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Perceptions of legal legitimacy in veterans treatment courts: A test of a modified version of procedural justice theory.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2021-04-01, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000441
John M Gallagher,José B Ashford

OBJECTIVE Perceptions of the legitimacy of a society's legal system help explain individual responses to courts and legal actors. Normative considerations such as fair and respectful treatment as well as social identification have demonstrated the ability to enhance perceived legal legitimacy and future cooperation. Veterans treatment courts (VTCs) are a rapidly disseminating and understudied intervention. Their targeting of a socially esteemed group presents an interesting venue to explore normative theories of justice. The present study tested a modified version of Tyler's theory of procedural justice in this setting. HYPOTHESES We hypothesized that procedural justice, social bonds, and receipt of gratitude for military service would be positively associated with veteran identity and legal legitimacy. We further hypothesized that participants' identification as veterans would mediate the relationships between the three independent variables and legitimacy. METHOD A cross-sectional survey design was used with a convenience sample (N = 191) of participants in two VTCs. Analyses controlled for race, ethnicity, recidivism risk, and combat exposure. RESULTS Perceptions of procedural justice, social bonds, and receipt of gratitude were positively associated with veteran identity and perceptions of legal legitimacy. Further, veteran identity was found to be a significant mediator between the first three constructs and legal legitimacy. CONCLUSIONS The results support the importance of procedural justice in explaining perceptions of legal legitimacy in a novel context that is rapidly proliferating and understudied and has unique social identity considerations. The addition of gratitude and veteran identity to Tyler's model raises implications for VTC practice and further inquiry. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved).