Procedural Justice — Building a Better Experience in Court

Rather than focusing only on the outcome of a juvenile delinquency case, what if the focus was also on the perceived fairness of the process?  The theory of procedural fairness or procedural justice relies on the premise that a person will regard the justice system more favorably if they believe that the process was fair, regardless of the outcome.  Several factors are involved:

  1. Voice — Was the child’s side of the story heard?
  2. Respect — Was the child treated with dignity and respect?
  3. Neutrality — Was the decision-making process unbiased and trustworthy?
  4. Understanding — Did the child understand the process and how decisions were made?
  5. Helpfulness — Did the court participants show interest in the child’s personal situation, to the extent allowed?

See The Case for Procedural Justice: Fairness as a Crime Prevention Tool, U.S. Department of Justice COPS e-newsletter (September 2013).

The article notes the work of Prof. Tom Tyler from Yale Law School, who writes and lectures extensively on this topic.  At a presentation at the National Juvenile Defender Center Leadership Summit on October 25, 2014, Prof. Tyler stated that procedural fairness can impact the child’s self-esteem and that juveniles can be especially influenced by the impression of fairness.  Research has shown that a sense of unfairness has been linked to future criminal behavior.

The Center for Court Innovation has a wealth of information about procedural justice, including interview instruments and courtroom communication protocols.

Procedural Fairness for Judges and Courts includes court implementation tools, research, resources, and a blog.

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