chapter  7
Women offenders’ perception of treatment by police and courts
ByJENNIFER E . COBBINA AND MERRY MORASH
Pages 16

Two concepts affect the perception of fairness: procedural justice and substantive justice.1 Procedural justice refers to perceived fairness of the legal methods and processes by which an outcome is reached (Thibaut and Walker 1975). Specifically, procedural justice occurs when all parties involved in the resolution of a dispute perceive the process as fair, regardless of the outcome. Early theoretical work on procedural justice posits that certain procedures are necessary to ensure fairness as a means to satisfy parties with conflicts; they include parties feeling they have some control over the processes and decisions of authorities (Thibaut and Walker 1975). Leventhal (1980) argued that six rules govern procedural fairness: that is, procedures must be consistent, accurate, unbiased, ethical, correctable (if errors occur) and representative of all parties. Extending from Leventhal’s (1980) work, Lind and Tyler (1988) reasoned that individuals tend to perceive a process as fair if they (1) are given the opportunity to have their voices heard, (2) are treated with respect, (3) believe that authority can be trusted to act in an ethical manner and (4) believe the authority is impartial in making decisions. Procedural justice fosters a belief in the legitimacy of the justice system (Hinds and Murphy 2007; Sunshine and Tyler 2003), and inspires cooperation with rules and laws (Lind and Tyler 1988). Legitimacy refers to “an acceptance by people of the need to bring their behavior into line with the dictates of an external authority” (Tyler 1990:25). In other words, when people believe that the police are legitimate authorities, they are more likely to internalize a moral obligation to obey the law and be cooperative (Sunshine and Tyler 2003; Tyler 1990; Tyler and Huo 2002) even if they have involuntary police contact (Tyler and Folger 1980). However, the perception that police exercise their authority using unfair procedures will lead to defiance and non-cooperation (Sunshine and Tyler 2003), will erode legitimacy of the police (Gau and Brunson 2010) and even increase crime (Bouffard and Piquero 2010; Sherman 1993). Whereas procedural justice focuses on the perceived fairness of the legal processes by which outcomes are reached, substantive justice refers to the fairness or favorability of the outcome of legal proceedings (e.g., the verdict) (Thibaut and Walker 1975). Thus, individuals support and empower legal authorities when they perceive that authorities distribute outcomes fairly across people or groups (Sarat 1977; Tyler et al. 1997). Studies suggest that factors such as arrest, sentencing severity, cost and delay influence whether one perceives an outcome as just or unjust (Casper 1978; Rottman 2007). Though scholars demonstrate that substantive justice is important, it is generally considered less important

than procedural fairness, as individuals may be satisfied if the procedure is perceived as fair even though they find the outcome unsatisfactory (Rottman 2007; Tyler 2001). In fact, Casper et al. (1988) found that both procedural and substantive justice influenced male criminal defendants’ satisfaction in three major cities in the U.S. This study, however, did not consider the experiences and perceptions of female offenders.