Public confidence in the criminal justice system is critical for the system to function effectively. Two studies investigated the impact of jury sentencing recommendations on public confidence using procedural justice theory. The first study (N = 80) manipulated the presence of jury involvement in sentencing (voice present versus voice absent) and the punitiveness of the minimum non-parole period (more punitive versus less punitive) to examine whether giving juries a “voice”—a key element of procedural justice—would increase public confidence in the courts, as well as perceptions of fairness and legitimacy. Contrary to predictions, results revealed that a more punitive sentence led to increased perceptions of legitimacy, which was associated with higher confidence. The second study (N = 60) examined whether manipulating the Judge’s agreement with the jury’s recommendation—as well as the Judge’s reason for disagreement—would elicit the “frustration effect,” leading to a decrease in confidence and perceptions of fairness and legitimacy. There was no evidence to suggest that the frustration effect was present. Results of both studies could suggest that jury sentencing recommendations may not effectively increase public confidence and perceptions of fairness and legitimacy in the courts, however alternate explanations are discussed.

This content is only available via PDF.