Increasing confidence in the criminal justice system through public education
Tanasichuk, Carrie L
Recent polls suggest that less than half (46%) of Canadians are confident in the criminal justice system (CJS) as a whole (e.g., Roberts, 2004). Low levels of public confidence are problematic, as the criminal justice system relies on public support in order to function effectively (Casey, 2008). Previous research has found that attitudes toward the CJS are typically based on misperceptions and misinformation, with the public being unaware of the functioning of the CJS as well as crime trends (e.g., Doob, 2000). Therefore, it seems logical that providing the public with factual information about crime and criminal justice may lead to increased confidence. A handful of studies conducted in the United Kingdom have shown that, in general, public education does lead to increased confidence (e.g, Hough & Park, 2002). However, questions pertaining to the mode of delivery have been raised (Singer & Cooper, 2009). Therefore, three studies were conducted in order to further investigate this issue as well as to delve into the differences between ‘active’ and ‘passive’ learning. Whereas active learning refers to being actively engaged in the learning process through various means (e.g, discussion, problem-solving), passive learning refers to passively obtaining information, such as by listening or by reading (Prince, 2004). Before attempting to change public opinion of the CJS, it is crucial that we first have a comprehensive understanding of what these opinions and attitudes are. As such, Study 1, a quantitative survey of CJS knowledge and attitudes, and Study 2, qualitative focus groups, were conducted. Results from these two studies were used to develop materials for Study 3: Increasing confidence in the CJS through education. As has been found in past research, participants who received CJS information had a higher level of knowledge than controls, who received information about Canada’s health care system. Interestingly, the type of learning (active vs. passive) did not have an effect on CJS knowledge. However, an effect was observed in regards to confidence and satisfaction: Participants who received CJS information through active learning were more confident in the CJS and had a higher level of satisfaction. These results have important implications for real-world interventions.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorWormith, J. Stephen
CommitteeDalby, J. Thomas; Surtees, Doug; Marche, Tammy; Olver, Mark
Copyright DateNovember 2010
criminal justice attitudes