Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A developmental assessment of procedural justice: Does process matter to juvenile detainees?
by Harvell, Samantha Ashley Sydnor, Ph.D., Georgetown University, 2008, 95; 3339905
Abstract (Summary)

The persistent challenge of preventing juvenile crime and rehabilitating juvenile offenders demands innovative strategies for servicing this vulnerable population. Procedural justice theory holds promise in this regard and research over the past three decades has consistently demonstrated that process matters. Perceived fairness in interactions with legal authorities predicts positive attitudes toward legal authority, which, in turn, predict more positive opinions about case outcomes and law-abiding behavior. However, we know very little about how this process works with juvenile offenders, particularly the normative offender population. Research on adolescent development and legal socialization suggests that the relationships among perceived fairness, legal attitudes, and opinions about case outcomes may be different than in the adult population and that attitudes about the legitimacy of legal authority may not fully mediate the relationships between perceptions of procedural fairness and outcomes of interest. Further, existing work on the effects of age or race/ethnicity is mixed; within the context of juvenile justice, both are key factors to explore.

The current study addresses this critical gap in the literature using structural equation modeling to test the existing procedural justice model with a sample of 46 detained adolescent offenders and descriptive analyses to examine differences based on age or racial/ethnic background. As hypothesized, procedural fairness does predict broader attitudes about legal authority and at least outcome satisfaction. Contrary to expectations, legal attitudes do not predict outcome satisfaction and no consistent age or racial/ethnic differences emerged. In short, process does matter to juvenile detainees but mechanisms appear to function differently in the adolescent offender population compared to adults. Findings support interventions with youth and legal authorities around issues of fairness, especially police who are perceived as less fair and less legitimate than courts and/or detention staff. Increasing the fairness of procedures may not require much change to current policy but could have long-term effects beyond the detention setting.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Woolard, Jennifer L.
School: Georgetown University
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 69/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Developmental psychology, Criminology
Keywords: Adolescents, Juvenile, Juvenile offenders, Legal socialization, Procedural justice
Publication Number: 3339905
ISBN: 978-0-549-93953-5
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