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Homicide, Bereavement, and the Criminal Justice System, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2001
218 pages
This report assesses the influence of the criminal justice system on the bereavement of people who have lost a loved one to homicide.
Data for the study came from in-depth interviews with 32 bereaved whose loved ones were murdered between 1994 and 1998 in Center County (pseudonym), Texas, in-depth interviews with 19 Center County and City criminal justice professionals who work on murder cases, and a participant observation of six murder cases in the Center County criminal justice system. The study includes a review of the empirical research and theoretical perspectives guiding the study; delineates research methods used to collect and analyze the data; examines the criminal justice system-bereaved relationship from the perspective of the bereaved; considers the use of thoughts to control emotions in times of severe stress; presents findings concerning bereaveds' experiences with the police department and with the district attorney's office; reveals the hierarchical nature of the criminal justice system-bereaved relationship and the obstacles that the system presents to bereaved; considers bereaveds' perceptions of and experiences with the trial, including the role of religious beliefs; and examines the criminal justice system-bereaved relationship from the perspective of the criminal justice professional. Findings indicate that bereaved use strategies of disbelief and spontaneous action to cope with their emotional upset following news of the murder. Criminal justice professionals use strategies of avoidance, organizational shields, and information control in their work with bereaved. The main question motivating the research concerns whether the criminal justice system can help to heal the harm of bereaveds' loss. Findings indicate that the answer is sometimes yes, but usually no. Notes, tables, figures, appendixes, bibliography

Date Published: May 1, 2001