As the years pass, I am always fascinated with the word justice. This word tends to take shape and form with situational attitudes of those who are affected. For instance, one may give a very generic definition of justice if they have never been a crime victim. If they do become a victim, justice becomes more personal; the rules, terms, and conditions change. Does justice have a direct correlation with our basic needs as a human? Let us take a look…
Concept of justice
According to most contemporary theories of justice, justice is overwhelmingly important: John Rawls claims that “Justice is the first virtue of social institutions, as truth is of systems of thought.”Justice can be thought of as distinct from and more fundamental than benevolence, charity, mercy, generosity, or compassion. Justice has traditionally been associated with concepts of fate, reincarnation or Divine Providence, i.e. with a life in accordance with the cosmic plan. The association of justice with fairness has thus been historically and culturally rare and is perhaps chiefly a modern innovation [in western societies].
Studies at UCLA in 2008 have indicated that reactions to fairness are “wired” into the brain and that, “Fairness is activating the same part of the brain that responds to food in rats… This is consistent with the notion that being treated fairly satisfies a basic need”. Research conducted in 2003 at Emory University, involving Capuchin Monkeys demonstrated that other cooperative animals also possess such a sense and that “inequity aversion may not be uniquely human” indicating that ideas of fairness and justice may be instinctual in nature.
Variations of justice
Utilitarianism is a form of consequentialism, where punishment is forward-looking. Justified by the ability to achieve future social benefits resulting in crime reduction, the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome.
Retributive justice regulates proportionate response to crime proven by lawful evidence, so that punishment is justly imposed and considered as morally correct and fully deserved. The law of retaliation (lex talionis) is a military theory of retributive justice, which says that reciprocity should be equal to the wrong suffered; “life for life, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.”
Restorative justice is concerned not so much with retribution and punishment as with (a) making the victim whole and (b) reintegrating the offender into society. This approach frequently brings an offender and a victim together, so that the offender can better understand the effect his/her offense had on the victim.
Distributive justice is directed at the proper allocation of things — wealth, power, reward, respect — among different people.
Thought provoking– but it helps me understand why people differ in their understanding of justice. And afterall, part of understanding justice to a degree is knowing what it means to an individual, a court, or a victim who no longer has a voice.
About the Author- Cameron Knauerhaze is the former CSI Board President and current member of the CSI Council. He is a Orange County, CA Police Sergeant with 16 years experience in patrol, investigations, and community policing. He has a Master’s Degree in Communications from Gonzaga University and a Bachelor’s Degree in Emergency Management from Cal State University Long Beach.