the paradox of justice: A (not so theological) thought on criminal justice

Friday night my car window was shattered and my briefcase stolen. The theif(s) got away will all my books for the coming semester and others I was using for supplemental research! This was the occasion for me thinking about criminal justice and vigilantism when this paradox emerged.

Nothing is more just than personal retribution…

Nothing is more prone to injustice than personal retribution…

In theory, a victim punishing a perpetrator is the ideal picture of criminal justice. In practice, rarely do victims possess the self-control to not exceed the crime perpetrated on them.

Is not a police officer in the final moral analysis just a third party acting aggressively toward an aggressor on behalf of the victim? Morally, the only reason to not eliminate the middleman is the proclivity of victims to be overly harsh in their own exaction of justice… Should the self-controlled rule as judges, juries, and executioners, in their own case? Or are we ready to completely give up on the idea of objectivity? I only say that because that seems to be the implication made by the objection, “no, they shouldn’t because self-controlled as they may be, their judgement is inherently flawed because they are not objective.”

I for one am not ready to completely give up on the idea of objectivity… I do think the self-controlled should act as judges, juries and executioners in their own cases– I just know that’s not me!