We all believe in justice, right?
I'm sure we do.
We all agree what it is, right?
Uh huh, sure. About as much as we agree what is Art.
I remember from many years ago (old man talkin here) a PBS TV show on justice, which analyzed it into three parts:
I think that was an excellent analysis - excellent enough to do my own takes on all three.
I see this as what most of us mean by justice most of the time: payback, settling accounts, getting even. The satisfaction of a primitive instinct. Does it make things better? I suppose it usually makes the punisher feel better, and it certainly makes the offender feel a LOT worse.
Does it undo the damage? ... Does it even contribute to repairing the damage? I fail to see how it does. It's the satisfaction of a primitive instinct, and I suppose as long as we have that primitive instinct, there will be an emotional need for retribution. I pray that we will outgrow it soon. Not in my lifetime I'm sure, or even in my kids' lifetime; if we can outgrow it in the next thousand years, we'll be doing GREAT.
The idea is to Teach the Offender a Lesson - to get the offender to refrain from offending in the future.
I can't be totally cynical about this - I know that some of my parents' discipline WORKED. But I see ex-cons coming out of the prison system, where they were supposedly Taught a Lesson - and from the blessedly little I know about prisons, they were taught a LOT of lessons, most of them ugly. And it would seem to be a miracle if out of all that crap, they learned the one lesson the system intended
them to learn. It would appear that most of them don't.
So the "Rehabilitation" concept seems to work better on a smaller scale, like getting your kids to refrain from doing bad stuff. (Well, some kids, anyway.) Getting adults to refrain from doing bad stuff appears to be MUCH harder at best, and not always possible at all.
"Look what happened to people who did that." I'm probably both less idealistic and less cynical about this than about the other two. It seems to me that deterrence works pretty well, IF it is enforced effectively. "Look what might possibly happen to you if you're dumb enough to get caught" is a much less effective deterrent than "look what WILL happen to you if you do this."
Deterrence makes no attempt to undo or repair the damage; it simply tries to prevent the damage from being done again.
So I will introduce a fourth part of justice - the part that matters to me:
4. Repairing the damage.
Once in a great while the damage can be undone - hey wow! Then undo it! More often there's no going back; but the consequence - penalty or whatever - can be constructive
. Community service - people assigned to it pretty much always hate it, but at least they are doing GOOD instead of harm.
So that's one man's take on justice.
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