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Article

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Why Do Criminals Obey the Law? The Influence of Legitimacy and Social Networks on Active Gun Offenders (with Andrew V. Papachristos & Jeffrey Fagan), 102 Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 397 (2012)

Abstract

Research on procedural justice and legitimacy suggests that

compliance with the law is best secured not by mere threat offorce, but by

fostering beliefs in the fairness of the legal systems and in the legitimacy of

legal actors. To date, however, this research has been based on general

population surveys and more banal types of law-violating behavior (such as

unpaid parking tickets, excessive noise, etc.). Thus, while we know why the

average citizen obeys the law, we do not have similar knowledge about

populations most likely to commit serious violent crimes. This study fills

that void by using a unique survey of active offenders called the Chicago

Gun Project (CGP). The CGP was designed to understand how the social

networks of offenders influence their perceptions of the law and subsequent

law-violating behavior. The findings suggest that while criminals as a

whole have negative opinions of the law and legal authority, these offenders

are more likely to comply with the law when they believe in (a) the

substance of the law, and (b) the legitimacy of legal actors, especially the

police. Moreover, we find that opinions of compliance with the law are not

unformly distributed across the sample population. In other words, not all

criminals are alike in their opinions of the law. Gang members-but

especially gang members with social networks saturated with criminal

associates-are significantly less likely to view the law and its agents as

legitimate forms of authority. In contrast, those individuals (including gang

members) with less saturated networks actually tend to have more positive

opinions of the law.

Why Do Criminals Obey the Law? The Influence of Legitimacy and Social Networks on Active Gun Offenders (with Andrew V. Papachristos & Jeffrey Fagan), 102 Journal of Criminal Law & Criminology 397 (2012)

Date of Authorship for this Version

2012

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