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Victims, Punishment, and Parole: The Effect of Victim Participation on Parole Hearings

NCJ Number
Criminology & Public Policy Volume: 4 Issue: 2 Dated: May 2005 Pages: 333-360
Kathryn Morgan; Brent L. Smith
Date Published
May 2005
28 pages
This study examined the effects of victim participation at parole hearings in Alabama.
Despite the fact that victim rights groups have lobbied for the increased participation of victims within the criminal justice process, research has indicated that victim participation has had little impact on sentencing outcomes. The current study extended this line of research to examine whether victim participation at parole hearings in Alabama resulted in more punitive sanctioning of offenders. Data were drawn from the files of 762 Class A felons maintained by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, including the inmate summaries, Pre-Sentence Investigation (PSI) reports, Institutional Parole Officers (IPO) Reports, Warden’s Report/Recommendations, Parole Review Checklists, records of oral and written communications to the board, and the Action Sheets. Variables under examination included offender and offense characteristics, parole factors, and offender and victim-related responses. Results of statistical analyses indicated that victim and offender participation were both important factors in parole decisionmaking. In fact, victim participation was found to be more influential than either institutional behavior or participation in rehabilitation programs in predicting decisions on whether to grant or deny parole. The authors discuss the causal relationships operating among victim participation variables, offender characteristics, and general parole predictors and parole decisionmaking. Future research should focus on the extent of victim participation in States where victims are not sent an official notification. Tables, figures, notes, references