Public Perceptions of the Courts: An Examination of Attitudes toward the Treatment of Victims and Accused
Kaukinen, Catherine, Colavecchia, Sandra, Canadian Journal of Criminology
Despite the decline in both property and violent crime in Canada over the last five years (Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics 1996), policy makers and the general public continue to express heightened concern about crime. One of the main concerns for policy makers is maintaining public support for the criminal justice system. This may become more difficult as the public continues to express dissatisfaction with various aspects of the criminal justice system. For instance recent research reveals that Canadians believe that court sentences are too lenient (Sprott and Doob 1997) and that racial minorities believe that racial discrimination is a serious problem within the criminal justice system (Wortley 1996). Research in both Canada and the United States indicates that the public has become increasingly critical of the criminal justice system (Flanagan, McGarrell, and Brown 1985; Doob and Roberts 1988). Researchers also point out that public support for more punitive sentences and support for the death penalty has increased over time (Warr 1995; Flanagan et al. 1985; Doob and Roberts 1988).
While there is evidence of public dissatisfaction with specific aspects of the criminal justice system, however, there is relatively strong support for the criminal justice system more generally (Flanagan et al. 1985). Additionally, recent research by Warr (1995) suggests that most citizens are likely to support the work of the police. That is, while the public expresses dissatisfaction with particular aspects of the criminal justice system, they continue to express "diffuse" support for the criminal justice system. This contradiction reveals the complexity of public opinion and suggests the need to explore public perceptions of the criminal justice system in ways that are both general and specific. In this study, we take a closer look at public attitudes with regard to the criminal justice system by exploring attitudes towards two specific aspects of the criminal justice system: it's ability to help victims of crime and it's ability to protect the rights of accused individuals.
Why public attitudes are important
Public perceptions of the criminal justice system are important because of the interdependency which exists between the general public and the criminal justice system. Our discussion will be limited to the interdependency between public attitudes and the courts as this is the focus of our analysis. The public is dependent on the courts in many ways. The public relies on the courts to punish guilty offenders so that others are not victimized, and also to deter other possible offenders. One implication of growing public dissatisfaction is that the public may become increasingly reluctant to rely on the courts. Public dissatisfaction may influence citizens' willingness to comply with the law and to resort to vigilante justice (Flanagan et al. 1985).
The courts are also dependent on the public's participation within criminal justice, from the public's willingness to report crimes to their willingness to serve as witnesses and jurors. Public attitudes may also influence court reform as public opinion sometimes affects legislative decision making (Flanagan et al. 1985). It has been argued that the move towards more conservative and punitive criminal justice practices in the United States, such as lengthier sentences and increased prison populations, occurred in response to increasing public dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system (Langworthy and Whitehead 1986). A similar situation may be occurring in Canada; it has been suggested that judges may impose more punitive sentences if they believe that this is what the public wants (Ouimet and Coyle 1991).
General versus specific public attitudes
Research on public attitudes in relation to the criminal justice system generally focuses on two different areas: the police and the courts. Researchers have examined a wide array of public attitudes towards the police and courts including issues of: efficacy, punitiveness, protection of society, and injustice. In the present study, we examine Canadians' attitudes towards the courts, specifically attitudes with regard to two aspects of the criminal courts: its provision of help to the victims of crime and its ability to protect the rights of accused individuals. In examining these specific attitudes we are tapping into issues of efficacy, injustice, and protection of society.
Past research on attitudes towards the criminal justice system reveals a striking contradiction in public attitudes. That is, while there is considerable dissatisfaction with specific aspects of the criminal justice system, there is relatively strong support for the criminal justice system more generally (Flanagan et al. 1985). This is frequently referred to as "diffuse support" and includes such things as general level of confidence in the criminal justice system. Additionally, Tyler (1990) points out that those who have supportive attitudes toward the police are also more likely to be supportive of the court. These previous findings reveal the complexity of public opinion and suggests the need to explore public perceptions of the criminal justice system in ways that are both general and specific.
Much of the research on public attitudes rarely examines specific attitudes; instead researchers often construct attitudinal scales that combine a variety of issues (Sprott and Doob 1997). Analysis of specific attitudes is useful for identifying those who are dissatisfied and what they are dissatisfied with. They allow us to identify those aspects of the criminal justice system that are viewed negatively by some members of the public. Perhaps more importantly, they allow us to link specific types of dissatisfaction with specific social groups. In doing so, it is possible to compare whether groups dissatisfied with one aspect of the criminal justice system are also dissatisfied with other aspects of the criminal justice system.
Public attitudes and conflict theory
Our decision to analyze attitudes towards the courts' treatment of victims and accused persons was also guided by a more substantive and theoretical concern: an interest in examining the usefulness of conflict theory. Within criminology, conflict theory describes how individuals' social and economic standing within the community has implications for how they will affect or be affected by the criminal justice system. Socially and economically dominant groups will have the power to affect the criminal justice system in their own interests while socially and economically marginalized groups are more likely to be affected and even oppressed by the system (Liska 1987; Meier 1982; Quinney 1977). Applied to the issue of attitudes towards the criminal justice system, conflict theory suggests that members of lower socio-economic groups will be more critical of the courts and more likely to perceive unjust treatment than individuals belonging to higher socio-economic groups. This is because they are aware of the differential and discriminatory treatment received by socially and economically marginal groups.
In examining public perceptions of equality and fairness by the criminal justice system, researchers have made use of a number of explicit test items. In one of the most noteworthy studies of perceptions of injustice in the United States, the issue of fairness was empirically addressed using a ten-item scale (Hagan and Albonetti 1982). A few of the issues included in this scale were: judge bias and unfair treatment, the courts' failure to treat poor people as well as the wealthy, and the courts' differential treatment of blacks and other minorities relative to whites. In a Canadian study of racial group differences in attitudes towards the criminal justice system, Wortley included questions asking whether the poor were treated differently than the wealthy, whether blacks were treated differently than whites, and whether Chinese were treated differently than whites (Wortley 1996).
Our analysis focuses on attitudes relative to the courts' treatment of victims and accused which tap into issues of efficacy, equality, and fairness. A conflict model provides a framework for understanding the public's attitudes towards the courts' treatment of victims and defendants. In particular, we use the theme of class threat to explore class polarization in attitudes towards the courts. This notion of class threat is consistent with a conflict approach as it identifies group conflicts rooted in social class membership.
This idea of class threat was recently used within a Canadian context to help explain household fortification (Hagan 1992). Hagan used the notion of class threat to explain the installation of home security devices by the upper classes. He argues that the upper classes responded to growing concerns about crime by fortifying their homes with security devices such as alarms and locks. Yet this household fortification is not merely a response to a generic threat of victimization; in fortifying their homes Hagan (1992) argues that the upper classes are protecting themselves from the threat of victimization at the hands of members of the lower classes.
We argue that, in the same way, perceptions of class threat make the upper classes fortify their homes from crime, these perceptions also influence attitudes towards the criminal justice system. We believe the class-based nature of household fortification reveals a concern with criminal victimization. Given this fear, the upper classes are predicted to express the most dissatisfaction with the courts' treatment of victims. We believe the upper classes are more invested in the issue of the courts' treatment of victims of crime. A social psychological framework may also be useful in understanding how this operates. A social psychological framework describes how the upper classes will identify more closely with victims of crime and, therefore, will support victims' rights over the rights of accused persons. The upper classes' identification with the victims of crime is based on stereotypes which casts offenders as members of the lower classes.
A conflict model is also useful for describing how the rights of accused individuals are more likely to be emphasized by members of marginalized groups. Individuals of lower socio-economic standing are more likely to be concerned with protecting the rights of accused individuals because their social class membership creates a greater awareness of inequality. Unlike individuals of higher socio-economic status who identify with victims, individuals of lower socio-economic status are predicted to identify more closely with accused individuals and also more likely to perceive that the rights of accused individuals are not being protected. Literature on racial differences in perceptions of injustice provide an explanation for how this identification develops. Racial minorities who experience discrimination in other aspects of life may generalize these experiences onto the criminal justice system (Wortley 1996). While our data precludes an examination of race, we believe that there are strong parallels between issues of racial discrimination and issues of class discrimination, thus literature on perceptions of racial discrimination are useful for understanding social class differences in attitudes towards the criminal justice system. We now turn to a discussion of this literature and address how race and social class position influence perceptions of the criminal justice system, specifically perceptions which deal with equality and fairness.
Research on equality and fairness
Despite their importance, perceptions of equality and fairness have not played a prominent role in the research literature on public attitudes towards the criminal justice system. The latter has focused largely on issues of court efficacy, confidence in the courts, and attitudes towards criminal court leniency. With several noteworthy exceptions (Hagan and Albonetti 1982; Wortley 1996) issues of equality and fairness are often omitted. Studies that have attempted to look at issues of equality and fairness often incorporate measures of equality and fairness into larger scales in which case perceptions of injustice are often obscured with other variables.
In a study of perceptions of injustice in the United States, Hagan and Albonetti (1982) conclude that both race and class influence perceptions of injustice. Black Americans were more likely than white Americans to perceive that the criminal justice system discriminated against marginalized groups. Differences across different socio-economic groups were also found: unemployed people were more likely to perceive injustice than employed people. Class conditioned the relationship between race and perceptions of injustice such that differences in perceptions were most apparent among members of the highest social classes: the professional and managerial class. Yet, among unemployed individuals, socio-economic status appeared to be more influential than race. More recent research in the United States confirms the importance of race in perceptions of fairness in the courts. Myers (1996) found that, compared to whites, the majority of African-Americans believed the disregard of defendant's rights was a problem.
In a recent Canadian study of perceptions of racial discrimination within the criminal justice system, race was the strongest predictor of perceptions of discrimination (Wortley 1996). Not only were black respondents more likely to perceive discrimination against blacks, they were more likely to perceive discrimination against all groups. In fact, black respondents were more likely to perceive discrimination against Chinese people than were Chinese respondents. Perceptions of discrimination were most acute among blacks with prior contact with the police and courts, even when their court experiences were not first-hand but involved family or friends as defendants. While the influence of race was very clear in this study, the relationship between social class and perceptions of discrimination was less clear cut. Education was positively related to perceptions of criminal injustice; however, the effects of income and employment were not statistically significant.
These studies are important in identifying the factors that predict perceptions of criminal justice. In the review of research on public attitudes towards other aspects of the criminal justice system which follows, we will review other key variables of interest including victimization, fear of crime, and court contact. We begin with a discussion of the role of socio-economic status within the literature.
Social class and public perceptions of the courts
The literature examining the relationship between social class and public perceptions of the courts has been largely mixed. While Brillon (1984) found that individuals of higher socioeconomic status are more likely to support the courts, other researchers have found an inverse relationship between social class and public attitudes toward the courts (Myers 1996; Flanagan et al. 1985; Sarat 1977). For example, Myers (1996) found that those with higher levels of education were less punitive in their attitudes with regard to sentencing issues. Additionally, Flanagan et al. (1985) provide mixed support for a relationship. They find that working class respondents were more negative in their views toward the courts, yet they failed to find a relationship between income and attitudes. Alternatively, some researchers have argued that there is no direct relationship between social class and public perceptions of the courts (Langworthy and Whitehead 1986; Fagan 1981). Whereas, Skovron, Scott, and Cullen (1988) suggest that attitudinal variables are related more significantly to sentencing punitiveness than to socio-demographic variables.
These inconsistent findings are most easily explained in terms of methodological differences across studies, including differences in the way in which perceptions of the courts are conceptualized. Additionally, these differences may be the result of a failure to measure and operationalize socio-economic status adequately. In our analysis, we examine separately attitudes toward the courts' treatment of victims and accused individuals. The role of a variety of socio-economic measures, including income, education, and Wright, Costello, Hachen, and Sprague's (1982) relational measure of class are also examined. Yet, another possible explanation for the absence of consistent social class effects is offered by Flanagan et al. (1985) who argue that the influence of socio-demographic variables like social class will only be revealed when they are examined jointly with attitudinal variables like fear of crime. Even though their results show the influence of socio-demographic variables like social class is outweighed by the effect of attitudinal variables, they maintain that socio-demographic variables cannot be ignored.
Fear and perceptions of crime
Research on public attitudes towards the criminal justice system has explored the relationship between various attitudinal factors, such as fear of crime, perceptions of the crime rate, and attitudes towards the criminal justice system. As is the case with research on socio-demographic factors, the influence of attitudinal factors has been the subject of debate. A number of studies in the United States have failed to find a relationship between fear of crime and attitudes towards the courts (Fagan 1981; Flanagan et al. 1985; Langworthy and Whitehead 1986). Two Canadian studies suggest, however, that fear is important. In a study of attitudes towards court sentencing, Sprott and Doob (1997) find that people who were fearful of crime were more likely to think that court sentences were too lenient, and Ouimet and Coyle (1991) find that court practitioners' perceptions of the level of public fear of crime influence their decisions regarding the sentencing of offenders.
Literature on the relationship between perceptions of crime and public attitudes is more limited. This research reveals a complex relationship between perceptions and attitudes; for instance, there is some evidence that perceptions of crime at the national level may be more important in influencing public attitudes than perceptions of local crime (Flanagan et al. 1985). In a more recent study, Myers (1996) finds that respondents who feel that their neighborhood streets are unsafe were more likely to perceive the courts as too lenient. These studies are consistent with one of the first studies of public attitudes which found that public attitudes were influenced by environmental factors rather than individual experiences with crime (Taylor, Scheppele, and Stinchcombe 1979).
Victimization and court contact
The influence of victimization on public attitudes is not well supported by research in the United States. Several researchers argue that victimization does not predict public attitudes towards the criminal justice system (Rich and Sampson 1990; Fagan 1981; Taylor, Scheppele, and Stinchcombe 1979). Langworthy and Whitehead (1986) suggest that victimization is important but that the effect of victimization on punitiveness is indirect through fear. A recent Canadian study contradicts these conclusions and highlights the need to take a closer look at victimization experiences. Sprott and Doob (1997) argue that the impact of victimization on public attitudes is complex and that victims cannot be treated as a homogeneous group. Their results show that people who had experienced the most serious victimizations, those involving violence, were not necessarily more punitive in their views of sentencing. In fact, they found that victims of assault and sexual assault were somewhat less punitive than were non-victims, whereas victims of robbery and those whose houses were broken into when they were at home were somewhat more punitive than non-victims.
One explanation for the variable effect of victimization on public attitudes is offered by Flanagan et al. (1985) who argue that the quality of court contact in the role of victim may be far more important than victimization itself in predicting attitudes. Numerous studies have found that satisfaction with court contact was the key factor in predicting attitudes (Walker 1977; Curran 1977). Roberts and Stalans (1997), however, conclude that court experiences are unrelated to public perceptions of the court's fairness and ethicality. Knowledge of the courts also appears to influence public attitudes; there is some evidence that individuals most knowledgeable about the courts are more negative in their evaluations of the courts (Yankelovich, Skelly and White Inc. 1978). With regard to the association between knowledge and negative attitudes, Sarat argued that "familiarity breeds contempt" (Sarat 1975: 441). Wortley's research on perceptions of criminal injustice is important because it suggests that Sarat's argument may be even more true of certain groups, such as blacks (Wortley 1996).
Data and methods
The data for this research comes from the 1993 Canadian General Social Survey (GSS hereafter), Personal Risk (Statistics Canada 1994). The target population for the GSS was all persons 15 years of age and older living in Canada. Excluded from the sample were residents of the Yukon and Northwest Territories and full-time residents of institutions. The survey utilized random digit dialing, a telephone sampling procedure. Survey estimates can be adjusted to represent persons without telephones. The final sample consisted of 10,385 persons, with an overall response rate of 81.6 percent. All respondents were included in the analysis.
In our analysis, we examine the factors that influence public perceptions of the courts. This includes separate analyses of both the treatment of victims and accused. The specific items used were: "Rate the courts in helping the victims of crime" and "Rate the courts in protecting the rights of accused." The responses were measured in three categories: good job, average job, and poor job. As indicated by other researchers (Sprott and Doob 1997), responses were dichotomized. Poor job coded as 1 and good job and average job coded as 0. In our analysis, we find that 49.1% of respondents perceived the courts as not providing help to victims. Alternatively, only 13.1% of respondents felt the courts did not protect the rights of accused. These findings are consistent with American research that indicates that the public is more concerned with the protection of society than with issues of equality and fairness (Myers 1996).
Our primary goal in examining the factors influencing public perceptions of the criminal courts was to estimate the effect of socio-economic status, as measured by income, education, and a relational measure of class. Our models included age, income, education, gender, employment status, and urban/rural location. We also controlled for the most serious victimization experienced by the respondent in the last twelve months. These included sexual assaults, robberies (including attempted), physical assaults, and property victimizations. We included three levels of victimization in our analysis. The excluded group were those individuals who did not experience a criminal victimization. The remaining two groups were separated according to whether the respondent experienced either a property or personal victimization. We also controlled for the respondent's past contact with the courts, fear of crime, perceptions of neighborhood crime levels, and attitudes towards the police.
We used logit regression to model the effect of socio-economic status on public perceptions of the court's provision of help to the victims of crime and court's protection of the rights of the accused as each of our dependent variables was dichotomous. In our paper and discussion, we present only the final models for each outcome variable.(2) The results of estimating these two equations using logit regression are presented in Table 1. The output for the logit regression represent the natural log of the odds of being in a particular category of the dependent variable associated with a category change in an independent variable. Since there is no intuitive meaning to these estimates, we exponentiate these coefficients in the discussion. In Table 1, Model I examines public perceptions of the court's provision of help to the victims of crime, and Model 2 examines the ability of the courts to protect the rights of the accused. Our analysis sequentially introduced blocks of variables into our models.
Unstandardized coefficients: Logit regression of the provision of help to the victims of crime and the protection of the rights of the accused by the criminal courts, 1993 General Social Survey, Cycle 8.
Variables and coding Model 1 Courts doing poor job providing help to the victims of crime? coefficient odds ratio Age of respondent 0.1160(**) 1.1223 Household income 0.0703(**) 1.0728 of respondent Education category - university 0.4255(**) 1.5304 Education category - college 0.4378(**) 1.5493 Education category - highschool 0.2364(**) 1.2667 Employed respondent 0.0499 1.0512 Respondent has urban residence 0.0982 1.1032 Male respondent 0.1660(**) 1.1806 Respondent has previous court contact 0.3916(**) 1.4793 Victimization category "violent crime victim" 0.2603 1.2973 Victimization category "property crime victim" 0.2112(**) 1.2352 Fear of crime 0.1787 1.1957 Perceptions of crime "neighborhood crime increasing" 0.2782(**) 1.3208 Perceptions of the police "police are doing a poor job" 0.7332(**) 2.0817 Intercept -2.1245(**) Model chi square 403.520 Degrees of freedom 14 Variables and coding Model 2 Courts doing poor job protecting the rights of the accused? coefficient odds ratio Age of respondent 0.0269 1.0273 Household income -0.0615(**) 0.9404 of respondent Education category - university -0.2152 0.8064 Education category - college -0.0376 0.9631 Education category - highschool -0.1217 0.8864 Employed respondent 0.0201 1.0203 Respondent has urban residence 0.1870 1.2056 Male respondent 0.1645 1.1788 Respondent has previous court contact 0.2076 1.2307 Victimization category "violent crime victim" -0.1122 0.8939 Victimization category "property crime victim" 0.0982 1.1032 Fear of crime 0.4235(**) 1.5273 Perceptions of crime "neighborhood crime increasing" 0.0512 1.0525 Perceptions of the police "police are doing a poor job" 0.5441(**) 1.7231 Intercept -2.0544(**) Model chi square 89.779 Degrees of freedom 14
(**) p < 0.01
The courts' provision of help to the victims of crime
Model 1 in Table 1 examines the factors that influence public perceptions of the court's ability to provide help to the victims of crime. Age, income, education, and gender are all significantly associated with public attitudes toward the court's ability to help the victims of crime. Specifically, older, educated males living in urban areas are more likely to rate the courts as doing a poor job in providing help to the victims of crime. The effect of socioeconomic status as measured by income was also positively related to negative perceptions of the court's provision of help to the victims of crime. For each increase in household income, a respondent's odds of stating that the courts are doing a poor job in helping crime victims increase by a factor of 1.07 ([e.sup.0.0703] = 1.0728). With regard to the effects of victimization, those respondents who have experienced a property victimization are more likely to rate the courts as doing a poor job providing help to the victims of crime. Additionally, those respondents who have had past contact with the courts are also to more likely to state that the courts are not effective in helping crime victims. Finally, those respondents who feel that crime is on the increase in their neighborhood and feel the police are doing a poor job are all more likely to rate the courts as poor in providing help to the victims of crime. The addition of these perception and attitudinal measures provided an improvement to the overall fit of the model.
The court's protection of the rights of the accused
Next, we examine the factors affecting perceptions of the court's ability to protect the rights of the accused. As in the examination of the courts' provision of help to the victims of crime, we introduce blocks of variables sequentially. In this paper, only the final model is discussed. In contrast to the analysis of perceptions of the court's provision of help to the victims of crime, the results of this analysis reveal that the higher the respondent's household income the less likely he/she is to feel that the courts are doing a poor job protecting the rights of the accused. That is, those respondents who have higher incomes are both more likely to feel the victims of crime are not being helped by the courts and less likely to feel the courts are failing to protect the rights of the accused. For each increase in the income variable, a respondent's odds of feeling that the court's are doing a poor job protecting the right's of the accused decrease by a factor of 0.94 ([e.sup.-0.0615]=0.94035). Additionally, those respondents who fear criminal victimization and feel that the police are doing a poor job are also more likely to feel the courts are doing a poor job protecting the rights of the accused. These findings indicate the complexity of the relationship between socio-economic status and perceptions of the courts. That is, while respondents in the highest income groups are more likely to feel that the courts are doing a poor job helping crime victims, those respondents who are in the lowest income groups are the ones most likely to sympathize with the situation of accused individuals and feel that the courts are doing a poor job protecting their rights.
The findings from this study indicate that Canadians are more concerned about the protection of society, reflected in perceptions of the courts' failure to provide help to the victims of crime, than with issues of equality and fairness, reflected in the courts' protection of the rights of accused individuals. This is consistent with recent American research on public attitudes towards the criminal justice system (Myers 1996).
More importantly, our results show that social class, as measured by income, is an important predictor of public attitudes pertaining to issues of equality and fairness by the criminal courts. Income remained a significant predictor of public attitudes, even when other important variables such as victimization, court contact, and perceptions of crime were controlled. These findings indicate clear differences in the composition of individuals concerned with the courts' treatment of victims than with the courts' treatment of accused individuals. Dissatisfaction with the ability of the courts to help victims of crime, reflecting the issue of protection of society, was most often expressed by educated, upper class respondents. Conversely, dissatisfaction with the ability of the courts to protect the rights of accused individuals, reflecting the issue of equality and fairness, was most often expressed by respondents belonging to lower socio-economic groups. These social class differences are consistent with Hagan and Albonetti's (1982) study of perceptions of criminal injustice.
We argue that the stratification of public attitudes by social class can be explained using a conflict approach, specifically the theme of class threat. The results of this study provide some support for the notion of class threat, i.e., the upper classes are dissatisfied with the courts' ability to protect victims would be a reflection of their fear of becoming victimized themselves. If the upper classes do in fact feel threatened, this explains why they express more critical views regarding the courts' ability to provide help to the victims of crime. The notion of class threat, derived from conflict theory, is congruent with a social psychological framework which describes how individuals identify with other similarly situated individuals. According to this framework, an individual of higher socio-economic status is more likely to identify with victims than with accused individuals, if they accept the stereotypes which cast victims as members of the upper classes and accused individuals as members of the lower classes. We believe that the perception of threat held by the upper classes coupled with their identification with victims of crimes leads to both household fortification and dissatisfaction with the criminal courts.
The corollary to this is the identification with the plight of accused individuals expressed by members of lower socioeconomic groups. It may be the case that membership in a lower socio-economic group brings individuals in closer contact with formal agents of social control where unfair treatment of accused persons occurs or is perceived to occur. Additionally, members of lower socio-economic groups may have indirect knowledge of these kinds of incidents through their social networks. This indirect knowledge may form the basis of their evaluations of the courts' treatment of accused individuals. Given the abundance of criminological research on the influence of extralegal factors like race and social class in various aspects of the criminal justice system, it should come as no surprise that members of social groups at greatest risk of contact with the courts are aware that their membership in a marginalized group has consequences for how they may be treated by the criminal justice system.
While social class is an important predictor of attitudes, our findings also indicate that measures of perceived and real vulnerability were also significantly related to attitudes. Respondents who had experienced victimization, those who were fearful in their neighborhoods, and those who perceived crime to be increasing were all more likely to express dissatisfaction with the criminal justice system. Consistent with previous studies (Yankelovich, Skelly and White Inc. 1978; Sarat 1975), respondents with court contact were also more likely to be dissatisfied with the courts' treatment of victims and accused persons. A social psychological framework might be helpful in describing how courtroom experiences raise the level of sensitivity towards both victims and accused individuals. Individuals with courtroom experience come in contact with both victims and defendants and this contact may have the effect of making respondents identify more closely with these roles, in particular the problematic experiences faced by victims and defendants who participate in the criminal courts.
This analysis illustrates the importance of analyzing attitudes in ways that are specific so that important differences in attitudes and predictors of attitudes are not obscured. The stratification of attitudes towards the courts by social class was uncovered only when two specific components of the criminal courts were analyzed separately. That is, the court's provision of help to the victims of crime, and also the court's ability to protect the rights of accused individuals. Future research will need to clarify whether this class effect is variant or persists over time and in different places. Future research will also need to examine the implications of this class polarization for the criminal justice system.
(1.) The authors are grateful to Julian Roberts and the two anonymous reviewers of the CJC for their helpful comments. They would also like to thank David Wilson, Jennifer Butters, and Rosemary Gartner for their useful substantive and editorial comments. Portions of this paper were presented at a session organized by Doug Norris (Statistics Canada) at the 1998 Canadian Sociology and Anthropology Association Meetings, Ottawa, Ontario. Please refer all correspondence to: Catherine Kaukinen, Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, Robarts Library, Room 8001, 130 St. George Street, Toronto, Ontario. M5S 3H1 email@example.com (416) 978-8679 ext. 242
(2.) We also estimated a model that incorporated Wright, Costello, Hachen, and Sprague's (1982) relational measure of class used by Hagan (1992) in his analysis of household fortification. This measure includes six social class categories (employers, petty bourgeoisie, managers, workers, surplus labour, and those outside the work force). None of these social class categories were significant predictors of perceptions of the courts and their inclusion did not improve the overall fit of the model. We therefore re-estimated the model excluding this class measure from the model.
For each outcome variable, we first estimated a model with the demographic variables (age, income, education, urban/rural, and gender). The second model we estimated included past experiences with criminal victimization and court contact. Finally, we estimated a complete model which is presented in Table 1 for each outcome. This final model includes the effects of fear, perceptions of crime, and attitudes toward the police. For each outcome, the complete or full model was the best fitting model. We also estimated similar models using data from the 1988 Canadian General Social Survey (Statistics Canada 1988). These findings were largely consistent with the 1993 analysis. For a complete table of all of the models please inquire from the first author.
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Catherine Kaukinen and Sandra Colavecchia(1) Department of Sociology University of Toronto Toronto, Ontario3…
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Publication information: Article title: Public Perceptions of the Courts: An Examination of Attitudes toward the Treatment of Victims and Accused. Contributors: Kaukinen, Catherine - Author, Colavecchia, Sandra - Author. Journal title: Canadian Journal of Criminology. Volume: 41. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 1999. Page number: 365. © 1999 Canadian Criminal Justice Association. COPYRIGHT 1999 Gale Group.
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