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Maximum Justice

February 28, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments

What purpose does our criminal justice system serve? Is it a simple chore of “eye for an eye”. Or, do we use it to prevent crime by removing ne’er-do-wells from society? Then again we use it also to compensate victims- awarding dollar amounts even in crimes where money was not a direct factor. We place value to broken bones, to damaged reputations and even insulting speech.

William Geldhart defines our system as serving two distinct purposes: punishment and retribution. We use it to both remove criminals from society and award compensation for those who’ve been harmed. Two roles with very different ends.

At what point does a criminal’s conviction in criminal court become “not enough”? Indeed, as the severity of a crime increase so to do the demands of the victim. We often simplify things with phrases like an eye for an eye” to justify a tit-for-tat system. This is difficult though in cases of less severity or increasing complexity. No crime is as simple to warrant the tit-for-tat response. We need to consider the criminal’s state, intent and wealth of other factors in rendering a decision about punishment. The great hazard is committing a crime in seeking to punish crime.

When challenged with the task of punishing a criminal, we face a great challenge in meeting the demands of the victims and the rights of the convicted. No matter the horror of a crime a criminal does maintain some rights. Discarding these risks disposing our own respectability and ethical high ground. If one is to nominate themselves as judge of behavior and provider of punishment a clear understanding of ethics and morality must prevail. Punish too much and we dispose of our value but fail to provide victims with a reasonable right to compensation and we negate our purpose.

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