Presentation Title

Pretrial Custody Judgments of Guilt, Crime Seriousness, and Fairness of Treatment

Format of Presentation

Poster to be presented the Friday of the conference

Presenter Information

Naomi A. WoolvertonFollow

Abstract

The bail system might have unintended prejudicial effects on those without the economic resources to post bail. The purpose of the present study is to understand if jury members’ decisions of guilt or innocence, crime seriousness, and treatment fairness are influenced by pretrial status of the accused.

Two hundred-twenty undergraduate psychology students read a short vignette about a crime and pretrial experience differed across four conditions: two pretrial detention, no detention, and no information. We manipulated the two pretrial detention conditions according to the socioeconomic status of the accused. Participants then answered a questionnaire that assessed pretrial detention judgments. We hypothesized that individuals described in the pretrial detention conditions would be perceived as more likely to be guilty, that the crime they were accused of would be perceived as more serious, and that their pretrial treatment would be perceived as fairer compared to participants in the no pretrial detention and control conditions.

Results showed a significant effect of pretrial custody on treatment fairness, F(3, 183) = 5.868, p = 0.001. We can conclude that judgments of treatment fairness vary between individuals who are detained compared to not detained during their pretrial period. Little variance between the pretrial detention conditions across all dependent variables demonstrated that the monetary value of the bail system may not have a strong effect on juror judgments, particularly among judgments of guilt and crime seriousness.

To help distinguish where jury biases lie, future research should focus on what aspects of socioeconomic status affect judgments of treatment fairness.

Department

Psychology

Faculty Advisor

Heather L. Price

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Pretrial Custody Judgments of Guilt, Crime Seriousness, and Fairness of Treatment

The bail system might have unintended prejudicial effects on those without the economic resources to post bail. The purpose of the present study is to understand if jury members’ decisions of guilt or innocence, crime seriousness, and treatment fairness are influenced by pretrial status of the accused.

Two hundred-twenty undergraduate psychology students read a short vignette about a crime and pretrial experience differed across four conditions: two pretrial detention, no detention, and no information. We manipulated the two pretrial detention conditions according to the socioeconomic status of the accused. Participants then answered a questionnaire that assessed pretrial detention judgments. We hypothesized that individuals described in the pretrial detention conditions would be perceived as more likely to be guilty, that the crime they were accused of would be perceived as more serious, and that their pretrial treatment would be perceived as fairer compared to participants in the no pretrial detention and control conditions.

Results showed a significant effect of pretrial custody on treatment fairness, F(3, 183) = 5.868, p = 0.001. We can conclude that judgments of treatment fairness vary between individuals who are detained compared to not detained during their pretrial period. Little variance between the pretrial detention conditions across all dependent variables demonstrated that the monetary value of the bail system may not have a strong effect on juror judgments, particularly among judgments of guilt and crime seriousness.

To help distinguish where jury biases lie, future research should focus on what aspects of socioeconomic status affect judgments of treatment fairness.