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robertogreco : victoriapratt   1

The simple idea that could transform US criminal justice | Tina Rosenberg | US news | The Guardian
"Judge Victoria Pratt looks defendants in the eye, asks them to write essays about their goals, and applauds them for complying – and she is getting results"



"Calabrese was using what have become the four principles of procedural justice: first, that people who come before a judge trust that the process is impartial; second, that they are treated with respect; third, that they understand what is going on and what they are expected to do; fourth, that they have a voice. Defendants find the procedure fairer when they are allowed to state their views. Experimental evidence shows that this is true even when they are allowed to speak only after the judge has announced their decision. No one likes to lose a court case. But people accept losing more willingly if they believe the procedures used to handle their case are fair.

* * *
The concept of procedural justice was first formulated by a social psychologist named Tom R Tyler. Entering Columbia University in 1969, Tyler started college at a moment when respect for the law was at a low point. Racial segregation had been outlawed in the US only five years earlier, but was still defiantly enforced in many parts of the south. The US was fighting a war in Vietnam that was widely considered immoral and illegal. “My entire generation was preoccupied with the question of why we would or wouldn’t obey laws, and whether the law was legitimate,” he said.

The question continued to preoccupy Tyler throughout his time in college. Unlike other researchers in his field, what interested him was not why people break the law, but why they do not. Even criminals, he noted, follow the law most of the time. In his 1990 book Why People Obey the Law, Tyler came up with a novel explanation.

Criminal justice systems everywhere run on the assumption that people obey the law because they are afraid of punishment. B Tyler argued that the key factor is legitimacy: people obey the law because they believe the state has the right to tell them what to do. Broad legitimacy matters more than whether people believe an individual law to be right or wrong – although the public’s view about individual laws can influence broad legitimacy.

In the courts, Tyler argued, legitimacy is created by the perception of fairness. But while lawyers and judges tend to assume that fairness refers to the outcome of a case, that is generally not what matters most to the people who come before a court. For example, Tyler and a colleague asked defendants to describe the process and the outcome of their cases, and whether they willingly accepted the court’s decision. Through statistical analysis, the researchers found that defendants were far more likely to willingly accept the court’s decision if they felt they had been treated fairly. Indeed, this was much more important to defendants in this regard than a favourable outcome.

In other words, an offender is more likely to do what the authorities tell him and refrain from committing further crimes if he feels that he is treated with respect and fairness – regardless of the judge’s ruling. “This discovery has been called ‘counterintuitive’ and even ‘wrongheaded,’” stated a paper published in 2007 by the American Judges Association, “but researcher after researcher has demonstrated that this phenomenon exists”."
law  crime  justice  proceduraljustice  2015  criminaljustice  dignity  respect  fairness  victoriapratt  newark 
june 2015 by robertogreco

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