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Chapter 16

Chapter 16 Textbook Notes.docx

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University of Guelph
SOC 2760
Scott Schau

Chapter 16: The Impact of Homicide  Images of murder are everywhere in our culture  Murder is so common in today’s society that you probably don’t even think about how often the words like murder and killer are used around you everyday  References to murder and killing are common place in today’s society as is the slaughter of human beings for entertainment Homicide Survivors  “Homicide survivors” or “co-victims” family members and friends of murder victims suffer immensely when their loved ones are taken away by murder  Co-victims are not counted by the FBI or other organizations that keep track of the number of victimizations in the United States or other countries  Survey in the United States in 1991 shows that 9.3% of those sampled were homicide victims  This would mean that there are approximately 28 million homicide survivors in the United States  There is sparse research on homicide survivors suggests that they experience deeper and longer lasting trauma than those who loved ones die unexpectedly through accidental deaths or car wrecks  Survivors must contend with the fact that their loved one died because someone willfully took his or her life  Survivors may also feel that the press invades their privacy or portrays their loved ones in an unfavourable light  Survivors must contend with the anger towards the murderer as well as the social stigma and isolation involved in having a loved one murdered  Survivors experiences with the criminal justice system are often problematic and it is common for them to feel ignored or pushed out of the justice process altogether  Fewer homicides are cleared today then in the past, as a result the survivors must face the reality that their loved one was murdered by someone who remains unpunished  Survivors are often traumatized by the murder of their loved one, many find they are numb, others experience guilt, helplessness, apprehension, rage and anxiety  It is not uncommon for them to experience post traumatic stress disorder  PTSD is more prevalent in murder survivors than in people who lost loved ones to any other causes  Physical symptoms  headaches, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal problems and loss of appetite  Interpersonal relationships are often affected  others do not understand what they are going through, feel isolated and alone, not uncommon for family members to feel uncomfortable around survivors and thus avoid interaction  The loss of a child often results in a divorce for couples  Families can be torn apart when the murder offender and victim are related  Survivors suffer from “complicated bereavement” they cannot reconcile their loss  Not clear what may help survivors, support groups help make a difference  Extra personal losses  medical bills in effort to save loved one, loss of home or may have major social status change because of loss of victim’s income, may be difficult to maintain their own job because of the criminal justice proceedings  Media  reporters are insensitive when they ask questions, pictures of victims may be broadcast on the news without the survivors consent, media may also camp outside their houses, near constant news coverage, unflattering or personal details about their loved one’s own life or even their own lives Survivors and the Criminal Justice System  Crimes in the United States and many other countries are viewed as crimes against the state rather than crimes against the individual victims  The system is structured so that the victim’s role is peripheral  Victims are not informed about the investigation, and often as family members are considered suspects  If a suspect is discovered the co-victim are rarely if ever included in any decisions about prosecuting the accused  Research shows that interaction with the criminal justice system increases the survivors feeling of powerlessness  Many survivors feel frustrated with the seemingly better treatment that the criminal justice system provides to offenders rather than their own family  Plea bargaining, not guilty verdicts and reduced sentences can add to the helplessness and lack of control the survivors feel  One study indicated that family members who experienced a trial had higher depression than those whose cases were still unsolved Victims Right’s Movement  During the 1970’s several social movements converged into what is now referred to as the U.S. victim’s rights movement  Feminists made progress in establishing battered women’s shelters and encouraging legislature to institute rape laws  The National Organization for Victim Assistance (1975)  1976 chief probation officer developed victim impact statement to be used by the criminal justice system  Parents of Murdered Children (1978 by Robert and Charlotte Hullinger)  POMC and MADD demanded the criminal justice system pay attention to victims and see beyond the state and the defendant in criminal proceedings  1982, President Reagan appointed Task Force on Victims of Crimes which made 68 recommendations  1984, passage of the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) provides funding for victim assistance programs and state victim compensation and is considered to be the greatest event in victims rights movement  VOCA improved the treatment of victims by those in the criminal justice system  Victim impact statement are now part of the sentencing stage of criminal trials Victim Assistance Programs  In St. Louis 1972, Carol Vittert witnessed an assault and robbery, she took the victim home and then established the first U.S. victim assistance program, called Aid for Victims of Crimes  Her work was expanded in 1974 when the first government victim/witness programs were established with funds from the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration, a federal agency set up to study and fund crime prevention efforts  They were created in Brooklyn and Milwaukee  Victim assistance programs were instituted to provide better experience for crime victims and witnesses  Much more care is taken into notifying survivors that someone has killed or injured their loved ones  Victims are also more likely to be updated in the states case against the offender  Victims may be given a say or asked their opinions about the case in some jurisdictions  Inform victims about compensation programs and counseling available Victim Compensation  Victims movement established victim compensation funds to provide financial reimbursement to victims for the losses they incurred during a crime  Initially proposed in the 1950’s by Margery Fry, the first programs in the U.S. began in NY and CA in 1965 but it took the victims right movement to see programs throughout the states  Victims are considered deserving simply because they have been victimized  Approximately 200,000 victims are helped in the U.S. each year at a cost of approximately $450 million  Most are funded through offender fines and fees along with federal funding  Victim compensation programs vary by state, but most often only victims of violent crime who suffer physical injury or emotional trauma qualify for compensation  Family members of murder victims are eligible for compensation  Homicide victims’ families may receive funding to pay for medical cost incurred in trying to save their loved one  Compensation may also be used to pay for funeral costs, crime scene cleanup. Mental health counseling and lost wages and support  Limited with $25,000 a typical maximum Victim Impact Statement  Victims rights movement also established victim impact statement as a way for victims to indicate the impact the crime has had on them  In the 1980’s criminal justice and mental health professionals found that victims who felt they had a say in the process fared better than those who were not informed  Every state in the U.S. allows homicide victims to present a victim impact statement during the sentencing phase of trials  In the victim impact statement tells the judge (or the jury in capital punishment cases) how the crime has affected him or her and others close to the murder victim  When an offender is found guilty or pleads guilty the judge or jury may use the victim impact statement in determining the sentence the offender will receive Restorative Justice  The idea of retributive justice is to repair the wrong done to the victim and the community by bringing the offender, victim and community members together  Restorative justi
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