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Hidden Victims

Hidden Victims by Susan Sharp Questions One of the cases that readers come across while reading Sharp’s Hidden Victims is the Gregg v. Georgia case. The other case is the Locket v. Ohio case. The two cases provide excellent examples of what active participation is all about in the system. Gregg v. Georgia case was designed with the aim of distinguishing it from all the other criminal cases. According to Sharp, the case was set to make the case more qualified for a death sentence (5). Susan Sharp is quick to point out that the Gregg v Georgia case decisions have over the years been abused and seems to be administered in the most unfair way, targeting the non-white people, the poor and applying only to when the victims are white (6). In the Locket v. Ohio case there is presentation of evidence that is mitigated and the form Gregg decisions which were applied, are no longer used. The Locket v. Ohio case has now shifted the decision as to whether a death sentence should be applied or not. The latter case now proves that passing a death sentence today is more of a merciful process, where the offender’s actions are weighed against the claims made by families of the victims. In both of these cases, it is clear that the families or the victim and the offender participate. In the social process theories, the assumption is that every individual has the capability of violating law. Therefore, theories such as these from social scientists and experts are some of the reasons that allow people to believe that some prisoners have been wrongfully convicted. According to Sharp, it is not only fuelled by theories, but also stories, public opinion, racial bias and financial costs incurred (115). The author also points out that latest technology, such as DNA testing is proof enough that people in the past were convicted wrongfully (Sharp 120). Knowing that the prisons are mixed with both the guilty and the innocent, people only accept this collectively, when provided with the DNA evidence. In addition to this, most people believe that the innocent are likely to accept a plea bargain when they are offered and plead innocent until proven otherwise. The sociological perspective from which Sharp draws her conclusions, points out that people often forget that the same murderers that are sentenced to death are brothers, sisters, fathers or mothers to innocent families. The fact that there are innocent people who are locked up in prisons is prove to show that people outside the prisons are also not so safe from the system that makes a lot of mistakes. The stories and theories given by families of inmates that were convicted years ago is also another way that has led people to believe both the innocent and guilty can be found in prisons. Prof. Sharp’s interview with the affected families and the convicted inmates correlates with the discussions on cognitive dissonance because it reflects on the emotions of people affected. Cognitive dissonance occurs mostly in situations where the person’s actions are in conflict with the beliefs that are there in the society or the individual’s beliefs. The cognitive dissonance that seems to affect individuals such as the ones depicted in the interview can be noted, in the responses that they give to the interviewer. Most of the convicted value their freedom but most are in prison whether guilty or innocent (Sharp 190). Most of the offenders or the affected families are aware of such conflicting beliefs that exist in the society, but embrace these beliefs because this is how they are able to improve their ability to make decisions. Opposing death penalty in a case that is pending is as explained by the author unacceptable. Groups of people who are opposing the penalties are also not allowed to be among the jury. Applying the social processes theory, this can be explained with the assumption that in social process theories, crime is also dependent on cultural values and norms. Hence, everyone is made aware that the same criminals that these groups defend are as a result of the society’s norms. The social processes that create this condition include the assumptions that there are no individual differences and that antisocial behavior among most of the offenders is usually learned and not a natural occurrence. This seems to be an acceptable policy in sentencing, because the jury has to be an independent body that is not under the influence from the offender’s family or the victim’s family. In conclusion, it is evident that for the families of the hidden victims, who are the offenders, the community in most cases seems to blame them for having raised such a person. The families of the victims, the people affected are often classified as part of the prosecution and the society is usually merciful towards them. For example, in the cases Sharp gives in the book, she provides readers with the idea that both sides have a sigh of relief because judgment is administered in a fair way. The Americans as depicted in the case are the families of the accused and the victims. However, the author is quick to point out that both sides face grief, trauma and financial losses (Sharp 9). Work Cited Sharp, Susan. Hidden Victims: The Effects of the Death Penalty on Families of the Accused. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 2005. Print.