Retribution, Deterrence, Incapacitation, Rehabilitation. According to the Street Law class I took in my Senior Year in high school, these are the four traditional aims of justice in American and presumably other cultures. (Don’t ask me what “Street Law” means. We were all required to take it, and near as I can tell, it is “street” insofar as it was all-encompassing, and so prepared us for life in general:confused:.) Let’s look at these in reverse order. Rehabilitation. This is the most recent addition to the list. And if you are a liberal like me, it is the most important. But surely even if you are not a liberal, you would have to agree it is the one with the best pay back for society (when successful of course). Incapacitation. Again, I think few would argue with this one. It is often all that is left too, when rehabilitation fails, I’m sure you’d agree. Deterence. I’m sure most people would agree with me that if not overdone this one is important too. It is also, in my opinion, where we get the idea of accountability in our system of justice. You do the crime, you have to do the time, as they say.
Now the only thing that leaves is Retribution. And to that I ask Why? Why is retribution the proper aim of society? Someone punches you in the nose, so instead of getting even by punching them back, you send them to jail. Do we really need government to do that–help us settle our personal scores? Aren’t the other 3 things enough by themselves to ensure safety and order in our society?
A couple of notes. I am talking about our system of justice. I am not talking about individual personal views or even religious views, though those do sound like good GD subjects by themselvs. And I am not talking about the practical implications of things like accountability, etc. for crime (remember I already covered that above). This is a purely moral question. And please feel free to give me your views. I am very interested to hear how others feel about this subject matter.