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Research on trust in the criminal justice system receives 1.5 million euros

How to strengthen mutual trust between agencies in the criminal justice system and youth with a migration background or weaker socio-economic position. The Netherlands Science Agenda has awarded 1.5 million euros to a consortium to find out.

In the consortium scientists, police, public prosecutors, local government, and various civil society organisations work together. Not only are they looking at mutual trust between agencies and young people, but they will also develop interventions to monitor and reduce problematic inequalities in the sanctioning of criminal behaviour.

Associate Professor Hilde Wermink (Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology) and Professor Criminology and Criminal Justice Arjan Blokland of Leiden University were involved in the research application for the project In search of trust (IST): Towards effective interventions to monitor and reduce ethno-racial and socio-economic sanctioning disparities. Professor Arjen Leerkes (Erasmus University Rotterdam) will lead the consortium.

Mutual distrust

People with a migrant background and/or weaker socio-economic position are relatively likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system. And are convicted more often than other crime suspects.

When young people and agencies distrust each other, there is a risk that young people will be disadvantaged during the detection and sanctioning of criminal behaviour.

An important starting point of the study is that social differences in mutual trust between juveniles and the criminal justice system are both a cause and consequence of social differences in sanctioning, patterns of overrepresentation, and recidivism. When young people and agencies distrust each other, there is a risk that young people will be disadvantaged during the detection and sanctioning of criminal behaviour. These disadvantages then reinforce mutual distrust between youth and criminal justice agencies. The research aims to better understand, monitor and weaken these feedback loops.

Monitoring and interventions

The consortium will work on a national judicial equality monitor that can be used to observe and monitor problematic social inequalities in crime detection and sanctioning. The researchers will also work with juveniles, police officers, and other professionals from the criminal justice chain to jointly develop interventions that strengthen trust between youth and the police, and reduce problematic inequalities in the sanctioning of crime.

These include video-supported teaching materials for new officers, young people in secondary education, and young people coming into contact with the police for the first time as a crime suspect. Together with (former) delinquent youth and professionals, the researchers will also identify points of departure for additional interventions, for example in relation to the prosecution of suspects by the Public Prosecution Service.

Project leader Leerkes: ’We are thrilled with this funding, and this is great news for Dutch youth as well. Society is becoming more ethnically diverse and economically unequal. With this, the Netherlands is investing  in a just, safe future for everyone.’

Unique consortium

The consortium is a partnership of Erasmus University Rotterdam (sociology, educational sciences, criminology, criminal law), Leiden University (criminology), the Police Academy, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (social work), the Scientific Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), Rotterdam Police, Halt Netherlands, the Public Prosecutor's Office, Rotterdam municipality, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, RADAR, Durdu lawyers Rotterdam, Amnesty International, the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Justice and Security, the National Police, Statistics Netherlands, and the Dutch Association of Social Studies Teachers.

Photo: Unsplash

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