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(Continued from here)

Do you feel bad that on one day, I was the Queen of Potential Witnesses and the next day, I was dropped like a hot potato?

I’m not sure how I felt about this at the time. It’s possible that I was a little miffed and felt that a simple phone call would have been nice, just to say, “Thanks, Sharon. We appreciate that you were standing by, ready to come to court and do your civic duty.”

But now, all these years later, I think the way it was handled was entirely appropriate.

When I first started to write these entries, I hadn’t intended to include so much detail about the robbery. I intended to mention it, in passing, to provide myself with some credibility when I began to write about how the justice system works and when eventually, someone would assert, “That’s easy for you to say; nothing like this has ever happened to you.” I needed to show that, even as a “victim of crime,” I was capable of looking at the justice system with an objective eye.

Victims of crime need a lot of support in the aftermath of their ordeal. I would not begrudge them that.

I do not, however, believe that support should be provided in the context of the crime and in the court system. Within the last few years, the focus of crime has been shifting to the victim to the point that, in some cases, the alleged perpetrator has been relegated to a bit part — to playing the role of the instrument that caused the victim’s suffering.

This is wrong. Criminal proceedings should not be about the victim. A court case must be centred on the accused person and the law that has been broken. If the victim is called as a witness, then he/she should be required to present the facts and not to be a prop for the defence.

I’m jaded by the parade of victims of crime who appear on television, prodded by their interviewers, lovingly and harrowingly describing every detail of the torment they’ve been through. When their voices break and they begin to cry, I can almost see the producers, rubbing their hands gleefully and saying, “This is great TV.”

I connect it directly to the ever-growing popularity of so-called reality TV and to the ever-growing number of people who feel that their lives don’t matter — that they aren’t really living — unless they’re on TV.

Victim Impact Statement legislation was proclaimed under Section 722 of the Criminal Code in October, 1988. It is the high end of the trend toward focussing on the victim and I strenuously oppose it. Why should one person be likely to get a heavier sentence because his victim is eloquent and articulate and a good writer and another get off a little more easily because his victim is not so well-spoken and not quite as appealing?

Focussing on the victim is one part of a larger policy approach that is based on ideology and also includes all the “getting tough on crime” strategies: longer sentences, repeal of the young offenders’ act, cracking down on parole “privileges” — and ultimately, privatized prisons where there are big profits to be made off people’s misery.

Prisons-for-profit are immoral. So are the de-humanizing and other mis-treatment of prisoners and — of course — imprisoning the wrong people.

Some of these issues around prisons and prisoners — and they’re in the news right now — were what I started out to explore when I got sidetracked into writing about the robbery. Let me try to pull all this together in the next segment and then, I promise, we’ll change the subject.

Part 5

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