Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Warren Benton

Committee Members

Candace McCoy

Richard Culp

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice


This dissertation explores the possibility that certain social, demographic, and political factors have led to the recent adoption by American state legislatures of what are known as Memorial Laws. First enacted in 1994, these laws have become increasingly common. However, there has been little or no formal academic research into them. This investigation aims to provide a preliminary analysis of Memorial Laws and to contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics affecting their passage. Specifically, this study examines a variety of demographic traits of victims and the characteristics of the crimes committed against them in an attempt to determine whether there are predictors of which states are likely to adopt Memorial Laws. These variables include the gender, age, and race of victims, as well as statewide violent crime rates, racial makeup of a state’s population, the type of crime involved, the state legislature’s ideological leanings, and the dominant political culture in a state. This study analyzes data related to all 43 of the Memorial Laws enacted by state legislatures between 1994 and 2005. It finds that Memorial Law legislation typically arises from the social and media construction of the victim as female, under the age of 18 years, and Caucasian. Furthermore, Memorial Laws tend to be enacted in states where the legislature skews liberal and the political culture tends to be individualistic rather than traditional or moralistic.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.