Procedural justice in the context of civil commitment: an analogue study*

Authors


  • *

    Portions of this paper were presented in February 1996 at the Biennial American Psychology and Law Society, Hilton Head, SC.

Abstract

Procedural justice theory posits that the process by which disputes are resolved influences perceptions of fairness and satisfaction with outcomes, even if the outcomes are unfavorable. Within the context of civil commitment, Tyler (1992) has suggested that enhancing respondents' perceptions of procedural justice (i.e., participation, dignity, and trust) during commitment proceedings might facilitate accommodation to an adverse judicial determination (i.e., commitment) and subsequently enhance therapeutic outcomes. The study reported here used videotapes of mock commitment hearings to examine whether patients committed for involuntary treatment are sensitive to procedural justice manipulations. Results suggest that patients are sensitive to procedural justice manipulations and, further, that such manipulations are likely to influence the patients' attitude toward psychiatric care. These findings suggest that the development of strategies to enhance patients' perceptions of procedural justice in commitment hearings may indeed have positive therapeutic implications and warrants further investigation. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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