During the sentencing process of a crime, the victim is allowed to read or speak an impact statement about how the crime affected them personally. All 50 states currently allow for these statements to be introduced before sentencing.
Victim statements may include descriptions of physical, emotional, financial, medical and other consequences of a crime. These statements allow the victims of crimes to add their voice to the proceedings in order to impact the judge or board responsible for making decisions about sentencing. Judges may listen to the impact statements in order to figure out how long someone should go to jail. A parole board might take the statements into account before deciding whether a criminal should be released, and what conditions the board should attach to their release. Besides affecting sentencing, according to the website Victims of Crime, victim impact statements are often useful to victims because they can be cathartic. After all, during the trial, the victims usually have a very limited ability to talk at all about their side of the story. Lawyers ask very narrow questions, and the victim’s opinions aren’t taken into account. Having a chance to read their side in open court can often be a crucial part of the psychological process of healing from any type of crime.