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The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously adopted a proposed constitutional amendment that I authored which would better protect the rights of crime victims. My purpose in introducing this resolution is twofold.

First, it will “equalize” the rights of crime victims and criminal defendants. While Iowa may have one of the most robust and respected crime victims’ statutes in the country, whenever the constitutional right of a defendant conflicts with the statutory right of a crime victim, the defendant’s constitutional right will always prevail. Adding victims’ rights to the constitution is the proper way to ensure the rights of those impacted by crime are robustly protected and enforceable.

Second, there is a broader national effort to enact “criminal justice reform” which gives me a lot of heartburn. Rehabilitative and restorative approaches such as in-prison education, skills-based training, and reducing burdens to licensure are fine. But the push to radically reduce sentences, normalize drug use and possession, and letting “non-violent” offenders out of prison early is just plain stupid. I feel the rights of those impacted by crime are too often forgotten in this rush to criminal justice reform.

Introducing an amendment to constitutionalize crime victims’ rights is also intended to send a strong message to our legislature and those across the country to not forget the impact of crime on victims and communities.

Author: Zach Whiting