Examining the Meaning of Procedural Justice among Serious Adolescent Offenders
Augustyn, Megan Bears
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Attempts to reduce delinquent/criminal behavior among juveniles tend to operate outside of the criminal justice system. Part of this emphasis is due to the fact that the criminal justice system has long prescribed to a control/deterrence framework in order to reduce juvenile delinquency even though this perspective has not been shown to be overly effective. However, a growing body of literature has begun to realize the importance of "process" over "control" within the criminal justice system; thus demonstrating that increasing perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy can increase compliant behavior and reduce offending. This investigation seeks to add to the growing body of literature examining the normative perspective of compliance through the examination of the role of procedural justice and legitimacy among serious adolescent offenders. The value of this work is in its contribution to important gaps in the extant literature. Although the expansion of outcomes of interest to include official measures of recidivism and substance use is worthy of note, the main value of this research is the examination of the relevance of Procedural Justice Theory as a potential guide for the reduction of recidivism rates among serious juvenile offenders. Furthermore, this research will examine how perceptions of legitimacy are formed through variable experiences of procedural justice among adolescent offenders. The ambiguity surrounding the formation of perceptions of legitimacy will be addressed through the examination of the importance of varying sources of experiences of procedural justice. In addition, analyses also will discern the varying importance of the different elements of treatment that make up the concept of procedural justice (e.g. representation, impartiality, consistency, accuracy, correctability and ethical treatment), which, in turn, are predicted to inhibit criminal behavior through the formation of positive perceptions of legitimacy. Finally, this dissertation adopts examines whether or not the relevance and meaning of procedural justice varies among males of different race/ethnicity. This line of inquiry has rarely been applied to normative perspective of compliance and never applied among adolescent populations. Using a sample of 1,353 serious adolescent offenders from the Pathways to Desistance Study, this research examines the theoretical and empirical implications of various means used to determine what is "fair" and "just" among the adolescent population. Among serious adolescent offenders, weak evidence exists regarding the applicability of Procedural Justice Theory as a means to reduce recidivism. However, subsequent analyses reveal that the theory is better at predicting the relative frequency of criminal acts as well as overall recidivism among novice offenders. In the end, this dissertation speaks to the importance of personal interactions with the police in the formation of perceptions of legitimacy and the reduction of recidivism rates among some serious adolescent offenders. Not only does this work have important implications for the generality of Procedural Justice Theory, but it also speaks to the need to continue to examine the relevance of the normative perspective of compliance among adolescents in general in order to determine if this population actually appeals to morality when making decisions to engage in criminal behavior.