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Laura's Law: Remembering the victims of violence

Feb 08, 2011

by Lisa Rea

Considering gun related violence and its impact on the victims, I remember the courageous work of Amanda and Nick Wilcox in Northern California in the name of their daughter, Laura. A recent press piece describes what they have done to fight violence since the shooting death of their daughter at the hands of Scott Thorpe on January 10, 2001.  

In 2001 I lived near the town where this violence broke out and subsequently met the Wilcox's. I wrote a commentary for the local paper sharing some of my thoughts about the violence, the gunman, and restorative justice. 

I was at the hearing of Scott Thorpe as the court decided his sanity. The court's decision would then dictate where Thorpe would be sentenced.  The Wilcox's took a position against the death penalty from the beginning which was shared with the local district attorney.  There were other victims that day who died at the hands of Thorpe; the Wilcox's position represented their own personal opinion on the death penalty.  It was the first time I had attended such a hearing and it had an impact on me and how I viewed both the offender and the victims' family members as well as the family of the offender.  Here is how the local newspaper reported on the hearing.

As I thought about the Tucson, Arizona gunman Jared Loughner I remembered Scott Thorpe. Could this violence have been prevented? What do we do with the victims of violence and those  family members who remain after the violence?  Do we remember them? How are they to heal and move forward after such random violence? 

In the case of Scott Thorpe and in the memory of Laura Wilcox, Amanda and Nick have chosen to fight to reduce gun violence and to seek to address the issue of guns in the hands of the mentally ill in their community and in the state of California. I think their story should be told and their work remembered. Hopefully we can learn.    

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Angella says:
Aug 01, 2012 11:49 AM

Lisa and others, as a current student of Criminal Justice it has been my belief all along that our justice system has left behind the thought of rehabilitation which in it's earlier times was a big part of the justice system. Laura's law I believe could bring back some of this. I do believe that those who commit crimes have to pay their debt to society, however those criminals who have suffered with severe mental illness with no way to obtain treatment, or those who are not even aware they have a mental illness should be mandated to treatment. The idea that we would take the time to treat the criminal to me is just as important in the long run as it would speak to the recidivism rates around the world and in essence save money for all states and territories that would seek to implement it. All costs of programs such as this could be offset by that which would be saved, as Liz Kellar states in the article about Mr. Thorpe the belief is that no one wants to be ill. I do believe that some criminals that commit these kinds of crime can be helped, but not necessarily all. It is worth trying to assist those that seek and want the help, as well as attempting to assist those that maybe have not come to the conclusion they even have a problem. One of the only points that I didn't necessarily agree with in Liz's article is that there is an age limit to those who could get into the program. I feel that regardless of age they should be able to gain the assistance in this area, as there are so many juveniles that do not have access to mental health care or who do not have the support system to push them toward it. If there is a court order that mandates they seek help as with the adults the convincing to take medications where necessary may also be of great assistance to the home communities. I realize that it is a step to mandate mental health care, for adults and even more so for juveniles, but the overall good for the community and society as a whole should be good enough to try. Financially and safety wise Laura's Law would seem it could only be a good thing for the communities as a whole...

lisa rea
lisa rea says:
Aug 01, 2012 08:13 PM

Thank you for your comments. I cannot speak for Nick and Amanda Wilcox whose daughter, Laura, was killed by a mentally ill man but I can add my comments. Treating those with mental illness is something that surely is an investment in public safety. While restorative justice advocates like myself often do not lobby for improved services to the mentally ill among us it certainly is a way to work towards violence prevention. Unfortunately in the U.S. state budgets around the country are cutting funds for better mental health treatment instead of increasing such treatment. <br /> <br />In this case, Scott Thorpe was being treated for mental illness before the violent day in 2001 when many lost their lives and others wounded. He also owned a number of guns and used them. It is hard not to conclude that something must be done to limit access to guns by those who have been deemed mentally ill, at least those being seen and being treated for such illness. Crime victims like Nick and Amanda Wilcox work on both fronts. I applaud that. They also support restorative justice. <br /> <br />Lisa Rea <br />Restorative Justice International <br /><a href="" rel="nofollow"></a> <br /> <br />

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