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Victim Impact Statements: Their Effect on Court Outcomes and Victim Satisfaction in New York, 1988-1990

Resource Type
Dataset : survey data and administrative records data
  • Davis, Robert C.
  • Henley, Madeline
  • Smith, Barbara
Other Title
  • Version 1 (Subtitle)
Publication Date
Funding Reference
  • United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice
Free Keywords
convictions (law); court cases; crime; criminal justice system; sentencing; trials; victims
  • Abstract

    The purpose of this data collection was to assess the effects of victim impact statements on sentencing decisions and on victim satisfaction with the criminal justice system. Victims were randomly assigned to one of three experimental conditions: (1) Victims were interviewed, with an impact statement written and immediately distributed to the prosecutor, defense attorney, and judge on the case, (2) Victims were interviewed to assess impact but no statement was written, and (3) Victims were assigned to a control condition in which there was no interview or statement. Subsequent interviews evaluated victims' perceptions of their role in the proceedings and their satisfaction with the outcome. Data were also recorded on charges filed against the defendants (both the arraignment and final charges), sentences, and special conditions of sentences. Standard demographic information was gathered as well. The remaining variables fall into two categories. The first category includes questions about the defendant(s) in the case. For all defendants in each case (up to six per victim) the researchers recorded information on the nature and severity of the arraignment charges and final charges, and on the sentence received. Additional information was recorded for the first and second defendants in a case. This included information on special conditions of the sentence such as a drug treatment program or restraining order. Orders to pay restitution were noted. Also recorded was information on the defendant's status with the criminal justice system, including number of prior convictions and number of open cases against the defendant. Finally, whether the Victim Impact Statement appeared in the assistant district attorney's file on the case and whether the statement had been opened were noted. The second category of variables includes information about the victim's reactions to the crime and the criminal justice system. Victims were asked to assess the impact the crime had on them in terms of physical injury, financial losses, psychological effect, and behavioral effect (i.e., changes in behavior resulting from the experience). They were also questioned about their experiences with the criminal justice system. The researchers inquired about their participation in the sentencing decision, their satisfaction with the outcome, and how they felt they had been treated by various court officials. Victims were asked whether they felt that court officials were aware of and were concerned about the effect the crime had on them. They were also asked whether victims should have a greater role in the court proceedings and whether court officials should be aware of victim impact as part of the sentencing procedure. Finally, the researchers investigated whether the victims believed that going to court was a waste of time.
  • Table of Contents


    • DS1: Dataset
Temporal Coverage
  • 1988-07 / 1989-04
    Time period: 1988-07--1989-04
  • 1988-07 / 1990-02
    Collection date: 1988-07--1990-02
Geographic Coverage
  • New York City
  • New York (state)
  • United States
Sampled Universe
Crime victims in New York.
The subjects of this study were individuals who had testified before the grand jury at the Supreme Court of New York between July 1988 and April 1989. The eligible population for inclusion in the study consisted of those who had been victims of robbery, physical assault or attempted homicide, or burglary. Members of this population were randomly assigned to treatment conditions with the resulting distribution: 104 had victim impact statements prepared, 100 had an interview only, and 89 were in the control group.
Collection Mode
  • The codebook for this collection is provided as a Portable Document Format (PDF) file. The PDF file format was developed by Adobe Systems Incorporated and can be accessed using PDF reader software, such as the Adobe Acrobat Reader. Information on how to obtain a copy of the Acrobat Reader is provided through the ICPSR Website on the Internet.

1999-12-14 SAS and SPSS data definition statements and a PDF version of the codebook have been added to this collection. Funding insitution(s): United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (88-IJ-CX-0004).
This study is freely available to the general public via web download.
Alternative Identifiers
  • 9588 (Type: ICPSR Study Number)
  • Davis, Robert C., Smith, Barbara E.. The effects of victim impact statements on sentencing decisions: A test in an urban setting. Justice Quarterly.11, (3), 453-512.1994.
    • ID: 10.1080/07418829400092351 (DOI)
  • Davis, Robert C., Smith, Barbara E.. Victim impact statements and victim satisfaction: An unfulfilled promise?. Journal of Criminal Justice.22, (1), 1-12.1994.
    • ID: 10.1016/0047-2352(94)90044-2 (DOI)
  • Henley, Madeline, Davis, Robert C., Smith, Barbara. The Reactions of Prosecutors and Judges to Victim Impact Statements. International Review of Victimology.3, (1-2), 83-93.1994.
  • Davis, Robert C., Henley, Madeleine, Smith, Barbara. Victim Impact Statements: Their Effects on Court Outcomes and Victim Satisfaction. NCJ 126685, Washington, DC: United States Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice. 1990.
    • ID: (URL)
  • Davis, Robert C., Fisher, Pamela, Paykin, Alice. Victim impact statements: The experiences of state probation agencies. Journal of Probation and Parole.16, 18-20.1984.

Update Metadata: 2015-08-05 | Issue Number: 6 | Registration Date: 2015-06-15

Davis, Robert C.; Henley, Madeline; Smith, Barbara (1991): Victim Impact Statements: Their Effect on Court Outcomes and Victim Satisfaction in New York, 1988-1990. Version 1. Version: v1. ICPSR - Interuniversity Consortium for Political and Social Research. Dataset.