Victims’ Rights Movements and its effect on the criminal justice system and the offenders’ rights.


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The United States Victims’ Movement was a product of the increasing social awareness in the 60s that unleashed the idealistic generation’s energy in that era and the next decade. Its continued energy has originated from the very social forces from where it started and from extraordinary individual’s leadership, some of these individuals have survived personal tragedy, and several others who have brought unusual insights and compassion being witness to these types of tragedies. In the international arena, this has remained a source of both criticism and praise (Young). Retrospectively, it is right to assert that the United States victims’ movement original involved the coming together of 5 independent developments: the introduction of compensation programs for compensating state victims; the development of a new academic field known as victimology; the women movement emergence; the victims’ activism growth; and the increase in crime rate, along with a parallel displeasure with the justice system. Once these 5 developments converged into a single movement, there was a perseverance to include a 6th dimension, which involves responding to traumatic events-irrespective of the cause.

Impact on Criminal Justice System and Offender Rights

In the 70s, victimology helped emphasize what was already known to the public-that crimes had risen to unacceptable, intolerable heights and victims of crimes were often neglected. In 1974, Donald E. Santarelli, the Federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration (LEAA) director was one of the few people who initiated reform in the system by transforming the problem.

He read the then-latest Frank Cannavale9 research which reported this amazing finding: the loss of the once-cooperative witnesses who decided to stop offering any form of help to a criminal justice system that does not care about their major needs was perhaps the biggest reason for prosecution failures (Young, n.d.). This turned out to be the catalyst for providing funding for three main 1974 demonstration projects to offer better support and notification to both witnesses and victims once the criminal prosecution had started. Some of the programs for the victims and witnesses started borrowing some service ideas from some of the grassroots programs and some new ones from law enforcement; some of these staff based on prosecutors were trained in crisis involvement (because court appearances can be crisis-inducing events), and some provided on-scene crisis services to the victims irrespective of whether an arrest or prosecution were made or not (Young, n.d.). Most of them began to make referrals to victim compensation and social service programs.

Victims’ Rights

Telling victims about the next date they are expected to appear in court was not the only notification service provided-there was also the establishment of on-call systems, and then the obtaining and consideration of the view of victims as concerns bail determinations, plea bargains, continuances, dismissals, sentences, parole hearings, and restitutions. Some of them provided both employer and creditor intercession, and provided support during these court appearances. The early compensation programs were conceived as welfare programs to offer the needed help to victims. This was well captured in the comment of Justice Arthur Goldberg, “Speaking from a fundamental point-of-view, then, person’s who feels the effect of criminal violence is equally a victim of the prolonged inattention of the society to social justice and poverty” (Goldberg, 1970).

Statutory Role

Restitution critics pose the argument that the defendant is not only denied his legal rights to being tried by a jury under the 7th amendment following the civil nature of the proceedings, but equally that, at the sentencing stage, ordering restitution violates the rights of the defendant to equal protection. Their argument is that the VWPA is very arbitrary and does not have easily ascertainable standards (Morgan, 1987). According to their claims, “Congress was not just poor in terms of drafting, but in several respects, it released the courts without first offering them the right standards, like rules of evidence, burdens of proof, rules of discovery, requirements of notice, and requirements of standing.” The rights of victims can be actualized without hindering the statutory and constitutional safeguards offered to everyone accused of crime. Reducing the guaranteed rights of defendants is not the main goal here, but also to make sure the rights of both witnesses and victims are guaranteed.


Goldberg. (1970). Preface: Symposium on Governmental Compensation for Victims of Violence. Southern California Law Review, 43.

Morgan, A. (1987). Victim Rights: Criminal Law: Remembering the “Forgotten Person” in the Criminal Justice System. Marquette Law Review, 70(3). Retrieved, from

Young, M. (n.d.)? (?