The survey by the Alliance for Safety and Justice (ASJ) finds that, despite popular assumptions on prison sentences, crime victims favor shorter prison sentences in Illinois, and investment more on education and rehabilitation rather than prisons and jails.
Winnebago County Alternative Justice Outreach Coordinator Katie Zimmerman agrees.
“That’s not working,” said Zimmerman. “That’s kind of an antiquated way to keep operating the criminal justice system. We need more programs like the deferred prosecution program that are actually designed to help people turn their lives around and become productive members of this community.”
That program, funded by criminal justice fees, is designed for first-time, non-violent offenders. It puts them though steps like counseling and obtaining a high school diploma or GED, giving them the opportunity for a second chance.
“[We want them to] take ownership of the crime that they committed and understand that it wasn’t just a crime, that there’s a victim with a face that is involved in their actions,” said Zimmerman.
The victims, by a margin of nearly 3 to 1 on the ASJ survey, say that a justice system should follow that. It says that prisons actually makes people more likely to commit crimes, than to rehabilitate them.
Zimmerman also emphasizes getting law enforcement officials into schools as early as possible to inform kids on gang prevention and drug abuse.
“If we can prevent a crime from being committed then we can prevent a victim from being in the community,” said Zimmerman.