's Law is an invasion of the privacy of the criminal and does not allow him to turn over a new leaf and find a new beginning for his life. Another proposed idea is the "victim's advocate," a court-appointed professional whose job is to inform the victim of his or her rights and make sure they are utilized. This problem is very complex and there is no simple solution.
Jon's Opinion It's a question of importance; who do we think is more important? The victim, or the attacker? The basic rights of the accused are outlined in the Bill of Rights, and I think it's time that we focus on the rights of the victims. There are numerous ways that victims can find out information about their attackers, but often they simply don't know or aren't told. If we put victims first in this nation, our committment to justice will be strengthened.
Alan's Opinion The right to privacy is one of the most important rights our government guaranntees us. It protects us from undue interference by the government into regions of our lives where they have no business. The issue of Victims' Rights and the solutions suggested and in effect today are horrible. They dramatically infringe on the criminal's right to privacy after he or she has been rehabilitated and released back into society. Forever onwards, besides bearing the responsibility of his or her past actions, the criminal is now also forever scarred in society by being branded with an unfair label for all to know of and recognize? That would truly be a travesty of justice.
Copyright © 1997 Jonathan Chin & Alan Stern