Study Aims The goal of this study is to gain the perspectives of individuals working at the frontline of six key institutions in New York City’s criminal justice system (prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges, corrections officers, probation officers and police) about the legitimacy of the institutions in which they work. The study will assess worker perspectives on procedural justice in order to enhance our understandings of how criminal justice systems build and sustain their legitimacy, and how workers in those systems contribute to that process.
Underlying Research There is an expansive literature on the concept of procedural justice. The concept contains several dimensions, including (1) voice (the perception that your side of the story has been heard); (2) respect (the perception that system players treat you with dignity and respect); (3) neutrality (the perception that the decision-making process is unbiased and trustworthy); (4) understanding (comprehension of the process and how decisions are made); and (5) helpfulness (the perception that system players are interested in your personal situation to the extent that the law allows).
We know that the actions of individual workers within the criminal justice system help to shape the public’s perception of the legitimacy of that system. But relatively little research has been done about criminal justice workers as a whole or explores those workers’ views of their jobs or their perceptions of the justness of the overall system.
Study Methods This study will involve in-depth, qualitative interviews with a sample of 30 individuals from each of the six criminal justice institutions described above. Participation in the study will be voluntary.
Participants will be asked about how they learn about the treatment of the individuals with whom they interact (clients, suspects, defendants, victims, etc.) and what emotional performance (toughness, detachment, anger, etc.) they perceive is required of them on the job. We will also consider the emotional dimensions of the work.
Study Benefits By learning more about how procedural justice is produced (or inhibited) within criminal justice organizations, we hope to be able to offer insight to policymakers about how to recruit, train, manage, and retain employees who will further this aim. We also expect that workers will contribute novel ideas about broader systemic reform.
Principal Investigators Tom R. Tyler Tracey Meares
Research Team Monica Bell Alexandra Cox Rachel Johnston Megan Quattlebaum
Institutional Partners New York City Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice Center for Court Innovation