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What Happens to Crime Victims and Witnesses in the Justice System? (From Perspectives on Crime Victims, P 52-62, 1981, Burt Galaway and Joe Hudson, ed. - See NCJ-74246)

NCJ Number
M S Knudten; R D Knudten
Date Published
This paper discusses the problems experienced by crime victims and nonvictim witnesses within the criminal justice system, their perceptions of personnel in the system, and implications of these findings when considering what services should be provided.
The data were gathered from two samples -- one of victims and one of witnesses -- involved in the criminal justice process in Milwaukee County, Wis. Subjects were contacted as their cases were considered at one of four stages in the criminal justice process. The questionnaire was administered to both groups over four 12-week periods in 1975. Comparison of subjects' characteristics with population characteristics of Milwaukee County showed that men, blacks, and young people were overrepresented among the crime victims and nonvictim witnesses. In addition, the attitudes of citizens toward system representatives with whom they had had contact were examined by asking for performance assessments of three system representatives: the police, the district attorney, and the judge. Findings indicated that time loss, resulting in part from making unnecessary trips, and associated income losses were the most serious and most commonly experienced problems. Victims and nonvictim witnesses had positive attitudes toward police, district attorneys, and judges. A distinct relationship was also found between positive assessment and intention of future cooperation, suggesting that citizen cooperation can be expected when action is taken in criminal cases. Findings also suggested that specialized victim and witness assistance programs should not focus on subgroups within the population but should be accessible to all citizens. Moreover, access to these programs should be extended to others close to the victim or witness as well. Programs that notify witnesses when they will not be needed and that make scheduling of court cases more efficient may be of the greatest assistance. Other problems are transportation and parking difficulties encountered by witnesses, as well as child care needs. Police departments should pay greater attention to their prosecutorial and judicial roles; community services to victims and witnesses should be publicized and interagency cooperation encouraged. Tabular data and 28 references are included.