Social Trust in Criminal Justice: A Metric

45 Pages Posted: 6 Apr 2022 Last revised: 3 May 2022

See all articles by Joshua Kleinfeld

Joshua Kleinfeld

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law; Northwestern University Department of Philosophy; Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders

Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg

UC Berkeley School of Law; Bar-Ilan University

Date Written: February 22, 2022

Abstract

What is the metric by which to measure a well-functioning criminal justice system? If a modern state is going to measure performance by counting something—and a modern state will always count something—what, in the criminal justice context, should it count? Remarkably, there is at present no widely accepted metric of success or failure in criminal justice. Those there are—like arrest rates, conviction rates, and crime rates—are deeply flawed. And the search for a better metric is complicated by the cacophony of different goals that theorists, policymakers, and the public bring to the criminal justice system, including crime control, racial justice, retributive justice, and social solidarity.

This Article proposes a metric based on the concept of social trust. The measure of a well- or poorly functioning criminal system is its marginal effects on (1) the level of trust a polity’s members have toward the institutions, officials, laws, and actions that comprise the criminal justice system; (2) the level of trust a polity’s members have, in virtue of the criminal system’s operations, toward government generally (beyond the criminal justice system); and (3) the level of trust a polity’s members have toward one another following incidents of crime and responses to crime. Social trust, we argue, both speaks to an issue at the philosophical core of crime and punishment and serves as a locus of agreement among the many goals people bring to the criminal justice system. The concept can thus be a site of overlapping consensus, performing the vital function of enabling liberal societies to make policy despite disagreement about first principles.

Keywords: social trust, criminal justice, criminal law, metric, crime control, retribution, racial justice, communitarianism, crime rates, recidivism rates, conviction rates, solidarity

Suggested Citation

Kleinfeld, Joshua and Dancig-Rosenberg, Hadar and Dancig-Rosenberg, Hadar, Social Trust in Criminal Justice: A Metric (February 22, 2022). Northwestern Public Law Research Paper No. 22-16, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4040327 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4040327

Joshua Kleinfeld

Northwestern University - Pritzker School of Law ( email )

375 E. Chicago Ave
Chicago, IL 60611
United States

Northwestern University Department of Philosophy ( email )

Evanston, IL
United States

Goethe University Frankfurt - Cluster of Excellence Normative Orders ( email )

Germany

Hadar Dancig-Rosenberg (Contact Author)

UC Berkeley School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Bar-Ilan University ( email )

Faculty of Law
Ramat Gan, 52900
Israel

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