Monday, September 21, 2009

Parallel Justice

Our fall/winter newsletter is now up (and in the mail), and it features -- among other things -- an interview with Susan Herman, former director of the National Center for Victims of Crime. Professor Herman is widely recognized for developing the concept of "parallel justice," which she has defined through this summary:

When we consider justice for victims, we must always begin and end by asking what victims need to rebuild their lives and what society owes them. We should not start with the criminal justice system as our point of reference.

In her interview in the MVFHR newsletter, Susan Herman said:

If we honored a societal obligation to help victims rebuild their lives, if we said that that is an essential ingredient of justice, then I think we would start to redesign the response to crime so that there would be one path to justice that is offender-oriented, where we hold a trial and prosecute and all the rest, and another path to justice that is designed to help victims get back on track and reintegrate them into productive community life.

The reason I call this parallel justice is that I wanted to emphasize that there should be a set of responses to victims that are independent of and can be contemporaneous with the criminal justice response. The prosecution may be happening but at the same time that victim should be given a range of services that have nothing to do with how the prosecution is going. Victims shouldn’t have to feel like their access to services is contingent on whether the prosecution is successful.

Read the rest of the interview, which includes examples of how parallel justice is being put into practice, here. (Scroll down to page 4 of the newsletter.)

I also encourage readers to explore Susan Herman's extensive writing on this issue, including this text of a speech she gave in 2000, "Seeking Parallel Justice."

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