UC Law Journal


Linda G. Mills


A longstanding assumption of the criminal justice system is that victims benefit in some way from the prosecution and punishment of the person who caused them harm. This Article, however, argues that victim healing involves more than punishing the offender, and that by rethinking the roles victims perform in the criminal justice system, we may provide them with a more comprehensive menu of options to facilitate their recovery from crime. The societal goals of punishment and accountability and the individual desire for healing are not mutually exclusive. Incorporating recovery approaches from both the science of victimology and theories of restoration in the justice process allows a more encompassing perspective that has the potential to both reduce the propensity of victims to become victimizers themselves and interrupt the transmission of victimization across generations. Furthermore, reforming the criminal justice system in a manner that facilitates a victim's recovery from crime offers the state economic benefits.

To begin to conceptualize how such reforms may be encouraged or even facilitated, we must understand exactly how victims have been, or are likely to be, affected by crime, what strategies can meet their complex recovery needs, and what procedures or programs might help restore them to health. In many cases, a victim's healing process could include engaging in self-reflection on the crime and the resulting traumatization; breaking down the elements of the event that could be controlled by the victim or may be controlled to avoid similar victimizations in the future; and, finally, interacting with offenders to draw out their perspectives, and possibly an apology or signs of remorse.

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