Procedural justice versus risk factors for offending: predicting recidivism in youth

Erika K Penner, Jodi L Viljoen, Kevin S Douglas, Ronald Roesch
Law and Human Behavior 2014, 38 (3): 225-37
Theories of procedural justice suggest that individuals who experience respectful and fair legal decision-making procedures are more likely to believe in the legitimacy of the law and, in turn, are less likely to reoffend. However, few studies have examined these relationships in youth. To begin to fill this gap in the literature, in the current study, the authors studied 92 youth (67 male, 25 female) on probation regarding their perceptions of procedural justice and legitimacy, and then monitored their offending over the subsequent 6 months. Results indicated that perceptions of procedural justice predicted self-reported offending at 3 months but not at 6 months, and that youths' beliefs about the legitimacy of the law did not mediate this relationship. Furthermore, procedural justice continued to account for unique variance in self-reported offending over and above the predictive power of well-established risk factors for offending (i.e., peer delinquency, substance abuse, psychopathy, and age at first contact with the law). Theoretically, the current study provides evidence that models of procedural justice developed for adults are only partially replicated in a sample of youth; practically, this research suggests that by treating adolescents in a fair and just manner, justice professionals may be able to reduce the likelihood that adolescents will reoffend, at least in the short term.

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