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Effects of Victim Impact Statements on Sentencing Decision: A Test in an Urban Setting

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 11 Issue: 3 Dated: (September 1994) Pages: 453-469
Date Published
17 pages
Using data collected from 293 victims of robbery, nonsexual assault, and burglary in Bronx County, New York, between July 1988 and April 1989, this study examined the effect that victim impact statements had on the distribution of sentences.
Each victim was assigned to one of three treatment conditions: interview and written victim impact statement, interview only, and no interview or statement. During the intake procedure, victims rated the effects of their victimization in terms of physical harm, short-term financial impact, long-term financial impact, psychological harm, and behavioral changes. Victims were recontacted after one month to update information in their statements. Contrary to previous findings, the results reported here did not find that victim impact statements resulted in defendants receiving harsher sentences, nor did they produce sentencing decisions that reflected the effects of the crime on victims. There was little evidence that judges were influenced in their sentencing decisions by measures of the effects of crime on victims, once the charge and defendant's criminal history were taken into account. 3 tables, 4 notes, and 22 references

Date Published: January 1, 1994