Thursday, May 24, 2018

Who's on trial here?

This illustration of mine ran in The New Yorker this past week. It's for a Jill Lepore article on the Victim's Rights Movement- a marriage of feminism and conservatism- and how it has affected the justice system in the U.S.

The movement was started in the 1960s by conservatives trying to combat the "soft on crime" notions of civil liberties, like needing a warrant to obtain evidence to be presented against a defendant, and reading Miranda rights. It attempts to give victims of crimes (usually murder, but also rape) and their loved ones a voice in court- a noble cause to be sure- with a "victim-impact statement": often presenting the life story of the victim, showing pictures or videos during trial, as a way of proving the value of the person whose life has been cut short (in the case of murder). But it has ended up leading to "tough on crime" bills with mandatory minimums, and exacerbates the same kind of racial bias present in so many criminal trials, but toward the victim instead, with jurors less likely to be compelled by victim-impact statements from black victims than from white victims. There's also the issue of examining the worth of the victims. If the victim isn't considered as "valuable" by the community, is the crime less serious? Here's the full page:

It's a very intriguing, in-depth look at how a movement with some good intentions contributed to our system of mass incarceration. Check out the story. Thank you to Chris and Nicholas!

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