Justice Restored?

Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Last night, Georgia death-row inmate Troy Davis exhausted all appeals for clemency. At 11:08pm EST he was put to death for the 1989 murder of off-duty police officer Mark MacPhail.

Troy Davis

While CNN switched between the jail where Davis supporters congregated and live interviews with the victim’s mother, Anneliese MacPhail, legal pundits commented on the convoluted Davis case which polarized people into two camps, those desperate to save a life versus those determined to see it ended. At the heart of both arguments was the idea of justice; or, “a scheme or system of law in which every person receives his/her/its due from the system, including all rights, both natural and legal”.

Is the death penalty just? Does it protect society? An overwhelming majority of the country’s top academic criminology experts reject the idea that there is “any deterrent effect from the death penalty.”

Perhaps Davis’ case will highlight the need for restorative justice. Restorative justice differs from our current system in that it views a criminal act more holistically; instead of defining crime as “breaking the law”, it recognizes that offenders harm victims, communities and even themselves. It recognizes that the criminal justice system is not effective in reducing crime; rather than rehabilitating or deterring criminals, prisons make offenders less likely to reintegrate successfully into society. Studies show a majority of felons released were rearrested within 3 years. Importantly, restorative justice acknowledges victims’ dissatisfaction with their treatment by the criminal justice system.

Looking at “justice” not by how much punishment is inflicted but by how much harm is repaired or prevented means we try to get a head of the problem rather than constantly react to it.

What do you think? Is it time for a change? Is our current system of justice working for us?

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2 responses to “Justice Restored?

  1. I really like the idea of criminals being made to do something good for their community, but there needs to be some limits. For many non-violent crimes, work gangs that help keep taxes down by working maintenance jobs and stuff like that help out a community and let the criminal contribute something good.

    Violent criminals though are a different breed altogether. I don’t want a child molester cutting the field at Little League. I don’t want a rapist passing out meals at the women’s shelter. Violent crime implies zero respect from humanity. What lifts us above animalism is respect for life. These people have zero respect for life. What puts Government in the position to be able to take life in this regard is that Government is not human. It is a corporation. It has little respect for human life either. The Law is not human, it, like other human ideals is above humanity. Otherwise, Law, Justice, Beauty, Love–none of those things have any weight if they are not on a plane above human existence for us to strive for. Although Restorative Justice is a constructive and cost effective solution for petty crimes and non-violent offenders, violent offenders must be treated differently.

    I had heard of projects like these before, but I had never known of them as Restorative Justice. Thanks for the vocab term, If you don’t mind, I’ll link to you on my front page.

    • Andrew, first, thx for reading! Second, I agree that many violent offenders have no respect for life. Some may be beyond the reach of the benefits that RJ offers. But in my work with those just recently released from prison, I’ve found many started criminal activity at a young age. RJ seems like a good intervention for juveniles. Thoughts?
      Be well!

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