The Verdict Is In: The Impact of Crime on Public Trust in Central American Justice Systems

Mary Fran T. Malone


Over the past two decades, the countries of Central America have confronted soaring crime rates. Justice systems of dubious quality provide thin shields against this crime crisis, despite substantial international and domestic investment in justice reform. Indeed, there is growing concern that crime will undermine justice reform efforts. Scholars and practitioners have pointed out that public frustration with crime, coupled with dissatisfaction with justice institutions, can lead citizens to reject reform efforts. Still, the micro-level relationships between crime and public support of the justice system have been understudied. Using public opinion data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), this study aims to add to the literature by examining the effects of victimization and fear of crime on public trust in the justice system. The results indicate that crime can erode public support for the justice system, but the mechanics of this relationship vary according to national context.

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