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The Role of Punishment in the Emotional Recovery of Crime Victims

London, Ross D.
June 4, 2015

Source: (2006) PhD. Dissertation. Graduate School of Rutgers University.

“Restorative justice has been offered as a “new paradigm” of criminal justice, replacing the adversary system’s insistence on the assignment of blame and the imposition of punishment with a new emphasis on the healing of the victim’s losses. One of the central claims of restorative justice is that punishment, while serving the needs of society, is irrelevant to the emotional and psychological recovery of crime victims. Other researchers and scholars, however, believe that punishment, for restoration of the emotional and psychological losses suffered by crime victims. In a pilot study conducted in the Spring of 2005, these competing claims were tested by an experimental design in which 391 Rutgers University undergraduate students at the Newark, New Jersey campus were randomly assigned one of five different crime scenarios. The scenarios differed in respect to the severity of the crime, the absence or presence of previous convictions and whether the incident is viewed from an individual or societal perspective. Likert-scale attitudinal measures were used to ascertain the anticipated emotional and psychological impact on the subjects resulting from the crime incident itself, the quality of treatment by the criminal justice system and the presence or absence of apology, restitution and punishment. The results indicated that the subjects regarded the imposition of a “significant” punishment as a source of improvement to their expected emotional and psychological well-being, and that the failure to punish substantially impaired their anticipated recovery. Furthermore, subjects reported that the receipt of a “full and honest” apology and full restitution would substantially improve their anticipated recovery only when joined with the imposition of a significant punishment, regardless of their willingness to meet with the offender, their attitudes toward the goals of restorative justice or their personal experience of a crime similar to the one depicted in the scenario.” (author’s abstract)


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