Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Dr. Miriam DeLone


This study explores the victim-offender relationship and its effect on sentence severity. Data on felony offenders sentenced in 1993 in Cook County (Chicago, IL) is used to test two hypotheses on the effect of the victim-offender relationship on the decisions to incarcerate and sentence length. From prior research, it is hypothesized that stranger offenders are more likely to be sentenced to prison and to receive longer prison sentences than non-strangers to the victim. The analyses performed reveal that sentence severity is not affected by the victim-offender relationship, but rather is determined by primarily legal factors. The decision to incarcerate and the sentence length seems to be equitable for stranger and non-stranger offenders. These results contradict prior research and reject both hypotheses. From these results, support is given to the proposition of Black (1989) that law is variable. It differs from case to case, it is situational, it is relative.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of Criminal Justice and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Criminal Justice University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright Denise Olson April, 2002