Assessing the Relationships Between Past Victimization, Perceived Risk of Future Victimization, and Controversial Criminal Justice Policies Using Structural Equation Modeling

Date01 February 2022
Published date01 February 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2022, Vol. 33(1) 74 –98
© The Author(s) 2021
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034211018235
Assessing the Relationships
Between Past Victimization,
Perceived Risk of Future
Victimization, and
Controversial Criminal
Justice Policies Using
Structural Equation Modeling
Matthew J. Dolliver1, Jennifer L. Kenney2,
and Lesley Williams Reid1
Several decades of research show a strong relationship between past victimization
and perceived risk of future victimization. Yet, few studies have explored the potential
connection to individuals’ support for criminal justice policies. The purpose of this
study is to better understand the relationships between past victimization, perception
of risk for future victimization, and support for several criminal justice policies (e.g.,
stand your ground, open carry, three strikes, and the death penalty). Through
structural equation modeling, the researchers examined relationships between these
latent variables. Having both a history of victimization and a belief in the risk of
future victimization increased one’s support for punitive and self-protective policies.
Implications for future research and potential policies and services for victims/
survivors are discussed.
victimization, perceived risk, criminal justice policy, structural equation modeling
1The University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, USA
2California State University, Sacramento, USA
Corresponding Author:
Matthew J. Dolliver, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, The University of Alabama,
401 Farrah Hall, Box 870320, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0320, USA.
1018235CJPXXX10.1177/08874034211018235Criminal Justice Policy ReviewDolliver et al.
Dolliver et al. 75
A growing body of research has shown a connection between people’s general fear of
crime and support for punitive and often controversial criminal justice policies
(Costelloe et al., 2009; Dowler, 2003; Hogan et al., 2005; Langworthy & Whitehead,
1986). However, few studies have explored the impact of direct experience with
victimization in motivating support for such policies. As Singer et al. (2019) notes,
“it is possible that fear of crime and prior victimization are capturing two different
consequences of crime: perceived risk and ‘actual’ risk’” (p. 2). The relationship
between perceived risk, prior victimization, and support for punitive and self-protective
policies remains mostly unknown. For instance, it remains uncertain how victimiza-
tion might impact support for (punitive) policies that look for the Criminal Justice
System (CJS) to “do more” (Sprott & Doob, 1997), or conversely how victimization
might lead one to support (self-protective) policies aimed at empowering individuals
to mitigate the risk themselves.
Perhaps one of the most basic government functions is to provide for its citizens’
safety and security, making an effective justice system paramount. Understanding the
motivations behind public support for CJS policies, particularly controversial poli-
cies, is critical to refining such a system. Over the last 50 years, the United States has
seen several controversial CJS policies enacted, including three-strikes, stand your
ground, and right-to-carry laws, as well as the reinstatement of the death penalty
(Dolliver et al., 2018). One part of why such policies remain controversial is their
efficacy. For example, research has questioned the effectiveness of laws requiring
mandatory minimum sentences and so-called three-strikes laws (Carson & Sabol,
2016; Garland, 2001; Roberts, 2003). Research also suggests that policies aimed at
“fighting back” against potential crimes, such as stand your ground and right-to-carry
legislation, are not well supported either (Branas et al., 2009; Donohue et al., 2019;
Hemenway & Hicks, 2015; Hemenway & Solnick, 2015; Phillips et al., 2013). With
this in mind, this study examines the relationships between victimization, perceived
risk, and support for several controversial CJS policies.
Literature Review
Although crime has continued to decline over the past two decades, according to the
National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), 0.98% of all individuals 12 years of
age and older have been the victims of at least one violent crime (2.7 million people)
and 7.6% of all households experienced at least one property crime (10 million
households) in 2015 (Truman & Morgan, 2016). Most of those experiencing a vio-
lent crime were male, African American, divorced or separated, and lower incomes
(Bunch et al., 2013).
Past victimization has been a critical factor in predicting future victimization
(Lynch et al., 2002; O et al., 2017). The effect of past victimization on the likelihood

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