Over the years my vision of justice has changed. I once saw the justice system as the parent whose sole job was to protect the population from itself. Justice was there to make people think twice about their action, and suitable punishment was the deterrent. Justice was meant to serve the victim and help with healing and to make an example of the bad guy.
I was wrong.
I am not saying that it the justice system’s fault for my misguided vision, I own that. I was wrong because once upon a time, I was too willing to give up my power to it.
While I am not proud to say it, my family is riddled with sexual abuse. What I am proud of though, are the people who are doing something to end the cycle. Victims within my family are coming forward, they are speaking out and finally, it is no longer accepted. We are slowly beginning to heal from decades of abuse. My aunt was just recently sentenced to 38 months for making and distributing child pornography (read all about it here). While many will argue that 38 months is not enough, I am just content that a victim came forward and followed through. We often say that sentences for sexual predators are not enough, sure, I can agree with that. But in the United States, the death penalty is there to keep people from killing each other, and well, murder is still going on, guns are still being fired.
Sentences are not deterrents to crime, resolving pain is.
Punishment should never be a part of the healing process. Retribution is often the reason why the crime happened in the first place. Those who hurt, have been hurt themselves. That unresolved pain in the past has manifested itself to be passed on to the next person. By expecting our justice system to punish those who we have been wronged by, is merely an attempt at passing our pain back onto the bad guy. It doesn’t work, it never does. While in the short term it may feel right, in the long run, however, the power to heal rests solely on our shoulders.
The justice system is not here to help us with our pain, and it never will be. It is only here to make the best guess at who is telling the truth and who is not, and then giving out its determination of a suitable punishment if applicable; which in most cases is never enough. The justice system is a congregation of humans trying to determine what is right, and the more humans that are involved, the more chances are that it will be wrong. Humans are not perfect, so expecting the justice system to be perfect is ludicrous.
When you feel enraged at our justice system, reflect on why you are angry. There is often unresolved pain that you have suppressed that you were expecting to have eased by a result that you have absolutely no control over. If you have been wronged by someone, by all means, if warranted, tell the authorities, but let it go. Healing from emotional pain can only be done by you, never give up that power. No judge, no lawyer and no jail sentence will ever empower you to heal. Expecting these same conditions to change the “bad guy” is just as frivolous.
So, what is justice?
To me, justice is an ideal to serve punishment to those who have done wrong. Justice is an ideal to live a righteous life. Justice has nothing to do with changing what was wrong with something that is right. Justice does not deny us any more than it empowers us. Your right to heal belongs to you, and your reason for revenge also belongs to you, but revenge is an ego-centric tool of giving up your power to those who have wronged you. Guard your power with all of your might, let go of the blame, let go of the control that the “bad guy” has over you.
Justice is not the “bad guy,” your pain is.