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Placebo Justice - Victim Recommendations and Offender Sentences in Sexual Assault Cases

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology Volume: 77 Issue: 4 Dated: (Winter 1986) Pages: 1126-1141
A Walsh
Date Published
16 pages
Data on 417 sexual assault cases in a metropolitan Ohio county during 1980-83 were analyzed to determine the impact of victim participation in sentencing and the victim-offender relationship on the sentences given.
Ohio's criminal code requires that a victim impact statement be included in all presentence reports and that a victim sentencing recommendation be included in cases of personal assault. Sentences were categorized as either probation or imprisonment. Of the cases examined, 248 victims (59.5 percent) made a sentencing recommendation. Findings suggest that victim impact statements and victim sentencing recommendations did not have an independent impact on sentencing apart from legally relevant variables. There was greater overall agreement than disagreement between victim recommendations and imposed sentences, such that the majority of victims may have believed their wishes were considered. The agreement, however, was predominantly mediated by legally relevant variables. There was a marked disregard for victim sentencing preferences in cases of incestuous sexual assault, not only when the recommended disposition was for probation but also when it was for incarceration. It is possible that in cases where judges were uncertain about whether to give probation or imprisonment, a victim recommendation for probation (usually in incest cases) could sway the judge in that direction. 6 tables and 31 footnotes.