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Listening to the Crime Victim: Evaluating Victim Input at Sentencing and Parole (From Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, Volume 38, P 347-412, 2009, Michael Tonry, ed., - See NCJ-242171)

NCJ Number
Julian V. Roberts
Date Published
66 pages
This essay examines the use of victim input into the determination and subsequent administration of legal punishments.
Crime victims play an increasingly important role in the criminal process. One manifestation of this is the proliferation in the use of victim impact statements at sentencing and parole hearings. Across the common-law world victims are allowed to submit an impact statement to a sentencing court or parole board. Many U.S. States go further and encourage (or allow) victims to recommend a specific sentence to the court or to express their views on the release of the offender on parole. Research into the use of impact evidence at sentencing suggests that victims can benefit from the experience, and most who submit impact statements affirm that they would do so again. However, few victims participate in impact statement regimes, which tend to be poorly administered. There is no systematic evidence that impact statements make sentencing harsher, and research suggests that victim impact evidence is perceived by judges to be beneficial to the sentencing process. There is less justification for allowing victim input at parole, as victims seldom possess information relevant to the parole decision. Victim input at corrections is an example of what has been termed "punitive victim rights" and is inconsistent with sound correctional principles or principles of fundamental justice. (Published Abstract)