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Youths’ Perception of Justice. Christine E.W. Bond John S. Western The University of Queensland Paul Mazerolle Griffith University. Background. Problematic relationship between legal authority and youth Public punitiveness Perceptions of (criminal) injustice Procedural justice
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Youths’ Perception of Justice Christine E.W. Bond John S. Western The University of Queensland Paul Mazerolle Griffith University
Background • Problematic relationship between legal authority and youth • Public punitiveness • Perceptions of (criminal) injustice • Procedural justice • link to legitimacy of legal institutions
Why Youth? • Overlooked segment of population who have contact with legal system • Critical stage in development of “politically sensitive” beliefs (Hagan, Shedd & Payne 2005, p.383) • Emerge early and are persistent (e.g. Bobo & Johnson 2004) • Thus, adolescence represents significant time of value formation, and in turn, opportunity for change
The Project • Objectives • To understand factors shaping perceptions of, and interactions between, police and youth • To design, implement and evaluate an intervention • Project design • Primarily school-based (pilot completed) • Skill acquisition and awareness • Police survey • Current study • Descriptive analysis of youths’ perceptions of crime and justice
Key Research Questions • What are the key demographic differences in youths’ perceptions of crime and justice? • Does contact with the criminal justice system influence these perceptions?
The Study:data and sample • Survey of Year 9 students currently enrolled in 5 public high schools in south east Queensland • All present on day asked to participate • N=540
Measuring Perceptions • General evaluation of fairness of legal system • The law usually treats people fairly • Orientation towards punitiveness • These days criminals have too many legal rights • Crime has increased in recent times because society has become too soft • Young people are treated too harshly by the courts • We should have more educational programs in prisons • Unless we do something about poverty and unemployment, the amount of crime will be high (Strongly disagree ‘1’ to strongly agree ‘10’)
Mean Perceptions of Crime and Justice • On average, youth agreed with both punitive and non-punitive statements • On average, youth agreed that the law was fair • However, clustering near “neutral” (Recall 1=strongly disagree 10 = strongly agree)
Gender differences?(Independent samples t-test) • + p<0.10 * p<0.05 (two-tailed) • Comparison group is male respondents. • Females higher levels of agreement if the mean difference is negative.
Ethnicity differences? (Independent samples t-test, significant results only reported) • + p<0.10 * p<0.05 (two-tailed) • Comparison group is all other respondents not self-identifying in that group. • 1-tail test. • If mean difference is negative, higher levels of agreement.
Experience of crime and policing? (Independent samples t-test, significant results only reported) • + p<0.10 * p<0.05 (two-tailed) • Comparison group is all other respondents not reporting that experience. • If mean difference is negative, higher levels of agreement.
Perceptions of Justice:Direct effects of gender, ethnicity and personal experience • + p<0.10 * p<0.05 (two tailed) • 1. Controlling for intact family, residential mobility & self-reported delinquency • Significant results only reported • Amount of variation explained is small (<9%)
Female respondents, on average, had less punitive perceptions, and correspondingly higher perceptions of legal fairness, than males. • Those identifying as Indigenous, on average, reported less punitive perceptions than the reference group (“other”). • Those identifying as Pacific Islander, on average reported both more punitive perceptions, as well as higher perceptions of legal fairness, than the reference group. • Being a victim of crime, or of being stopped by police, increased perceptions of punitiveness, and correspondingly lower evaluations of legal fairness than those with no personal experience.
Limitations • Small numbers in racial/ethnic categories • Collapsing different cultural experiences/ expectations • Interaction effects • Measurement of socio-economic status, prior contact and victimisation • In particular, need to disentangle positive and negative contact with police
Summary • Gender and ethnic variation • effect of identifying as Pacific Islander • different causal mechanisms? • Effect of prior experience • Impact of personal experience as object of law enforcement
Implications • Targeted interventions • Effect of prior experience • Impact of personal experience as object of law enforcement • Procedural justice
Future Directions:Procedural Justice • Globalised vs specific attitudes towards crime and justice • Legitimacy encourages compliance, but ALSO cooperation • evaluations of procedural justice and reduction of behaviours that escalate legal contacts
“Knowing what is experienced by members of the public as fair or unfair is key to developing and maintaining public views that the legal system is legitimate.” (Tyler & Fagan 2006, p.28)