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Citizen assessment of local criminal courts: Does fairness matter?
The findings indicate that programs and initiatives to increase citizen participation and input throughout the court process, as well as increased court accountability to citizens are necessary to increase citizen positive assessment of court performance. Public opinion concerning the various components of the criminal justice system is a salient public policy concern. The effectiveness of democratic political institutions, including state crime-control agencies, depends on the public's trust and respect. The study utilized a survey implemented by the National Center for State Courts to examine the effect of perceptions of fairness (egalitarian and discriminatory) on respondent satisfaction with local court handling of criminal cases (violent criminal, drug, and juvenile delinquency). Respondents perceived both egalitarian and discriminatory fairness with local court handling of cases. The concerns that court resolve cases in a timely manner had a significant impact on public assessment of local criminal courts. Prior experiences with local courts and respondent demographic factors had little direct influence on respondent satisfaction with local criminal court handling of cases. Some local courts have begun to initiate programs in the form of restorative justice approaches that allow for more victim, community, and offender participation in cooperatively reaching an agreed upon outcome in many criminal cases. Data for this study were collected as part of a national survey of United States citizens conducted and coordinated by the National Center for State Courts. Respondents were surveyed by telephone. The data reported was based on weighting procedures that weighted cases by the U.S. Census race proportions. Directions for future research and implications of the findings are discussed. Limitations of the study are also discussed. Tables, references source
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