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Victim Compensation as a Labelling Process

NCJ Number
Victimology Volume: 5 Issue: 1 Dated: (1980) Pages: 3-16
D Miers
Date Published
14 pages
This Welsh article offers an alternative approach to four principal justifications for compensating victims of criminal violence and examines the notion of an 'innocent victim of crime.'
The four justifications are the analogy to the law of negligence, the idea of an attenuated contract between the State and the citizen, the social welfare argument, and the economic argument that advocates distributing losses from criminal activity over the entire society. Each justification is criticized and an alternative approach is offered to point out the genesis of crime victim compensation schemes and the reason why their justification is not easy. The discussion suggests that both individuals and groups differentiate between sufferers. This fact is illustrated in the cases of an Irish Republican Army internee who claims to have been victimized by the British Army, and of employees who are fired because they refuse to join a trade union. The process by which individuals are accorded the status of victim is a labeling process, and the ascription of that status reflects the values of the labelers. A distinction is drawn between instrumental values, or values adopted by policymakers in order to effect changes, and symbolic values, or politicization of the crime victim. It is concluded that the desire to reserve the ascription of victim status only to individuals who are in accord with the stereotype explains many theoretical and practical problems which have been encountered in the implementation and administration of these compensation schemes. Approximately 50 references are given. (Author abstract modified)