“The continued victimization is not just an insult to my family, but to all victims of crimes in Illinois,” said Bob Peters, Jr., who bears the namesake of his father, Bob Peters, Sr., a murder victim who was brutally murdered during a robbery Nov. 12, 1992 at his gun shop. The continued victimization Bob Peters, Jr. refers to and advocates against, along with his sister, Becky, is now dealt to their family by the State of Illinois’ correctional authorities and elected officials who continually push to allow for early release of prisoners described by Governor Pritzker as non-violent, but, in reality, are sex offenders and murderers often released on unsuspecting and, sometimes, unknowing communities.
The Peters Family first went through a difficult loss of their patriarch through this tragic murder, but Bob Peters, Jr. says the revictimization continues to this day due to continual efforts by “soft on crime” elected officials like Governor JB Pritzker releasing thousands of sometimes violent offenders into communities with what he describes as “insufficient notice to victims”. Concerns about insufficient notice are shared by prosecutors, judges, and law enforcement in communities where criminals are being released after having served a sentence “short of full” for their crimes. In total, Governor Pritzker has allowed early release of thousands of Illinois prisoners since the beginning of the year. The Peters Family live with the constant thought that one or any of the three men who murdered their father could be the next released.
Lady Justice, a blindfolded woman carrying a sword and a set of scales, is a common symbol on courthouses in America and inside some court rooms. She symbolizes fair and equal administration of the law, without corruption, favor, greed, or prejudice. The symbolism behind Lady Justice is important to the context of this column. The blindfold represents objectivity and impartiality. She holds scales to represent the weighing of evidence on its merit. The snake under her foot represents evil. The book upon which her footing rests is the law, the constitution from which justice is administered. The sword she holds represents punishment. She holds the sword below the scales to show that evidence weighted on its merit in a court of law comes before punishment. The sword itself signifies that justice can be swift and final.
The act of murder is swift and final, but it seems these days it is the ONLY swift and final act within our justice system. The failure of the State’s correctional system to appropriately require fulfillment of sentences of murderers, child abusers, and sex offenders (all violent criminals), removes the sword from Lady Justice’s hands.
In doing so, these crime victims are revictimized time and again as their aggressors repeatedly apply for release, clemency, or are considered for early release by the Governor. The children of Bob Peters, Sr. have now spent more time advocating for continued imprisonment of their father’s murderers than the time they had their father in their lives. In defense of not just law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, and the victims, but also the community-at-large that provided any measure of support to the family following this tragic crime, you’ll forgive the Peters family and others who see these “acts of mercy” by the State’s correctional system as “an insult to their commitment for justice” as their personal faiths in the system continue eroding.
While the Illinois Prisoner Review Board is required by law to hear-out out convicted criminals seeking clemency or early release, Bob Peters, Jr. as well as his sister Becky and other family members, have been trying to contact the Governor’s office for months to tell their story and have it be heard by at least a staff person of their Governor. Their voices have been relegated to electronic voicemail, unrequited messages in inboxes and unreturned messages left with secretarial staff.
Criminals with a right to be heard, while victims are too-often ignored. That is not the criminal justice system anyone passionate about maintaining order in our society envisions nor should want. The choice a criminal makes in committing a violent crime takes away the choices their victim had before them. That somber fact should be weighed more heavily than it is today in our correctional system. Where is the compassion for the victims in all this?