By Rachell Marshall, Federal Policy Counsel
From the federal level to state legislatures across the country, criminal justice reform measures are a hot topic of conversation and proposed legislation. What is often lost in those conversations are the views and voices of victims. As an organization that fights to end the prosecution, sentencing, and incarceration of children in the adult system, we are all too aware that children are often times victims of crime and exposed to trauma before they ever get arrested. One young man who was 15 when he began an 8-year sentence in an adult prison for a carjacking said, “It never occurred to me to carry a gun, or use it against someone until someone stuck a gun in my face.” We know that children who come in contact with the justice system have higher rates of exposure to trauma and violence than children who aren’t in contact with the system. We also know that some victims experience trauma not only after a crime has been committed, but also after their experience with the justice system. Further, we know that in many cases, crimes of violence are perpetrated against family members or members of our community--so limiting our response to victims to a carceral one only often does more harm than good. It’s time to take a new, holistic approach to restoring justice and healing in our communities, one that yields outcomes that reduce future offending, not just punishment.