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Relational and instrumental perspectives on compliance with the law among people experiencing homelessness.
Law and Human Behavior  (IF3.795),  Pub Date : 2021-12-23, DOI: 10.1037/lhb0000465
Arabella Kyprianides,Ben Bradford,Jonathan Jackson,Clifford Stott,Krisztián Pósch

OBJECTIVE We conducted an exploratory study testing procedural justice theory with a novel population. We assessed the extent to which police procedural justice, effectiveness, legitimacy, and perceived risk of sanction predict compliance with the law among people experiencing homelessness. HYPOTHESES We did not develop formal a priori hypotheses but examined five general research questions. First, are there positive associations between police procedural justice, police legitimacy, and compliance? Second, do procedural justice and legitimacy differentially predict compliance, depending on the particular type of offending? Third, are there positive associations between police effectiveness, perceived risk of sanction, and compliance? Fourth, does the perceived risk of sanction differentially predict compliance, depending on the particular type of offending? And fifth, are there positive associations between moral judgments about different offending behaviors and compliance? METHOD Two hundred people (87% male, 49% aged 45-64, 37% White British) experiencing homelessness on the streets of an inner London borough completed a survey that included measures of procedural justice, police legitimacy, perceived risk of sanction, morality, and compliance with the law. RESULTS Procedural justice and police legitimacy were only weakly (and not significantly) associated with any of the three types of compliance (compliance with laws prohibiting low-level crimes, behaviors specific to the street population, and high-level crimes). Police effectiveness positively predicted compliance via perceived risk of sanction, but only for street-population-specific offenses that can be important for survival on the streets, such as begging and sleeping in certain localities. Morality was positively associated with all three types of compliance behaviors. Supplementary analyses suggested a small amount of instability in the results, however, possibly because of the relatively small sample size. CONCLUSIONS The lack of relevant relational connections to legal authority may explain why procedural fairness and perceptions of police legitimacy were not particularly important predictors of compliance in this context. More research is needed into the types of marginalized communities for whom structural factors of alienation and lack of access to resources may serve to reduce normative group connections. Future work should test whether the need to survive on the streets leads people to discount some social and relational constraints to behavior, making people (almost by definition) more instrumental in relation to law and law enforcement. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).