Victims and Penal Populism

Javad Rajabisalman, Mahmood Mirkhalili


Central to the formation of populist penal policy are victims and the social movements which support them. Extreme support for the victims may lead to strictly populist penal policy. In fact, the victim causes the public to participate in the criminal process. Also, public fear of victimization could intensify the stringency of populist penal policies. Crimes involving specific victims often receive much attention on the part of media, officials, as well as the public. With their expectations of the criminal justice system, victims become involved directly, and in some cases indirectly, in the criminal process, thereby moving penal policy toward populism. As the most seriously harmed individual in a crime, the victim is the main person to report the crime and to begin the criminal process. He or she publicizes the crime, sometimes through exaggerated descriptions, and focuses media attention on criminal issues. It is in these circumstances that penal populism is likely to take place. Furthermore, movements who support victims can also contribute to penal populism by means of addressing specific demands to the criminal justice system. The present paper seeks to study the contribution of victims and their supporters to populism in penal policy.


victim, populism, penal policy, populist penal policy

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