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Legal Optimism: Restoring Trust in the Criminal Justice System Through Procedural Justice, Positive Psychology and Just Culture Event Reviews

NCJ Number
Date Published
September 2018
83 pages

This paper explains how principles of positive psychology and procedural justice can be applied in restoring public confidence and trust that the criminal justice system is committed to achieving justice. 


The paper defines errors in the administration of justice as "acts or omissions that contribute to an unintended or undesirable outcome." Such errors include both sanctions imposed upon individuals who did not commit crimes, and the lack of sanctions imposed upon individuals who did commit crimes. This paper argues that the criminal justice system cannot function properly unless criminal justice agencies acknowledge and respond constructively to errors when they occur by taking action to prevent the recurrence of such errors. After critiquing various flawed procedures that have followed cases of injustice, JCERs (Just Culture Event Reviews) are advocated and explained. JCERs aim to identify the various factors that contribute to specific errors in criminal justice, so as to install corrections that prevent their recurrence by improving the ability of criminal justice professionals to do their jobs safely and effectively in the future. The intent is to improve engagement between and among criminal justice agencies and personnel and the communities they serve. A key feature of JCERs is the maximization of an atmosphere of psychological safety among event reviewers and participants. This is facilitated by avoiding blaming individuals whose actions and decisions may have contributed to injustice. Such an atmosphere increases collaboration among agencies that may be "adversarial" in their professional contexts and functions. JCERs seek to facilitate objective examinations that lead to improved policies and decisions, not to the identification and blaming of individuals and agencies that may have contributed to the system's failure. 70 references

Date Published: September 1, 2018