Date of Award

Spring 5-4-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. H. Abbie Erler

Second Advisor

Dr. Pamela Camerra-Rowe


Victims’ rights constitutional amendments are an understudied expansion of a new set of rights into state constitutions and therefore the US criminal justice system. This thesis considers those amendments and the victims’ rights movement that has produced them. These amendments, from the beginning of the movement to today, have been consistently connected to the arguments of the punitive law-and-order movement. I argue that this law-and-order approach to victims’ rights has limited the movement’s conception of crime victims and the support that amendments offer. Chapter 2 focuses on the history of victims’ rights amendments. It traces the connection between victims’ rights and law-and-order ideas through an important early work in the movement and shows how the idea of constitutional amendments came to prominence under Reagan before spreading through the states. Chapter 3 considers the design of victims’ rights amendments, developing a fourfold categorization to describe amendment variation and applying that categorization to a dataset of all amendments passed between 1982 and 2017. A number of amendments are more robust than would be predicted given legislatures’ expected interests. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on state-level campaigns, considering a series of case studies that show how those strong amendments have been passed through direct democracy. Those state-level case studies also underscore that the use of law-and-order arguments for victims’ rights continues to the present day. Chapter 6 concludes by recapping my arguments about the impact of the United States’ law-and-order approach to victims’ rights and proposing two alternative models for victims’ rights amendments.

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