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From the Editor

The rights of prisoners and victims are generally depicted as being antagonistic and contradictory, in that one comes at the expense of the other. The reason for this, of course, is that for the past 30 years “victim rights” has been a façade used to expand repressive police and prosecutorial power while seeming to respond to the interests of those victimized by crime.

But not all victims are equal. Most homicide victims in this country were engaged in criminal activity or had prior criminal convictions, yet one would never know that fact from the media or legislative posturing on the topic.

Defining who the “victim” is serves the important political purpose of also defining who the bad actor is. Rodney King was brutally beaten by Los Angeles police officers and some of his attackers were duly prosecuted, convicted and imprisoned, yet King is never referred to as a “crime victim” – since doing so would imply the criminality of his police attackers. When prisoners are raped, beaten or killed they too are not defined as crime victims because they are deemed unworthy of the title, as doing so does not advance the goals of the modern American police state.

The steady expansion of the police state has been accompanied by the drum beat of victim rights. As PLN has reported in the past, in California the prison guard’s union, the California Correctional Peace Officer’s Association, has for decades bankrolled the Doris Tate Victims Bureau, which they trot out whenever they need to put more people in prison, seek a pay raise or otherwise advance their legislative agenda. While this month’s cover story focuses largely on victim rights in Colorado, the policies and trends it describes are applicable to the rest of the nation as well.

On February 15, 2012 the Human Rights Defense Center, the publisher of PLN, in cooperation with the ACLU of Hawaii and the law firm of Rosen Bien & Galvan LLP, filed suit on behalf of the estate of Bronson Nunuha, a Hawaii prisoner who was murdered at a Corrections Corporation of America-operated facility in Arizona. We report the details of that lawsuit in this issue of PLN.

Through this suit, Bronson’s family seeks to hold the State of Hawaii and CCA accountable for creating another victim – a victim of homicide. This is a case where CCA is paid around $10 million a year to safely house Hawaii prisoners, and then to maximize its profit margin the company understaffs its facilities, which results in predictable problems including Bronson’s preventable death. We will report the outcome of the Nunuha lawsuit in a future issue of PLN.

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