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William G. Doerner, Steven P. Lab

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  2. English
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eBook - ePub


William G. Doerner, Steven P. Lab

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This book covers the scope of crime victims' suffering in the U.S., offering a history of victims and the measurement of victimization, an explanation of the victim's role in the criminal justice process, and a recounting of the issues crime victims face as a result of crime and the criminal justice process. Doerner and Lab, both well-regarded scholars, write compellingly about how the current criminal's justice system can be transformed into a victim's justice system. Theory is woven together with the description of each topic, and specific examples illustrate each point. The book goes on to address the full impact of victimization, and a final section details specific types of victimization, ranging from violent crimes, including child and elder abuse, to property crime, to crime in the school and in the workplace. The authors explain how obstacles hinder the pursuit of justice, and provide significant policy and programming suggestions to render the system more victim-friendly.

Appropriate for undergraduate as well as early graduate students in Victimology courses in Criminology, Criminal Justice, Sociology, and Justice Studies programs, this book offers rich pedagogical features and online student resources as well as test bank, PowerPoint lecture slides, and sample syllabus for instructors.

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Criminal Law
Part I
Definition and Scope

Chapter 1

The Scope of Victimology

After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
‱Discuss the change from a victim justice system to a criminal justice system
‱Outline the early interest in victim typologies
‱Account for the attention paid to victim precipitation, some findings, and some shortcomings
‱List the areas that fall under “general victimology”
‱Provide an overview of the broad topics which victimologists study
‱Talk about the victim movement and how it has increased public interest in crime victims


Something not very funny happened on the way to a formal system of justice. The victim was left out. As strange as it may sound, the bulk of history has seen crime victims become further removed from being an integral part of dealing with criminals. Fortunately, this trend is beginning to reverse itself. Recent years have seen an increased interest in the plight of crime victims and a movement toward reintegrating the victim into the criminal justice system. This chapter will look at the role of the victim throughout history and will trace the elimination of the victim from the social processing of criminal acts. The chapter shows the emergence of victimology and investigates the resurgence of interest in the victim.

The Victim Throughout History

Most people take the existence of the formal criminal justice system for granted. They do not realize that this method of handling deviant activity has not been the norm throughout history. Indeed, the modern version of criminal justice is a relatively new phenomenon. In days gone by, responsibility for dealing with offenders fell to the victim and the victim’s kin. There were no “authorities” to turn to for help in “enforcing the law.” Victims were expected to fend for themselves, and society acceded to this arrangement.
This state of affairs was not outlined in any set of laws or legal code. With rare exceptions, written laws did not exist. Codes of behavior reflected prevailing social norms. Society recognized murder and other serious affronts as mala in se (totally unacceptable behavior). However, it was up to victims or their survivors to decide what action to take against the offender. Victims who wished to respond to offenses could not turn to judges for assistance or to jails for punishment. These institutions did not yet exist. Instead, victims had to take matters into their own hands.
This depiction does not imply that there were no provisions for victims to follow. Society recognized a basic system of retribution and restitution for offenders. In simplest terms, retribution meant the offender would suffer in proportion to the degree of harm caused by his or her actions. Oftentimes, retribution took the form of restitution, or making payment in an amount sufficient to render the victim whole again. If the offender was unable to make restitution, his or her kin were forced to assume the liability.
This response system emphasized the principle known as lex talionis—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Punishment was commensurate with the harm inflicted upon the victim. Perhaps the most important feature of this system was that victims and their relatives handled the problem and were the beneficiaries of any payments. This arrangement was truly a “victim justice system.”
This basic system of dealing with offensive behavior found its way into early codified laws. The Law of Moses, the Code of Hammurabi (2200 b.c.e.), and Roman law all entailed strong elements of individual responsibility for harms committed against others. Restitution and retribution were specific ingredients in many of these early codes. Part of the rationale behind this response was to deter such behavior in the future.
The major goal of deterrence is to prevent future transgressions. The thinking is that the lack of any enrichment or gain from criminal activity would make transgressive acts unattractive. Retribution and restitution attempt to re-establish the status quo that existed before the initial action of the offender. Thus, removing financial incentives would make it unprofitable to commit crimes.
This basic system of dealing with offensive behavior remained intact throughout the Middle Ages. Eventually, though, it fell into disuse. Two factors signaled the end of this victim justice system. The first change was the move by feudal barons to lay a claim to any compensation offenders paid to their victims (Schafer, 1968). These rulers saw this money as a lucrative way to increase their own wealth. The barons accomplished this goal by redefining criminal acts as violations against the state instead of against the victim. This strategy recast the state (the barons being the heads of the state) as the aggrieved party. The victim diminished in stature and was relegated to the status of witness for the state. Now the state could step in and reap the benefits of restitution.
A second factor which reduced the victim’s position was the enormous upheaval that was transforming society. Up until this time, society was predominantly rural and agrarian. People lived in small groups, eking out an existence from daily labor in the fields. Life was a rustic struggle to meet day-to-day needs.
People, for the most part, were self-sufficient and relied heavily upon their families for assistance. Families often lived in relative isolation from other people. Whenever a crime took place, it brought physical and economic harm not only to the individual victim but also to the entire family network. This simple gemeinschaft society (Toennies, 1957) could rely ...

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