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July 8, 2008

Examining the intersection of victim's rights and juve justice

I just saw this interesting looking piece on SSRN that combines two topics of interest to most sentencing fans.  The piece by Kristin Henning is titled, "What's Wrong with Victims' Rights in Juvenile Court?: Retributive v. Rehabilitative Systems of Justice," and here is the abstract:

While scholars have written extensively about the victim's rights movement in capital and criminal cases, there has been very little discussion about the intersection of victim's rights and the juvenile justice system.  Statutes that allow victims to attend juvenile hearings and present oral and written impact statements have shifted the juvenile court's priorities and altered the way judges think about young offenders.  While judges were once primarily concerned with the best interests of the delinquent child, victim's rights legislation now requires juvenile courts to balance the rehabilitative needs of the child with other competing interests such as accountability to the victim and restoration of communities impacted by crime.

In this article, I contend that victim impact statements move the juvenile court too far away from its original mission and ignore the child's often diminished culpability in delinquent behavior.  I also argue that victim impact statements delivered in the highly charged environment of the courtroom are unlikely to achieve the satisfaction and catharsis victims seek after crime.  To better serve the needs of the victim and the offender, I propose that victim impact statements be excluded from the juvenile disposition hearing and incorporated into the child's long-term treatment plan. Interactive victim awareness programs, such as victim-offender mediation and victim impact panels that take place after disposition, allow victims to express pain and fear to the offender, foster greater empathy and remorse from the child, and encourage forgiveness and reconciliation by the victim.  Delaying victim impact statements until after the child's disposition also preserves the child's due process rights at sentencing and allows the court to focus on the child's need for rehabilitation.

July 8, 2008 at 06:09 PM | Permalink


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Sometimes you really have to wonder how soft-on-crime people come to their conclusions. Yeah, let's ignore victim impact caused by the poor little dears. I wonder how the author would feel if some little miscreant living near her mugged her and then got some coddling from a judge. I am sure she'd feel just dandy having to live near someone like that. Or what if it's your kid that gets assaulted by one of these little dears? Try explaining that one to your kid.

The victims' rights movement arose because people were sick and tired of criminals committing serious crimes and geting little punishment. Moreover, people got sick and tired of twits who were enlightened enough to discern the "root causes" of crime.

The victims' right to be heard in juvie cases is a good check on judges who might otherwise be inclined to go soft. A least they have to look the victim in the eye.

Posted by: federalist | Jul 8, 2008 11:31:45 PM

federalist: Have you read the paper?

I'm only part way through, but based on what I've read so far (maybe I'll yet see something to the contrary), I think it's a gross mischaracterization to suggest she is advocating "ignor[ing] victim impact". Far from it, I think.

Advocating incorporating it in a different fashion, yes. Is it a generally viable proposition, I don't know. I'm curious to see what she has to say about the seemingly expanded victim role in the process and one's likely interest in undergoing that process.

Your last comments just blow by what seems to be a valid contention; that juvenile justice has historically had a different weighting between retribution and rehabilitation than the adult system. But evidently you simply disagree with that weighting, so be it.

Posted by: Simon | Jul 9, 2008 12:48:53 AM

Oh, that's right, she advocates having the victim tell the poor dear how afraid the victim was . . . . I cannot imagine anything more debasing than that. Or victim-offender mediation?? What's there to mediate?

Posted by: federalist | Jul 9, 2008 1:00:35 AM

"mediation" seems to me a strange choice of words on her part, I'm curious to see why she puts it that way.

As for responding to the rest of what you say, there's clearly no point.

Posted by: Simon | Jul 9, 2008 1:12:20 AM

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