Blog My random thoughts

January 13, 2011

What we consider Justice

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 3:22 PM

I know there are particularly ludicrous examples of miscarriages of justice (I mean, there are entire awesome websites devoted to idiocy in the law – http://loweringthebar.net/) but it seems as if the law and justice are no longer even marginally coupled. It’s almost as bad as a forex market. Of course this thought started as a weird hypothetical I stumbled upon (if polygamy is a strict liability crime and mistakes of law are not typically forgiven and divorces happen at an astounding rate, doesn’t that make it extremely likely that there are many people out there probably guilty of polygamy right now?). But it’s more than that. I just read this post –  http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2011/01/adult-prison-sentence-of-25-years-for-12-year-old-killer-in-indiana.html . I understand rationals regarding the need for retribution for the families of the victims and punishment to deter future crimes and the societal need to lock up dangerous people (I don’t understand the reform aspect of incarceration, but that’s another idea), but I really cannot understand the point of sending a twelve year old to prison for twenty-five years (sorry for spelling those out, old law journal editor habit). Again, it’s not simply this or pot sentencing or the Defendant sentenced to an additional six months in jail for dropping an F bomb (http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/2010/12/f-word-in-court-equals-six-month-prison-term.html). No my problem is in this decoupling. Or, to put it another way, the loss of the spirit of justice in the fabric of the law.

The engineer in me is not content to simply identify a problem and leave it at that, so I want to present some ideas for fixing this decoupling. My first conclusion is that we need to get rid of some laws. The criminal justice code is simply too expansive. It is a system without a single basis, instead it is a framework of frameworks. It reminds me of a database of a database, one that is corrupted. I don’t mean corrupt in the moral sense, but in the internally inconsistent sense. This child who killed is being pulled in so many different directions – juvenile court is for rehabilitation, the prosecution is seeking to try him as an adult for retribution, and the defense will no doubt rest on the theory that he is not dangerous to society so there is no purpose to locking him up. Each one of these theories of justice can be consistent if isolated but together they really make a mockery of the idea of justice. We as a society need to pick a type of justice. It could be a different type of justice for different crimes I suppose, but hopefully we can pick one and stick with it.

1 Comment

  1. Came across another article (weirdly from Maximum PC online) suggesting the ridiculousness of justice juxtaposed next to exaggerated moral outrage. http://www.maximumpc.com/article/news/michigan_man_could_receive_20_year_sentence_fake_youtube_video
    Rape, second degree murder, grand theft, these all usually have maximum sentences well below 20 years. There isn’t even proof that any child saw the youtube video. Where is the harm necessary to charge? I don’t even think a tort claim could arise from this video – and if that’s the case, how can a criminal charge stem? I guess this is the type of thing that makes up my moral outrage. What a waste of resources too.

    Comment by Jef — February 16, 2011 @ 11:05 AM

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