That sounds great and certainly deserves the tick of approval from those who believe all people are equal. But does it deserve that tick of approval? Should justice remain blindfolded? Or does the word ‘justice’ demand that the blindfold be removed so the courts can become part of a justice system rather than a legal system? Treating everyone who comes before the court as equal can only be justified if the rest of society is equal. Treating everyone in an unequal society as if they are equal is an injustice and deepens the problems caused by inequality.
To a very rich person, a $300 fine can be paid out of petty cash but, to a poor homeless person, it could mean losing everything, even life. Treating black and white as if they come from an equal society, free of racism, is being blind to reality. A person who swindles millions of dollars from thousands of small investors may be sentenced to jail for a few years and come out to start a new venture to swindle more people. And in each case leave a trail of devastated victims.
The legal system could change to a justice system simply by changing what it is based on. Instead of being a system imposing punishments for crimes against the state, it could become a restorative system treating crime as being against people, and be centred on the effect the crime had on the victim. Consequences, not punishment, could be centred on reimbursing or compensating victims and on whatever is lacking in the community that may have played a part in causing the person to offend.
Some courts have tentatively played with what is called ‘restorative justice’, and some schools have adopted a version called ‘restorative practices’ but these are too often tainted by the influence of our culture’s reliance on punishment as the ‘natural’ response to wrongdoing. It seems that we need a much broader approach that can become the mainstream response to matters of justice. There are many options that I refer to under the title of ‘taking restorative action’.
In short, the blindfold should be removed from justice so the courts can be used to identify shortcomings in the social system and set an example for responding to wrongdoing.
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.