Perceived Procedural Justice Enhances Correctional Officers’ Organizational Citizenship Behavior: Correlational and Causal Evidence From Israel

AuthorOrit Appel,Noa Nelson
Date01 February 2022
Published date01 February 2022
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2022, Vol. 49, No. 2, February 2022, 164 –180.
Article reuse guidelines:
© 2021 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
Correlational and Causal Evidence From Israel
The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa
Israel Prison Service
Procedural justice refers to unbiased, caring, respectful, and participative treatment by decision makers. It positively associ-
ates with employees’ citizenship behavior, an expression of motivation and commitment that consists of voluntary helpful
acts toward the organization or fellow employees. In view of scarce research on these variables in correctional facilities, we
conducted two studies among Israeli correctional officers. In a survey (N = 336), procedural justice by the commander
moderately associated with organization- and individual-targeted citizenship behavior. In addition, commander procedural
justice predicted perceiving organization procedural justice, which in turn strongly associated with organization-targeted
citizenship. In an experiment (N = 311), commander procedural justice enhanced organization- but not individual-targeted
citizenship behavior. These studies provide new statistical and causal evidence for procedural justice effects on correctional
officers, which can inform prison administrations’ practices. They also generalize justice effects to the Israeli prison culture
and provide knowledge on Israeli officers, hitherto notably understudied.
Keywords: procedural justice; organizational citizenship behavior; correctional officers; security organizations; social
exchange theory
Correctional officers are frontline employees who are responsible for the containment,
compliance, and welfare of incarcerated persons. They affect lives and their work is
difficult and potentially dangerous. It requires constant alertness, problem-solving, and
relational skills, and for the most part, their work is independent (Crewe et al., 2011, 2015;
Crichton & Ricciardelli, 2016; Liebling, 2000, 2008). For these reasons, officers’ intrinsic
motivation to perform conscientiously and contribute on the job is important.
AUTHORS’ NOTE: Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Noa Nelson, School of
Management and Economics, The Academic College of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Rabenu Yeruham St. 2, Tel Aviv-Jaffa,
6818211 Israel; e-mail:
1043557CJBXXX10.1177/00938548211043557Criminal Justice and BehaviorNelson, Appel / Justice and Citizenship in Prisons
While considerable research documented factors that reduce correctional officers’ moti-
vation, such as job stress and burnout (Carleton et al., 2020; Keinan & Malach-Pines, 2007;
Suliman & Einat, 2018), there is a need to explore positive variables that foster officers’
contributions on the job, more so because correctional officers are the least studied criminal
justice professionals and because existing research has focused on a limited set of variables
(see Butler et al., 2019). With this goal in mind, the present studies were among the first and
only studies, so far, that tested the effects of procedural justice on organizational citizenship
behavior among correctional officers (see Lambert & Hogan, 2013).
Procedural justice broadly refers to the fairness of decision-making processes. It encom-
passes the perceptions that decision makers are objective, trustworthy (caring), respectful in
their communications, and invite participation (Tyler & Lind, 1992). Organizational citi-
zenship behavior refers to voluntary acts that employees perform above and beyond formal
and compensated obligations, either to help other individuals at work or to contribute to the
organization. It is considered a strong mark of motivation (e.g., Ilies et al., 2007; Shin et al.,
In a cross-sectional study (Study 1) and an experiment (Study 2) among Israeli correc-
tional officers, we differentiated sources of procedural justice (commander vs. organiza-
tion) and targets of citizenship behavior (fellow officers vs. the organization; Colquitt et al.,
2013). Our findings provided initial answers to the following questions. First, do officers
respond differently to procedural justice in their commander’s behavior, compared with
procedural justice by the organization at large? Second, does procedural justice relate to
citizenship toward fellow officers, as well as toward the organization? Third, does proce-
dural justice causally affect citizenship behavior? Finally, can the effects of procedural jus-
tice be generalized to the Israeli culture, particularly the culture of its prison service?
The answers to these questions have more than theoretical value. Correctional facilities
need data to inform their policies and organizational development programs (Butler et al.,
2019). Our findings could encourage prison administrators to implement procedural justice
in decision processes, organizational communication, and commanders’ training (Lambert
& Hogan, 2013; Van Craen, 2016). In the next sections, we review literature on procedural
justice and citizenship behavior in organizations, and establish the relevance of these vari-
ables to correctional officers. Finally, we describe the Israel Prison Service (IPS) and
address the generalizability of justice effects.
Perceived organizational justice refers to perceptions of fairness in decision-making.
Distributive justice refers to the fairness of decision outcomes. Other forms of justice refer
to the decision process. Interactional justice includes interpersonal and informational facets.
The former reflects honest and adequate explanations for decisions, and the latter denotes
respectful communication by decision makers. Procedural justice has different definitions.
Some of them emphasize decision makers being consistent, unbiased, and open to input.
Other definitions add the experience of caring and respectful treatment (Colquitt et al.,
2013; Konovsky, 2000).
Tyler and Lind (1992) proposed the relational model of procedural justice, comprising
four perceptions: (a) neutrality—decision makers are unbiased and un-whimsical, they

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