Over the past year, we’ve been talking with authors of recent studies on procedural fairness, asking them to describe their research. Today, we have an interview with three researchers about three different projects, all on the topic of victims and procedural fairness.
Cortney Fisher, our first guest, has a Ph.D. in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland. She talks about the research she did for her dissertation on victim satisfaction.
Our other two guests are Stacy Haynes (Associate Professor of Sociology at Mississippi State University) and Alison Cares (Associate Professor of Sociology and Criminology at Assumption College). Together, they have studied how victims and offenders perceive fairness and view the purpose of punishment. They also worked together on a literature review on restitution and the effect it has on victims’ feelings of satisfaction.
The researchers point out that all victims—regardless of demographic factors—are generally looking for the same things: information about the process, the chance to give input, and the sense that they’ve been heard by the court and the offender. They’re more interested in procedural justice than distributive justice. They do want to make sure that the offender doesn’t commit a crime again, but they aren’t necessarily more satisfied by seeing offenders get harsher sentences. They want to believe that the offender will be deterred from futures crimes for some reason other than being locked up.
Offenders, as it turns out, have some of the same desires. They tend to agree with victims on the purposes of punishment as well as whether the procedures and outcomes in their cases were fair. Offenders also benefit from having things like restitution explained to them and are more likely to pay if they realize that the money is going to the victim to help offset the damage they caused.
Restitution is an important part of helping victims feel restored, but even when victims don’t receive restitution, making sure they feel respected and heard can aid the restoration process. Since police officers and judges might not have much time to sit down with victims, the researchers encouraged more widespread use of victim advocates. A victim advocate can explain the process to victims and talk with them about their experiences, questions, and needs. Especially when victim advocates come from a community organization (rather than the prosecutor’s office or the court), they can independently represent victims and devote more time to them than a judge would be able to.
The researchers offer some practical tips for judges and tackle questions like how to consider input from victims while still making sure offenders receive equal justice.
We hope you find this interview useful and interesting. If you’d like to read more, the three studies the researchers discuss are cited below.
Cortney Fisher, What Matters: An Analysis of Victim Satisfaction in a Procedural Justice Framework (2014) (unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Maryland), http://drum.lib.umd.edu/bitstream/1903/16403/1/Fisher_umd_0117E_15875.pdf.
Stacy H. Haynes & Alison C. Cares, Victims’ and Offenders’ Views About Crime and Justice, 48 Soc. Focus 228 (2015), http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00380237.2015.1039420#.VZ6rlmccE5g.
Stacy Hoskins Haynes, Alison C. Cares & R. Barry Ruback, Reducing the Harm of Criminal Victimization: The Role of Restitution, 30 Violence & Victims 450 (2015), http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/springer/vav/2015/00000030/00000003/art00006