With sexual crime, current system is often “vengeful but ineffective”

By Mardi Link . . . Kristen Burgess used to think of herself as a homebody. She never imagined she’d need a MacPass, give public testimony to state lawmakers, or compile 12 years worth of data on sex crimes in Grand Traverse County.

Her domestic life was irrevocably changed April 11, 2018.

That was the day her husband, Victor “Scott” Burgess, 56, was arrested and charged with first-degree criminal sexual conduct. He was later convicted and sentenced to 12 to 30 years in prison.

“It has been the darkest, most devastating time of my entire life,” Kristen, 37, of Fife Lake said, of the past year and a half.

On April 9, 2018, Kristen came home early from her work as a midwife and found her husband in bed, naked, with her teenage daughter.

The 17-year-old was one of three children Burgess adopted when he and Kristen married in 2010. They had five children together; Kristen fled that night with all eight, took refuge in an area church, and called 911.

The Grand Traverse County Sheriff’s Department investigated, Burgess was arrested, charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, to which he pled guilty.

Judge Thomas Power sentenced Burgess on the three counts and he is currently incarcerated in Chippewa Regional Correctional Facility in Kincheloe. His earliest release date is 2030.

Since her husband’s arrest, Kristen has been vocal about what she wanted from the justice system — and how she believes it failed her and her children.

Kristen said she does not object to her husband’s arrest or conviction. She also doesn’t refute the fact her daughter was the victim of a terrible crime. She objects to the lack of a plea offer, to a prison sentence she says is “vengeful but ineffective,” and to her fitness as a parent being questioned.

She has twice given testimony to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Joint Task Force on Jail and Pre-Trial Incarceration, once in Traverse City and once in Lansing; she submitted a five-page victim impact statement to Judge Power and sends him a letter every six months describing how her family is coping; she compiled data on all first-degree criminal sexual conduct charges, dismissals, plea bargains and sentences in Grand Traverse County since 1997; and when invited, she speaks in private homes about restorative justice.

She is also raising her children on her own, using heavily-taxed early withdrawals from her husband’s retirement fund to pay bills and buy groceries. She said she’s experienced every emotion one might imagine — rage, grief, horror and confusion — yet still hopes to someday be reunited with her husband.

Criticism for stating that publicly is to be expected, she said.

“Internet trolls can say I’m an idiot, the prosecutor can say I’m being manipulated, but there may be some people out there willing to listen. Restorative justice can work. And somebody needs to be brave enough to stand up and talk about it.”

Restorative Justice

The term “restorative justice” has been used by the court system since at least 2007, when the U.S. Department of Justice funded publication of the 110-page Restorative Justice On-Line Notebook.

“The current system in which crime is considered an act against the State, works on a premise that largely ignores the victim and the community that is hurt most by crime,” the notebook states. “Instead, it focuses on punishing offenders without forcing them to face the impact of their crimes.”

When deployed by the courts, restorative justice tends to mete out shorter prison sentences.

It is a way of thinking about crime and offender rehabilitation that encourages in-person meetings —which can often become verbal confrontations — as well as counseling, incarceration and reparations.

Instead of punishment, it emphasizes accountability and making amends, according to The Centre for Justice and Reconciliation, a program of Prison Fellowship International, a Christian-based nonprofit based in Washington, D.C.

Read the rest of the piece here at the Record-Eagle.

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    • #66911 Reply

      Thanks for posting this. I admire that she can see thru her pain and her daughter can see thru the pain, that there are and should be consequences for out actions, but punishment alone does nothing, for anyone. She makes some excellent points.

    • #66923 Reply

      I’m sure we are can be proud that this article is well presented. And yes people should be opening their eyes all across the nation that are involved in many or a lot of these encounters. Yes I’m sure we have all heard the term “Restorative Justice” from high school civic’s class or American Government classes. Even back in 2017 Ministers marched in DC for social Justice and Criminal Justice Reform. Respect is good if the respect is their in the first place.

      Situations come up in life and I’m sure a situation such as described in this article are heart breaking , oppressing, and depressing not only for this lady but also for all involved, even government. One could even say governmental abuse or overkill in many ways.

      This article speaks volume. Yes we all need restorative justice in America today. Yes actions speak louder than words and their are good actions and their are also bad actions. So were is the balancing plumb line in a lot of this discourse for true justice? One wonders if taking the Ten Commandments down was a crime in itself or even pray out of school. One wonders if the pledge of alegance means anything today.

      Some may say the judge in this case was a bit to harsh and did not not show any compassion in any of this case, I believe we all heard that before in an article on here or other types of sexual situation’s. While this article talks about a plea deal not given one wonders why. Does justice go overboard in many area’s. So now we all pay for the incareration for this man and others in prison in all these sex type ordeal’s.

      Forgiveness seems blind in American Justice and yes”Restorative Justice” is good to help correct in many situations but who restores who in an internet enticement? Two different situations but all sexually oriented. Yes many things can get out of hand with a sex texting game or even the situation of a daughter and farther encounter and when justice takes control its like the blind leading the blind with harsh punishment in this Civil American Justice. Talk about a punishment worthy of death. One would even wonder why they have probation forms of punishment in many situations. Locking someone up doesn’t always help matters so who is just as responsible.

      Correction is good but the right correction is more better or who reason’s today.

    • #66924 Reply
      Tim in WI

      The formal right to trial enshrined a natural balance purposefully disrupted by the entrenched connection between former prosecutors and their tendency to seek congressional office. Once elected the former prosecutors often make law lowering bars to conviction. Ex. DWI from .10 to .08 to use an off topic ref. The crux of the issue is not addressed by the change in law. This results not in less drunk driving but more lawlessness subject to enforcement and punishable by law. In other terms ” what benefits prosecutors ” doesn’t necessarily improve societal conditions. Years and years of this behavior by both parties has rendered little positive results, but still wins elections.

    • #66969 Reply

      Vengance is mind saith the Lord. Sure we can all be proud of something or have pride but in many of these sex offender ordeals, especially via the internet who has the pride. Is this pride for some type of political gain in some near future. While the damage is done who goes about saying well you made your choice to come down here to meet a teenager.

      If one goes with the bible who know’s the thoughts and intent of a man or does it take to to tango as some have said on here, or is it some nobody tells me what to do mentality of today.

      Sure this sex registry is no good in many ways and is for the most part sour grapes. Those who do these encounters to instill this on another have just as much sin as others I’m sure. People its time to call a spade a spade if one wants. I’m sure we all even have thoughts about this current killing this general, so who is right.

      Is it that little girl that said that said to officer I don’t want to see my dad in jail or authorities getting wind of some offense and thats when confusion can start. Were is warning in internet confusion when those trained servents want to instill more than they want to show compassion. All this seems like a double standard for law enforcement intimidation. Opinions and speaking out are good for all involved until we all put an end to all this intimidating ordeal in many and much of this sex offender ruse via this internet. Are not we all gonna be justified in the end.
      There is a right way sand a wrong way for everything.

      I’m sure Robin and others would agree also.

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