The John M. Olin Center

Paper Abstract

402. Jeremy D. Andersen, Victim Offender Settlements, General Deterrence, and Social Welfare, 01/2003.

Abstract: Two relatively new systems - Victim Offender Mediation programs and compromise statutes - are currently experiencing a period of relative growth as states try to grapple with various problems facing the criminal justice system. The feature that distinguishes both of these programs, and thus the feature that requires the most justification, is that they place the victim at the center of the sentencing procedure.

This paper seeks to fill a gap in the discussion surrounding these new systems. Advocates of these programs focus almost exclusively on certain alleged benefits of the programs, such as increased victim satisfaction and cost savings. However, no analyst has truly attempted to balance, in an overall sense, the likelihood these benefits actually are realized against the likelihood social welfare is being reduced through other unintended consequences - for instance, the fact that letting the victim set the level of punishment is likely to result in a sanction level that is less than optimal, thereby harming social welfare.

Because few actual studies have been done to determine the actual effect of these programs, the paper takes a more generalized approach. It first describes the key aspects of each program, then attempts to determine whether each key variable makes it more or less likely that the programs' claimed benefits will in fact outweigh their likely consequences.

402: PDF