Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools



Cassell, Paul G. (2009). In defense of victim impact statements. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law. 6:611-648.

My argument proceeds in four substantive parts. It begins in Part I by briefly tracing the crime victims' rights movement in this country, which, in recent years, has successfully argued for the right of victims to deliver an impact statement at sentencing. Part II then provides a real world example of a victim impact statement-a statement by Sue Antrobus regarding the criminal sale of the handgun used to murder her daughter. Looking at Sue Antrobus's statement will allow the reader to assess the desirability of victim statements with the knowledge of what such a statement actually looks like. Part III then lays out the four main justifications for victim impact statements. First, they provide information to the sentencing judge or jury about the true harm of the crime-information that the sentencer can use to craft an appropriate penalty. Second, they may have therapeutic aspects, helping crime victims recover from crimes committed against them. Third, they help to educate the defendant about the full consequences of his crime, perhaps leading to greater acceptance of responsibility and rehabilitation. And finally, they create a perception of fairness at sentencing, by ensuring that all relevant parties-the State, the defendant, and the victim-are heard. Part IV rebuts the objections that critics have raised to victim impact statements. The claim that victim impact statements do not relate to the purposes of punishment is refuted by the fact that they provide information about the severity of crimes, a salient consideration for judges at sentencing. The claim that the statements are so emotional that they will overwhelm sentencers is disproven by empirical evidence showing little effect from victim statements on sentence severity. The claim that victim impact statements lead to unfair inequality is invalid in view of the need to create fairness within criminal cases by allowing a victim response to allocution from criminal defendants and their families. And finally, the claim that a competition of victimhood arises in mass killing cases, even if true, provides no basis for abolishing the victim impact statements entirely. (excerpt)

Restorative Justice Online - Featured Video

Restorative Justice Library Search

Search 11427 publications on restorative justice