It might be easier to define what justice is by relating what it is not. Seeing someone badly mistreat another human being or animal or a feature of nature usually evokes an emotional response in the witness. Call this response to injustice empathy. Then, if the witness cares to correct the situation, to stop or reverse the mistreatment, that is justice, I think. It’s an attempt to correct the hurt, and I think it is one of the most difficult tasks any one of us faces… to make the wrong right.
Our judicial system is so bulky, top heavy, slow, and inherently in favor of the wealthy that I don’t know how we can hold any faith in it. The blind lady with the scales is supposed to weigh out evidence and then render an unbiased judgment. But what sort of weighing is involved in a plea agreement reached while an under-represented scared guy sits in jail, threatened that he’ll never see his kids again if he does not sign off on a “deal” that gets him out of jail briefly only to guarantee him more time in prison? The court appointed attorney from Legal Services has no investment in the case. He gets paid minimally and gets community service points for under representing the guy without resources. The prosecutor gets a sure fire conviction with minimal effort. Probation gets another customer to squeeze like an illegal alien. The judge reduces court room traffic and has one easy case for a change. It’s win-win-win-win-lose operation but not to be confused with justice. This is not a hypothetical; instead it’s a story of a friend of mine.
On top of this above referenced juris prudence slam dunk, the convicted dad lost visitation to his children, even though he was sentenced to probation and no hard jail time. At no time in the proceedings was the charged guy proven to be an unfit father, yet his parental rights were taken. Why? No money for a lawyer because he had to work to pay off probation, court costs, fines, child support, etc. Who will hire a convicted felon? No one. How can he get out of this hole he dug for himself? Only by the grace of God and the intervention of folks who believe in… well, justice.
The person I generally reference above was convicted of a cyber sex crime. He admitted to that, responding to the lure of a police officer pretending to be a teenaged girl who wanted sex. He did not stop the conversation dead in its tracks, where it should have ended. I have not seen the text. I don’t believe it is still available for future viewing, which creates a second question of justice at the appeal level or for later expunging. However, the punishment handed down was of equivalent weight as the three dimensional, corporal crime of sex with a living, breathing minor. Not only that, as if that is not enough, this man was placed on the Sex Offenders’ Registry (not the Cyber Sex Offenders’ Registry) and remains there to this day. There is no footnote that explains the details of his case. A viewer of the website can only conclude that this guy is a hardcore ten year offender, guilty of unimaginable crimes against a flesh and blood girl. And to top it all off, our WonderGuy Governor Tom Corbett, who has unnatural relationships with fracking companies in Pennsylvania, just managed to upgrade ten year offenders to 15 year offenders. How’s that for justice? Usually there is something known as grandfathering where you play by the rules that were in place when you were convicted. Hey, who cares? These are sex offenders after all, right? Scum of the earth. Give them another 50% punishment. Hell, he agreed he was guilty back at the start with the plea deal. Wow, how can I get such a blind deal, where I sign on for x years of a sentence, only to have the sentence increase by 50%? Would you like a mortgage where you have 5 years paid off on a ten year loan and the bank says, “By the way, you need to keep paying another ten years because we said so” ? I didn’t think so.
Injustice sneaks into the conversation when folks react rather than thoughtfully respond to hurts, whether these are real or perceived. Injustice sneaks in when we consider the otherness of the criminal, if he is even a criminal to begin with. The higher the fear, the greater the controls we put in place to protect ourselves. But along the way, while we install new metal detectors and security systems, it seems that something like proportionality gets lost. Why are little kids forced through metal detectors? Why are dark skinned folks more likely to be searched? Why is it so hard to tax a fracking company and make them comply with the law and so easy to add another layer of punishment to a sex offender? Oh yeah, the money thing. Sex offenders have no lobbyists and no money. And they cannot vote. Hmmmm. Justice… If you have to take it from someone else in order to have it for yourself, that’s not justice.