Ryan Haynie | August 5, 2020
What about victims?
About a year ago, my car was stolen from my driveway. After a few weeks, my car was located in Lubbock, Texas. It was returned to me, but without my golf clubs, clothing items, and other things I kept in my car. The car had a new, nasty smell and some miscellaneous vaping items.
Writing about criminal justice reforms, I sometimes am accused of forgetting about—or worse yet, not caring about—victims. Nothing could be further from the truth.
My story is relevant because it highlights two important issues. First, I was a victim of a relatively minor crime. I wasn’t the victim of a murder, assault, or even armed robbery. Few (if any) reformers are advocating for shorter sentences for murders and rapists. Instead, the calls for reform focus on crimes without specific victims (like many drug crimes) or on property crimes.
The second issue is that when it comes to property crimes, we often forget one of the oldest tenets of criminal justice—making the victim whole. Going all the way back to the law handed to Moses, one element of criminal codes has been for the offender to make restitution to the victim. This not only helps the victim, but it helps the offender understand the harm he has caused. It further gives the offender the chance to experience the positive feeling associated with righting a wrong.
The current carceral system pays lip service to victims of crimes, but what does it really provide to victims of property crimes? I have not kept up with the case involving my stolen car. But I can assure you I would rather be paid back for my insurance deductible and the cost to replace my golf clubs and other possessions. What benefit do I actually receive if the perpetrator goes to prison? That won’t bring back my Pat Green CD collection. In 2018, probationers in Texas paid nearly $40 million in restitution to victims. That’s a pretty staggering amount. Those in prison typically pay very little, for obvious reasons. If Oklahoma really cares about victims, we should seek solutions that allow victims to be made whole. Restorative justice requires that offenders continue to work. And who knows? We may just find that there are downstream benefits to their families and communities.
Criminal Justice Reform Fellow
Ryan Haynie serves as the Criminal Justice Reform Fellow for the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs. Prior to joining OCPA, he practiced law in Oklahoma City. His work included representing the criminally accused in state and federal courts. Ryan is active in the Federalist Society, serving as the Programming Director for the Oklahoma City Lawyer’s Chapter. He holds a B.B.A. from the University of Oklahoma and a J.D. from the University of Oklahoma College of Law. He and his wife, Jaclyn, live in Oklahoma City with their three children.