Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Legal Studies

Reader 1

Mark Golub

Reader 2

Susan Castagnetto

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© 2020 Samantha R Dresner


The Victims' Rights Movement emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, at the same time as the War on Drugs and War on Crime were driving mass incarceration at unprecedented levels. This paper examines the historical roots of the victims' rights movement and its evolution from grassroots organizing into a tool of state power. It interrogates the meaning of "worthy" victims, and looks into the landmark Supreme Court case Payne v. Tennessee as an example of victim impact evidence being used to support the state project of the death penalty.