What Matters: An Analysis of Victim Satisfaction in a Procedural Justice Framework

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Fisher, Cortney
Simpson, Sally S
The discipline of criminology and criminal justice tends to focus on the offender. However, the victim's cooperation with authorities, which often begins with a willingness to report the crime, is central to a successful investigation and prosecution. Yet, the crime victim exists today on the outskirts of the criminal justice system, limited in their role by the same authorities that need them to help. Despite increasingly retributive policies toward offenders, victims remain as unsatisfied with the criminal justice system as they were prior to the policy changes. This study explores the different policies and practices of criminal justice system actors that contribute to satisfaction for the victim. Using Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) regression, elements of procedural justice are examined to determine if providing victims with procedure and a consistent sense of process creates satisfaction. Procedural justice is then examined in conjunction with distributive justice to determine if there are independent or interactive effects between the two. Study participants included 1,308 victims of violent crime, who experienced a range of violent crimes. Victim satisfaction was measured as a scale variable, averaging the victim's level of satisfaction across four distinct periods of the criminal investigation and prosecution. As expected, components of the system that granted the victim representation and a sense of accuracy in the process created a higher level of satisfaction for the victim. Also as expected, these variables remained important to the victim's satisfaction even when distributive justice variables were included. Unexpectedly, however, the variables that measured ethicality were unrelated to the victim's satisfaction, nor was sentence severity. Theoretical and policy implications, as well as directions for future research, are offered. Study limitations, including the limited generalizability of the sample, also are discussed.