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The Overlooked Role of Jails in the Discussion of Legitimacy: Implications for Trust and Procedural Justice

NCJ Number
Corrections Today
Eric Martin; Brett Chapman; Lauren Morgan
Date Published
April 2023
2 pages

This article analyzes the challenges and importance of maintaining a safe and orderly environment in jails and other correctional facilities.


The authors of this article cite relevant research as they discuss the need to examine the role of legitimacy in jail settings, the impacts that legitimacy has on the cooperation and compliance of community members, and the relationship between legitimacy and corrections as well as the broader criminal justice system. The authors begin by defining legitimacy, in the context of this article, as being an incarcerated individual’s belief that officers are motivated to listen and follow an agency’s directives out of both a sense of responsibility to that agency and its authority over the larger community; they suggest that a correctional facility enhances its legitimacy when community members view it as acting in a just manner toward others. The authors discuss research on institutionalized individuals’ senses of legitimacy of correctional facilities and the individuals who run them, stating that the sense of legitimacy and procedural justice is a critical driver of cooperation with authority. They also identify gaps in existing research on the legitimacy and procedural justice regarding jails, and they examine how procedural justice can be a vital tool for correctional officers and deputies.