Why Criminal Justice Isn’t Just

“Justice” is something of a buzz word in the Core: what it means, how it should be administered, and what constitutes a crime are just a few of the topics that are addressed by writers like Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, and Dante. For the most part, these great thinkers propose systems wherein criminals are punished retroactively for their wrongdoings. This model works under the assumption that criminals operate under free will and are not affected by factors like poverty and mental illness.

Adam Benforado proposes in the August 7th edition ofThe Chronicle Reviewthat the reality is not so straightforward. Many criminals are actually suffering under various circumstances that are aggravated by their being taken to jail. What we should do instead, he suggests, is take a public-health approach to criminal justice that helps prisoners to recover and assimilate back into society rather than take revenge upon them. Benforado writes:

… [A] public health model of crime allows us to shift resources from punishment to prevention. A reactive criminal-justice system, like the one we have now, is doomed to always come up short. There is no execution that can compensate for a victim’s murder. There is no appeal process that can restore the lost years of a wrongful conviction. In the future, our major tools for fighting crime will not be police officers, trials, and incarceration, but better prenatal intervention, improved schools, and widely available mental health care.

This article provides some interesting food for thought for summer readers who can’t get Core ideas out of their head; in fact, this entire issue of The Chronicle Review will challenge your conceptions of justice both in theory and in practice. Be sure to stop by the Core office and give it a read!

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