Notions of justice, retribution, remorse, healing, forgiveness, and parallel states of being are inherently subjective. To look at the arbitrariness of justice, for example, consider how different democracy in New York, New York, looked to the immigrant and the millionaire in 1900.
I want to make a few brief comments about our legal system in the United States. I have previously addressed these issues here and especially here with a focus on sociological factors.
We have arbitrarily established a system that believes the victim(s) deserve “compensation” into perpetuity. Sometimes the victim is the government, sometimes a mother or aunt, and frequently there is no tangible victim.
Our legal system is built on notions of “justice,” where “justice” means a murderer or drug dealer/user serving decades.
Further, “justice” as practiced implies that others heal and recover and that society gets better with said person imprisoned because he/she did said bad thing and deserves to be locked up and isolated from society. (Not to mention people living in jails or prisons frequently face isolation or “segregation” as it is called.)
Society says that the Woods family has received justice: Johnson Smitheart was punished with 35 years.
Society says Ashely Gornivich has shown remorse and is healed after being in prison 50 years.
But all of this is a socially constructed system. Things could be different and are different in different places around the world.
Tonight I was imagining a system where we considered “justice” to have been served say if someone lives in a true rehabilitation facility–that provides education and healthy food, culture, and social activities–for no more than a few years (depending on the crime), is provided a reasonable, everyday job, and then finishes her/his term by working hard, keeping the job, and contributing to society.
Wouldn’t something like that be a better way to promote justice, true justice–for every one.
Such a recasting of justice is especially important when we consider psychological and sociological factors, that many people make tragic mistakes when they are high or drunk, many “crimes” are not crimes universally and have no victim, and that the news is full of headlines everyday lately with people being released after 20-50 years in prison because it was finally discovered they were telling the truth when they said, “I didn’t do it.”
Too often, as in short fiction like “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas,” our society rests its ability to function and thrive on the endless, abusive suffering of others, all in the name of “justice” and “happiness.”