Recent work on legitimacy within criminal justice systems have drawn attention to self-legitimacy; that is, criminal justice professionals’ own recognition of their entitlement to power. The evidence on this aspect of legitimacy remains sparse and mainly from police studies. We know almost nothing about the self-legitimacy of prison officers. This paper contributes to filling this gap, with an empirical focus on prison officers in Slovenia. Specifically, it explores the correlates of officer self-legitimacy and the implications of self-legitimacy for commitments to the rights of prisoners and to the organisation. Results from multiple regression analyses show that quality of interpersonal relationships among officers, perceived audience legitimacy (that is, officers’ sense of their moral standing among prisoners), and distributive justice predicted self-legitimacy. Self-legitimacy was associated with increased commitment to fair treatment of prisoners but it was irrelevant to organisational commitment. The implications of these findings are discussed.
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