More weird justice

From the IAmAnAtheist.com comment form:

In a post you said ‘If God allows one to pay for one’s sins by allowing someone else to suffer punishment, that — to me — is a weird kind of justice.’ But this makes perfect just sense!

If you committed a crime and your father offered to go to prison instead of you having to go to prison and the court said it was OK, wouldn’t you accept? Yes! The debt to society would be paid and you would be free because of the love of your father. This is Jesus’s gift to mankind!

Sorry, that still doesn’t seem like justice to me. Justice isn’t a zero-sum bookkeeping system in which sins are debts and punishment is currency, and all is well so long as the books balance. If it were, then a rich man could justly hire a poor man to server jail time for him, and a person who was wrongly imprisoned would be building up “credit” toward a future crime that she could commit “free of charge” when she was released.

I agree that it would be very loving for my father to offer to serve my sentence for me, but even if it was — for some crazy reason — legal, it would be immoral for me to accept the offer and let my father suffer for my wrongdoing.

Posted on February 16, 2011 at 7:50 am by ideclare · Permalink
In: Morality

2 Responses

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  1. Written by ff42
    on February 17, 2011 at 11:13 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Ought we to define and separate the concepts of ‘justice’, ‘punishment’ and ‘restitution’?

    IMO ‘restitution’ is (as much as possible) a zero-sum game. A victim (or his heirs) ought to be made as whole as possible. From a victim’s viewpoint isn’t ‘justice’ served when he is restored? Does it really matter from whom (as long as the whom is willing?)

  2. Written by Tom_M
    on July 30, 2011 at 1:00 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    ff42,

    An eye-for-an-eye, hunh?

    What exactly does ‘restitution’ mean? According to Merriam-Webster:
    (1) the act of restoring, or a condition of being restored
    ….(a) a restoration of something to its rightful owner
    ….(b) a making good of or giving an equivalent for some injury
    (2) a legal action serving to cause restoration of a previous state

    If the act was one of destruction or theft of property, then ‘restitution’ is possible. Is a punishment (after restitution) equal to the original transgression? No. It is imbalanced.

    If the act was causing death, then how does one make ‘restitution’? ‘Justice’ may be served, if the accused is also put to death (as the life of the original is incomplete) – a punishment exacted.

    Or, do we seek to teach the transgressor? Do we attempt to enforce the greater morality on the trangressor? If one is seeking freedom of the individual (and his right to believe as he decides), then one has to wonder if this “teaching” wouldn’t violate this precept.

    Or, is the transgressor marooned, away from the society? Thus not imposing his immoral actions on the greater society. Unfortunately, this has been tried – with undesired affects. And, I might point out, we no longer have the room to do this. So, this punishment is no longer viable. But, is it ‘just’ for the society to shoulder the cost of maintaining the transgressor’s life *for his entire life*? No.

    Is it more magnanimous to forgive, and thereby showing the victim to be greater than him – shaming him publically? Yes.

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