Legitimacy and Restorative Justice: A Multilevel, Multimethod Analysis of Economic Sanctions and Recidivism

Project: Research project

Project Details


This project examines how procedural justice and restorative justice relate both to the payment of economic sanctions imposed on convicted offenders and to the offenders' subsequent criminal activity. The proposal also tests two conflicting predictions about how payment relates to recidivism. On the one hand, having to pay fines, fees, and restitution in addition to living expenses is difficult and may lead to increased criminal activity. On the other hand, making regular payments may make offenders cognizant of the harm they caused and could teach responsibility, two internal motivations that should lead to less criminal activity.

This project uses three methods to investigate these issues. First, an experiment addresses two reasons why some offenders do not pay their court-ordered economic sanctions: (a) lack of understanding of how much they owe and where their payments are directed and (b) a belief that the sanctions are unfair. The experiment assesses the impact of manipulations of information and rationale for payment on the amount and proportion of money paid toward the court-ordered economic sanctions and on measures of criminal activity (e.g., arrest). Second, a survey questionnaire focuses on how payment interferes with offenders? other financial responsibilities and tests whether lack of understanding, a belief that the sanctions are unfair, and a belief that nonpayment is unlikely to result in punishment are related to offenders' actual payments and criminal activity. Third, the project uses four years of statewide data to examine how the payment/nonpayment of the roughly 2.8 million economic sanctions imposed annually is related to offenders? subsequent criminal activity.

By encompassing multiple levels (individuals, counties, regions of the state) and multiple indicators (payment, crime, attitudes, beliefs), the research can improve our understanding of how economic sanctions work and whether they can serve as an effective substitute for incarceration.

Effective start/end date8/15/117/31/14


  • National Science Foundation: $300,000.00


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