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Can you work for the victim and the offender?

June 18, 2010

I received a message recently letting me know that she was no
employed. But also that things were tough for her. Really tough. She
and her husband at one time owned a small business. And as I said, then
tragedy hit. Her husband was murdered. This was many years ago but the
effects are long lasting. I can only imagine what her life has been like
But it hit me that we often do not think of the financial hardships
by crime victims. There are often no provisions made for victims like my
to make sure that they can make a living, have their needs met and be
able to
go on with their lives. Restitution is discussed and sometimes
included in the offender’s sentence but who considers the long term
effects of
violent crime on victims? We can do a better job. A system based on
justice would acknowledge this need and respond to it. Ideally, the
offender in
her case would help to pay for her needs over many years. That is not
always possible but it is preferable. But restitution should be paid and

that support should be there. This is a “re-entry” need for victims of

The other story is about my friend Kevin who I met
through the church I attend. He was an ex-offender and the son
of my friends Helen and Harley. I didn’t know Kevin for long. But
the time I knew him he was struggling. He was in prison for low-level
crimes, largely related to drugs. I did not know the details of his
crimes. But he spent many years behind bars, both at the state level and

not too long ago in a county jail. He had addiction problems–drugs,
largely, but alcohol as well. I rejoiced with my friends Helen
and Harley when the state gave Kevin a parole date state prison
about a year ago. I rejoiced even more when Kevin was sitting in
church with his parents. Once Kevin was out he made a mistake. We
thought he
could get a life sentence since he re-offended and it looked like it
be considered a third strike. California has a “Three Strikes and
You’re Out” statute so that third strike, which he had due to either his

drug addiction or a parole violation, would have committed him back to
prison for life.  Her parents and I thanked God when the state
agreed that Kevin could do some more time in a county jail then be
released. But
knowing the system as I do I think they sent Kevin to the county because
is no room for him in the state prison system (we are 200% overcrowding

Kevin and I got to know each other through the church. He was
desperate for
a job. He’d do anything and as I learned he was a good handyman. I
contacted Prison Fellowship hoping to connect him with some kind of
employment. But with this economy and his record (few hire ex-offenders
in our
society) it would be tough. At my church I have taught a small Bible
study over
the last year. Kevin attended a few times and showed his thorough
of the Bible and his heart for God. What a blessing it was to have him
in my
group. But still he struggled with his life and we all knew, especially
family, that he had demons he fought daily largely due to
his drug/alcohol addiction.

Kevin died unexpected on Monday, June 14th of kidney failure which
ultimately to heart failure. He would have been 54 years old next month.

Kevin’s son had just returned from Afghanistan and the family was
a big glorious reunion in the next two weeks. Now they prepare for his
service on Saturday. My heart aches for the family and I mourn the loss
my friend Kevin.

My writing this is to ask whether we can work for both the victim
and the
offender ? We can. Can we care equally for both? Yes. Can we serve the
needs of
both? Yes, and we must do a better job. I know that Kevin got very
little drug
treatment while serving many years behind bars in California. He could
been an active member of society if he was not facing addiction. He
could have
perhaps learned how to make things right with the victims in his past.
But he
received little treatment for his addiction. Even after his serving time
in a
county jail the county suggested drug/alcohol treatment Kevin told me he
received follow up or guidance about where he was to get that
treatment. Maybe by then his body was closing down slowly and it was too


For my woman friend, the murder victim, what could the system have
done for
her? More, yes. It still could. In a system based on restorative justice
needs would be met or at least there would be consistent efforts to
address her
needs. Pie in the sky? Maybe. But at this time little concern is paid
victims long after crimes are committed and offenders have been
sentenced and
are serving.  For Kevin, he might be alive today if he had
received treatment while in prison or at the very least after he was
released on
parole. We can do better. Can we work for both the victim and the
offender? Yes.
Can we care for both?


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