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Re-Weaving the Fabric of Community: The Legitimation of Criminal Justice Agencies Through Community Justice Initiatives

NCJ Number
M H Moore
Date Published
13 pages
This paper discusses how criminal justice agencies can legitimate themselves in the eyes of the citizens they serve.
This includes the efforts that criminal justice agencies can mount to achieve four managerial objectives. One objective is to ensure quality in their individual encounters with citizens. This involves not only services performed by criminal justice personnel when citizens appeal to them for help but also the structure and quality of criminal justice processes in which citizens may become involved. A second important managerial objective pertinent to positive community relations is to render criminal justice organizations transparent and accountable to citizen overseers and their representatives, who demand assurance that the agencies are achieving their purposes. A third objective is to engage citizens as "co-producers" in operations designed to help them achieve goals they cannot achieve by themselves. A fourth objective is to extend the effect of the three previous objectives through moral leadership that can help "reweave the fabric of community." A featured argument in this paper is that in the past the goal of enhancing the legitimacy of criminal justice agencies, as well as the specific efforts that are required to achieve this goal, have been badly neglected and misdirected. It further argues that this failure has not only weakened the standing, but also the performance of criminal justice agencies. Finally, the author explains how much of the increased focus on "community justice" can be understood as increased efforts to legitimate criminal justice agencies and capture the substantive, operational benefits of such efforts. A chart shows the sequence of events in the criminal justice system.