September 4, 2020

Procedural Justice: Voice, Neutrality, Trustworthy Motives, and Respect

Flora Fitzalan Howard
Evidence Lead, Evidence-Based Practice Team
Insights Group, HMPPS

Over the last few years, the Evidence-Based Practice Team (Insights Group, HMPPS) have completed a huge amount of work within prisons and wider HMPPS, to promote the use of evidence around, and develop people’s perceptions of, ‘procedural justice’. 

Procedural justice is a key component of developing rehabilitative cultures in prisons, and has been something all prisons around the country have been working hard to develop.

Procedural justice is all about people feeling they are being treated fairly.  Put simply, when people feel processes are applied and decisions are made fairly, they are more likely to trust authority figures, respect rules and follow them.

This sounds pretty obvious. 

However, in the last few years there has been a lot of research in prisons, and some in probation settings, testing what kinds of things procedural justice effects, and the results really made us sit up and pay attention. 

For example, when people who live in prison feel treated in a procedurally just way, this is related to significantly lower levels of violence, better psychological well-being, and even lower reoffending after release.  For people under supervision in the community it is linked to significantly better adherence to rules and conditions, as well as less crime.  And for staff, it is linked to outcomes like significantly less stress and lower burnout rates, greater commitment to their work, and greater support for rehabilitation rather than punishment for the people in their care. 

The robust research evidence, from our country and from around the world, has acted as a springboard for a vast amount of work to improve procedural justice for everyone in HMPPS.  For example, thousands of staff have attended workshops or training, many individual prisons have incorporated procedural justice into their rehabilitative culture strategies, many people have developed how they communicate to make sure notices and letters include the four principles in the way they are written, and some places have identified specific processes they want to develop in light of the evidence, for example disciplinary adjudications.

To learn more about the research in English and Welsh prisons, you can access a summary of our recent study here.

We have developed a handy infographic summarising the key principles behind procedural justice, which you can download below.

We have also developed the short animated video below, which explains more about procedural justice, including the four principles which influence how fairly we feel we have been treated: voice, neutrality, trustworthy motives, and respect.

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