CA #4 — Urging a NO vote
Provides rights for victims of crime in the judicial process.
Enabling Legislation: none identified
Does the ballot question and measure name accurately and fully reflect the effect of passage without obfuscation?
The name of this ballot question suggests that the victims of crime do not already have rights in the judicial process, when in fact they do. Adoption of #4 would create a new class of such rights, including the right to notice, the right to not be excluded from judicial proceedings and the right to be heard with respect to the release of, a plea by or the sentencing of the accused, the right to retain counsel to represent the interests of the victim of an alleged criminal act.
The framing of the ballot question fails to acknowledge that its ratification would apply to cases of delinquency (of minors) as well as criminal proceedings against adults.
Who would benefit from the proposed change?
Although presumably drawn for the benefit of the victims of alleged criminal acts, the most likely beneficiaries will be the prison industrial complex which reaps huge profits from our current system of mass incarceration, as the current punitive focus of our criminal justice system works against efforts for reconciliation between victims and offenders or the restoration of justice.
A similar measure on this year’s Florida ballot is being criticized by the ACLU of Florida for its potential to extend new powers to corporate ‘victims’ of criminal acts who would be able to use the criminal justice system to assert its property interests in a punitive response and without respect to the interests of justice or rehabilitation. A reading of the language in this Georgia Constitutional Amendment makes clear that here in Georgia as well, the Court’s current confusion about the personhood of corporate entities would give Walmart for example undue influence in the resolution of simple shoplifting cases. In fact, the provision permitting victims to be represented by counsel will work to the advantage of corporations, and cash-strapped humans victimized by crime operating without the assistance of counsel would be relatively marginalized in the process.
Who supports the passage of this measure?
California billionaire Henry Nicholas
Who supports the defeat of this measure?
Georgia Public Policy Foundation
What is the Georgia Green Party’s recommended position?
The Georgia Green Party urges a NO vote on Constitutional Amendment #4.
As the national ACLU wrote in their analysis around this nationwide effort, “Victims’ rights are not rights against the state. Instead, they are rights against another individual. . . . many of the provisions in Marsy’s Law could actually strengthen the state’s hand against a defendant, undermining a bedrock principle of our legal system — the presumption of innocence.”
Michelle Alexander, author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”, in a 2015 interview on Democracy Now said that what is required is “transforming our criminal justice system from one that is purely punitive to one that is based on principles of restorative and transformative justice, you know, systems that take seriously the interests of the victim, the offender and the community as a whole.”
In her book, she spoke of data pointing out that voters ‘often the most punitive’ were the ‘least likely to be crime victims’. She also wrote that “researchers found that racial attitudes – not crime rates or likelihood of victimization – are an important determinant of white support for ‘get tough on crime'”.
As Re:store Justice, a California non-profit put it: “We believe that victims’ rights can be met most effectively by creating more opportunities for restorative and non-adversarial processes for both victims and offenders within and beyond the criminal justice system. Acknowledging the humanity of victims and offenders allows us to identify and meet the full range of what victims may want from offenders. More than punishment and retribution, their healing may require that the offender is accountable, makes an apology, expresses regret and remorse and makes amends to the extent possible. While these actions cannot be required from an offender, when freely given, they may be the source of true justice.”