Legitimacy of Corrections

Topics: Prison, Criminal justice, Corrections Pages: 8 (1730 words) Published: April 30, 2014

Courtney Weidner
Legitimacy of Corrections
Chestnut Hill College

This paper will attempt to define legitimacy in the context of corrections and the overall criminal justice system. A study will be introduced that will reflect the correlation between compliance and perceived legitimacy while incarcerated. Specifically, 202 adult inmates were randomly assigned to serve a 6-month sentence at either a military-style boot-camp or a traditional prison. They then took a survey to voice their concerns and overall experiences. The findings suggest legitimacy-building policies such as fair treatment and decision making among officers and other authority. In addition, this paper will apply the Law and Order Model to both the study and the general activity of the criminal justice system. Easily enough, this paper argues and confirms that rehabilitation is more influential on perception, ultimately constructing a sense of legitimacy in the public eye.

Perceptions of legitimacy have been found to play an important role in determining the effectiveness of the criminal justice system. However, it is often viewed as a challenging task to define and measure such a subjective and abstract issue. Within our current justice system there are two different facilities used to implement the principles of corrections; a traditional facility and a modern boot camp. In an effort to define what makes a correctional facility legitimate, research was extended. In fact, a study was conducted that followed 202 adult inmates. During this study, the inmates were assigned to serve a six-month sentence at one of the two institutions. After their experience, each inmate was asked to take a survey and reveal their individual perceptions on the facility as a whole, specifically their programs regarding treatment, functions of efficiency, and authoritative tactics while incarcerated. The results of this experiment are used to suggest ideas for the future of correctional practices. In order to determine the legitimacy of our corrections system, a definition needs to exist. Tyler (2003:308) described legitimacy as “a quality possessed by an authority, a law, or an institution that leads others to feel obligated to obey its decisions and directives.” When applying this to the criminal justice system, it essentially means the obligation people feel to follow the law and to obey authority. For example, people who believe the strategies and tactics of the correctional system are effective they are more inclined to perceive legitimacy. Specifically, someone who has had a good experience with the justice system will tend to view the overall institution in a more positive light compared to those who have endured a more unfavorable encounter. However, Tyler (1990: 21) argued that it is ignorant to assume that people will follow rules due to fear of the sanctions. Had this been found true, there would not be a need for law because the mere idea of social regulations would suffice. Instead, society’s obedience has a dependence on the perception of authority, institution, and law being deserving of compliance (Jackson 2010). The legitimacy of corrections is an important aspect for society due to its strong influence on the general public. In fact, being one of the most institutionalized and widely known forms of authority, there tends to be a great deal of pressure on the criminal justice system. If society does not view the justice system as legitimate, then there is little chance for other, less influential figures of authority to obtain a sense of legitimacy (Hoffman, 1977). Any lack of public cooperation could lead to a decline in structure, order, and compliance. For example, a repercussion to lack of legitimacy is the inclination that citizens have to disobey or even disregard police mandate (Skogan and Frydll, 2003) or court decisions (Tyler, 2003)....

References: Franke, D., Bierie, D., & MacKenzie, D. L. (2010). Legitimacy in corrections a randomized experiment comparing a boot camp with a prison. Criminology & Public Policy, 9(1), 89-117.
Jackson, J. (2010). Legitimacy and procedural justice in prisons. Prison Service Journal, (191), Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/270079/Legitimacy_and_procedural_justice_in_prisons
O’Neill, Lauren, Doris L. MacKenzie, and David Bierie. 2007. Educational opportunities
within correctional institutions: Does facility type matter? The Prison Journal, 87: 311–327.
Skogan, Wesley G. and Kathleen Frydl. 2003. Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The
Evidence. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
Tyler, Tom R. 1990. Why People Obey the Law. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Tyler, Tom R. 2003. Process-based regulation: Procedural justice, legitimacy, and the
effective rule of law. In (Michael H. Tonry, ed.), Crime & Justice. Chicago IL: University of Chicago Press.
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