«Jo-Anne Wemmers Katie Cyr Université de Montréal While victims are often considered the forgotten party in the criminal justice system, restorative ...»
When people have information about the trustworthiness of an authority, they are faced with less uncertainty and procedural justice is less salient. Tyler (2003) uses the term motive-based trust in order to reflect the perceived motives of the decision-maker and whether they appear to be acting in good faith. Procedural justice judgements, Tyler (2003) argues, are based on the quality of decision-making and the quality of treatment by authorities. The quality of decision-making reflects the neutrality of the decisionmaker, while the quality of the treatment is determined by whether the individual was treated with dignity and respect. Tyler’s (2003) two-factor model resembles the model by Wemmers (1996) in that it also emphasizes the quality of interpersonal treatment in procedural justice judgements.
Another possible determinant of procedural justice is the quantity of time invested in participants. Lind and Van den Bos (2002) argue that fair procedures will cost more than fair outcomes because of the extra time and effort they require in terms of listening and providing information to those involved. Time is a rare commodity within organizations and they fear that time restraints may jeopardize fair procedures. This raises the question of whether a qualitatively good interaction is necessarily a time consuming interaction in terms of the number of contacts with victims.
The above literature highlights four possible determinants of procedural justice judgements, namely, voice, respect, trust, and neutrality. In addition, a fifth possible determinant, specified by Lind and Van Bos (2002) is the amount of time invested in communicating with the victim. These factors reflect the quality of the interaction and the quality of decision-making. The present study is not intended to be a test of any of the above models of procedural justice. Rather, it is our intention to use the theoretical
framework offered by procedural justice to better understand victims’ evaluations of mediation.
Based on the literature regarding restorative justice and victimology, it is important to examine whether victims’ evaluations of procedure are based on their ability to play an active role and make demands, or whether they simply seek passive participation through consultation and information. Of further significance is assessing which variables impact victims’ procedural justice judgements and determining the relative importance of voice, respect, neutrality, and trust We hypothesize that victims consider the process of mediation fair not because it allows them to make demands but because it offers them recognition and respect through consultation. Furthermore, an important facet from an organizational point of view is whether fair procedures are necessarily time-consuming. Hence, we will also examine the quality and quantity of time to decipher which is most important to victims.
Participants The present study is based on interviews with crime victims who were invited to participate in the victim-offender mediation program for young offenders run by a community-based organization in a large metropolitan city. This mediation program has existed since 1997, first as an experimental project and since 2002, as part of a structural agreement with the government.
During the period of our study, which spanned from 1997 to June 2002, Youth Protection Services selected cases for mediation.
Selection was based on offence and offender characteristics, such as the seriousness of the offence and the offender’s record. A project worker then met with the offender to assess his/her suitability for the program. Offenders who were not found suitable for mediation were offered alternative sanction, such as community service. Offenders considered unsuitable for mediation included those who did not acknowledge responsibility for their actions. It should be noted that accepting responsibility is not the same as pleading guilty.
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The selection criterion for inclusion in the study was that the victim be an individual rather than an organization. Both victims who refused to participate in mediation as well as those who had accepted the offer to participate in the project were included in the sample. In the period between 1997 and June 2002, data was available for 225 victims. Victims were first sent a letter, which explained the nature of the study and invited them to participate. However, as only 5% of the sample responded to this invitation, the decision was made to have project workers contact victims by phone and invite them to participate in the study. If victims agreed their name and phone number were given to the researchers. If they refused they were excluded from the study.
Of the 225 victims in the original sample, 115 (51%) could not be reached. They had either moved, changed their phone number, or the data in their file was incomplete. Particularly in the early years of the project, data in victim’s files was often scanty and not systematic. In addition, four victims had to be excluded from the study either due to death (1) or were unable to communicate in either English or French (3). Of the remaining 106 victims who were contacted, 47 (44%) refused to participate in the study. Hence, 59 interviews with victims were finally completed.
This is 56% of all the victims who were reached and 26% of the victims in the original sample.
Of the 59 victims who were interviewed, 13 declined the invitation to participate in mediation, 7 had participated in indirect mediation and the remaining 39 had participated in direct mediation. The victims vary in terms of age and type of victimisation. The youngest victim at the time of the offence was 12 and the oldest was 82. The median age was 33 years. In regard to type of victimisation, 54% were victims of personal crimes, namely assault (46%); robbery (5%) or threats (3%). The
remaining 46% of the sample were victims of property crimes:
theft (20%); theft of a motor vehicle (12%) and vandalism (10%).
Materials The questionnaire used in this study consisted of four parts.
The first section consisted of questions that were asked of all
victims who were initially contacted by a project worker. All victims were asked these questions regardless of whether or not they agreed to participate in mediation. Section two consisted of questions specifically for victims who participated in direct mediation. Section three consisted of questions for victims who had participated in indirect mediation. The fourth and final section contained a number of questions regarding victims' attitudes and was intended for all respondents.
In accordance with previous research on procedural justice (Lind & Tyler, 1988; Tyler & Lind, 1992; Van den Bos & Lind,
2002) victims' procedural justice judgements were measured using two questions: Did you find the process fair? Are you satisfied with the procedure followed in your case?
As was pointed out earlier, there are two different views on voice in the literature. One is that victims simply seek recognition through the ability to express themselves. The second view, popular among restorative justice advocates, is that victims seek control and want to make demands. We have included both approaches in our concept of voice and have included the following variables in our analysis: Do you think that you were sufficiently able to make yourself heard in the handling of your case? During the initial contact with the project worker, did you have sufficient opportunity to express yourself? Were you able to make demands? Did you feel hindered in making all the demands that you wished to make?
Respect, or interactional fairness, as it is referred to by Lind and Van den Bos (2002), was measured using a number of different variables that reflect the quality of the interpersonal interactions experienced by the victims, namely: How were you were treated by the first person who contacted you regarding the program? How did you find the preparatory contact(s)? Did the mediator respect your position? Did you obtain the information that you desired during your contacts or meetings with the project worker? Do you feel that you were adequately informed about what you could expect by the project worker(s)?
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Trust refers to the perceived motives of the third-party or the mediator. Trust was measured using three questions: Did you have faith or trust in the mediator? Did you feel safe before the meeting? Did you feel understood by the project worker?
Neutrality was defined using two questions: Was the mediator(s) neutral? Was the mediator(s) more favourable towards either you or the offender?
Before presenting the findings, it is important to put the sample into context and address the question of representativeness of the sample. To begin with, the sample is not representative of all crime victims as only victims who were invited to participate in mediation were included. The selection criteria used by the youth workers to select potential cases for mediation impose definite limits on the sample, which included only victims of young offenders, offences of minor to moderate seriousness, and offenders with few prior offences. It may well be that victims of adult offenders or victims of more serious offences would respond differently.
A second question with respect to the representativeness of the sample is whether or not it is representative of the population of victims who participated in the mediation project since 1997.
Using the statistics from the program we were able to compare our sample to the population of victims contacted for mediation on the following variables: gender of the victim, offence, and participation in mediation.
Within the population of all victims invited to participate in the project since 1997, 41% were female and 58% were male. In comparison, 48% of the victims in our sample were female and 53% were male. Regarding the offence, in the population, 56% were victims of personal crimes and 44% were victims of crimes against property. In our sample, we found similar percentages with 54% victims of personal crimes and 46% victims of property crimes. Finally, within the population, 48% of victims participated in mediation, 13% participated in indirect mediation and 39% © Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 2006, 2(2) WEMMERS & CYR 113 refused to participate in mediation. In our sample, the percentage of victims who participated in mediation is higher than in the population, with a 66% participation rate. Victims who refused to participate in mediation are relatively under-represented in our sample (22%). The percentage of victims in our sample who participated in indirect mediation is comparable to that in the population (12% vs.13%). In conclusion, the sample is representative of the population of victims included in the project with respect to victim gender and offence type but victims who participated in mediation are over-represented in the sample.
The first question addressed was how victims judge the treatment they received. Victims' procedural justice judgements were based on their responses to two questions regarding the perceived fairness of the process and their satisfaction with the procedures that followed. These two variables were combined to create a scale for procedural justice. The reliability of this scale is high (alpha =.8152). The frequency distribution for the variable procedural justice is presented in Table 1. The results show that victims’ procedural justice judgements are not normally distributed and that most respondents (64%) feel that the procedures were very fair.
The next question addressed was when do victims feel that the process was fair? Based on the research literature on
procedural justice, four factors were considered in the analysis:
© Applied Psychology in Criminal Justice, 2006, 2(2) 114 FAIRNESS voice, respect, trust, and neutrality. As a first step, the strength of the relationship between the possible determinants of each factor and procedural justice judgements was tested using Chi-square.
This nonparametric test was chosen as the preferred method of analysis because of the skewed data. However, because the chisquare test is not reliable when there are less than five observations per cell, the number of response categories was collapsed for each of the variables.
The first factor examined was voice, or the ability to express one’s views. The relationship between the four possible determinants of voice that were included in the study (to be heard, to express one's self, to make demands, to feel hindered in making demands) and procedural justice judgements are presented in Tables 2 through 5.
The results presented in Tables 2 through 5 indicate that only three of the four possible determinants studied were significantly related to victims' procedural justice judgements.
Interestingly, whether or not victims were able to make demands during mediation was not significantly related to their fairness judgements. Indeed, most victims felt that they had been able to make demands. However, being able to make demands and feeling hindered in making demands appear to be two very different concepts. Victims may be able to make demands but still feel hindered in making certain demands, the latter of which was important in their evaluations of the fairness of the mediation process (Chi-square = 28.201, df = 1, p 0.01). Significant relationships were also found when victims felt that they had been heard (Chi-square = 34.196, df = 1, p 0.01) and when they had been able to express themselves (Chi-square = 8.192, df = 1, p 0.01).
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Next, the relationship between respect and procedural justice judgements was examined using five possible determinants of respect (first contact, preparatory contacts, obtained desired information, adequately informed, mediator behaved respectful).
Once again, the chi-squared test was used. The results are presented in Tables 6 through 10.