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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Saving Civilization: Restorative Justice

Modern society is collapsing as it is criminalizing everything.  The justice system is overwhelmed with people who are accused of breaking laws that getting a speedy trial, despite being a right, is now a mathematical impossibility.  An argument could be made that too many laws is a violation of the Constitution as it hampers the right to a speedy trial.

The reason behind this is because our culture has lost sense of what real justice is.  To us, justice is about punishing lawbreakers by locking them up in prison or a mental ward or, in rare cases, putting people to death.  To us, justice can only be served through the judicial process.

But what if true justice had nothing to do with the government?  What if a society that recognizes true justice as being about restitution rather than simply punishment?

True justice is about restitution being made for an infringement on another person’s life or property.  By property, I mean something physical that someone owns.  Ideas are not property.  Claiming ownership of an idea does not mean you get to keep it from another person.  But that is another topic.

So what does restitution look like?  As an example, let me share you something from my own life.  Back when I was in college, I would work golf course maintenance in the summer to earn some money.  One day, my boss told me to clean the bathrooms at the shack.  I didn’t do it at the time.  In effect, I had stolen from the company I worked for by not doing what I was being paid to do.  The next day, I was of course given a very nasty “talking” to.

So what did I do?  I simply clocked out and proceeded to clean the bathroom on my own time.  This was because I owed them that labor.  In effect, I was providing restitution for a wrong I had committed as a matter of justice.  My boss had not told me to clock out.  Indeed, I don’t think he could legally tell me to both clock out and clean the bathroom as that might violate the thirteenth amendment (you know the slavery one).  But I believed that I owed my own time and labor to the company I worked for because I had stolen it from them the previous day.

This is not bragging on my part.  This is simply a story to illustrate what real justice is about.  Was I punished?  In a sense I was.  But that punishment was merely a side-effect of the true purpose of what I was doing.

When Moses laid out the law for the Israelites, a key feature of this law was that justice was restorative and that human life was sacred.  You always repaid your fellow man for damage that you caused in some way and you were always held liable for a person’s death, regardless of whether or not it was an accident.  The restitution for lost property was usually payment.  The restitution for rape was usually death or forced marriage without hope of divorce along with a dowry payment to the parents of the rape victim.  A murderer had to flee to a sanctuary city or face death at the hands of his victim’s relative and may face death if two or three credible witnesses confirmed the murder was intentional for there was no word for manslaughter among the ancient Hebrews.

It wasn’t a perfect system.  It had if flaws but a key feature of justice was about restitution rather than simply punishment.  The modern world has no sense of justice, I would argue, only punishing people who commit crimes as defined by the State.

And there are numerous laws to break.  Some have said that everyone commits at least three felonies everyday.  Should we all be locked up in prison then?

Prison has become it’s own industry these days.  In the old days, it was merely a holding place for you while they handled your case.  Gradually, it became the new way of “restitution”.  But tell, how is locking up someone for snorting cocaine restorative justice?  Provided that person has not damaged another person’s property or killed anyone, nothing is being restored in this case.  We are merely destroying his or her life because we simply did not like them engaging in their vice.

I remember what Tom Woods, Jr. said about locking people up for marijuana.  He basically said that we are condemning a pot smoker to be raped simply because we don’t like them smoking pot.  That is what happens in prisons these days.  People are murdered.  People are raped, either by other prisoners or by guards themselves.  Gang activity is a necessity in order to survive in some cases.  And let’s not forget that most prisons still are able to get drugs inside, in many cases the very crimes that most people are in there for in the first place.

The natural reaction to this is to desire stricter prisons.  And while that is a solution, maybe the solution is that most people shouldn’t be going to prison in the first place.  If most crimes focused on property rights violations, then the laws would be changed to reflect restitution rather than imprisonment.  If a thief gets caught, he must repay all the people he has stolen from along with a little extra for their troubles.

But then how do we deal with the loss of human life?  The problem is that human life is not something you can simply place a price on.  It is one of the few sacred things in this world, despite how regularly it is discarded in the civilized and uncivilized world alike.

From my view, if a person is murdered, that is intentionally killed, then the perpetrator or perpetrators need to be put to death.  However, if a person is accidentally killed and a person is found to be liable, then he or she needs to make restitution to the relatives in some way.  This might entail providing for a widow who has lost her primary means of support as an example.  It is hard to say really.

Our current system of justice, however, seems to reflect something else entirely though: it is a system that punishes people for things that most people don’t like.  It has absolutely nothing to do with morality or justice for that matter, but simply whatever the majority of people don’t like.

What needs to happen in order to fix this is for our culture to shift away from seeing justice as a means to do away with trivial behaviors we don’t like and to focus instead on restitution for real crimes.  This is not something that can be done through government as government profits from two things: war and crime.  No, it will take more than just a simple law or politician to change things.  It takes a huge shift in attitude, something which I don’t think many people are willing to push.

But true justice in this world is about restitution and holding human life sacred.  Ask yourself, does the system I live under reflect that or pervert it for it’s own purposes?