Policy wonks and policymakers have a lot of opinions on criminal justice reform. And as Ohio pursues changes to its criminal code, both should listen to an important group of stakeholders not often heard: the victims of crime.
Intuitively, one might think that crime victims would want courts to lock up perpetrators and throw away the keys. In the minds of many, incarceration deters criminals from reoffending. However, a new study flies in the face of conventional wisdom.
A new, first-of-its-kind national survey by the Alliance for Safety and Justice unveiled surprising results regarding the views of crime victims on incarceration.
For example, 61 percent of crime victims prefer shorter prison sentences and want policymakers to focus on shifting resources away from incarceration toward prevention programs and rehabilitation.
Indeed, criminals with a history of addiction do not get sufficient rehabilitation services while incarcerated, making them more likely to recidivate. Focusing on rehabilitation and prevention programs will increase the safety of neighborhoods and reduce recidivism rates.
Perhaps more surprising, those who have fallen victim to a crime are four times more likely to be victims again at some point in their lives. That means those who are most likely to be crime victims would prefer society treat the underlying problem rather than lock people up and forget about them.
Victims know that offenders will one day reenter their communities and, without treatment and rehabilitation, the problems they bring won’t go away. In fact, according to the Alliance’s survey, 52 percent of victims of violent crimes believe prison makes offenders more likely to commit crime.
Crime victims don’t want revenge—they want safer communities.
Ohioans recognize that criminal justice reform is necessary to promote safety in our communities. That is why the Ohio Justice Recodification Committee was established: to spearhead criminal justice reform. The committee will make its recommendations for changes to Ohio law this fall.
Until then, members—and, in fact, all Ohioans—should read the Alliance’s survey to see where crime victims stand on public safety issues. Just like criminal justice reforms’ effects, their opinions are encouragingly surprising.