J is for Justice


The number of justice types make it is impossible to find a one-size-fits-all definition of justice although most of us would say that it has something to do with being fair to both sides of a dispute.  Some may see it as everyone getting a fair go and getting what we deserve at the end of it. Justice also has importance as a personal value when we say things like:  I value justice or we may like the value of justice that someone projects.  It was not possible to consolidate so many definitions of justice into one succinct sentence.  However, I have taken three types of justice and written about them as my contribution to the A – Z Challenge this month.

Criminal justice is an interesting form of justice if we think about the perpetrator getting what they deserve for their part in a crime. However, it is not a fair system. Why? Because the victim has no recompense for their loss, the fact that the criminal receives a sentence or fine does not make right the injuries suffered as a consequence of someone else’s actions. I imagine there would be few cases where the victim receives any form of consideration apart from being acknowledged as the injured party, which leads the conversation into another form of justice which may be evidence of a little more consideration of the victim.

There are four elements that define restorative justice:

  • It creates an environment for victims, offenders and community members, who wish to be involved, to meet and talk about the crime and its impact on the individual and the community
  • Offer the offender an opportunity to make amends
  • Provide a pathway for offender and victim to reintegrate into the community and move forward
  • Provide a place for stakeholders to participate in resolving the matter
Sword of Justice Scales of Equality

Sword of Justice
Scales of Equality

The third form of justice is Social Justice (my favourite) and it has an emphasis on social and economic conditions.  This form of justice operates independently of the legal system and relies on the advocacy process to identify issues that exacerbate discrimination, stigma, trauma, disadvantage, racism and prejudice.  However, the accent here is on reducing the gaps between the haves and the have-nots; seeking to minimise the effects of social control through political and/or economic means and providing an environment of advocacy in which the inequities prevailing in a community/society can be addressed. Social justice endeavours to enhance individual capacity to exercise autonomy as well as to ensure the resources and opportunities to exercise this autonomy are available to all sectors of the socioeconomic demograph.

Our Anglo-American culture upholds the idea of autonomy as an individual’s right to make decisions which, interestingly, feeds into the post-modern philosophy of individual endeavour at the expense of the community.  Advocates of social justice swim against the tide of political and economic policies encouraged by globalisation and a post modern philosophy that holds a most reverent view of capitalism.  On the other hand  cultures that pursue social democracy contextualise autonomy as a collective endeavour.  The ideal is that a flourishing community will care for its individuals.

While furthering the cause of equality across the board social justice within these two cultures will look quite different.

These are my opinions and influenced by the work I do as an addiction counsellor in the homes of parents affected by substance use.  I understand there are many ways to look at justice and what constitutes justice, or a fair go, in one culture might not seem quite so fair in another.

2 thoughts on “J is for Justice

  1. Thanks Linda, it is true that if there was more energy and funding put into social justice issues there would be less needed at the other end in picking up the pieces. Lovely to have you on board for the journey. Will be popping over to visit your J contribution soon. 🙂


  2. Excellent post, Linda. I agree with you that Social Justice is the most important aspect of the justice concept. If we can create a society based on social justice, then legal and restorative justice would take a much smaller part in the justice system.
    As you rightly point out, modern political and economic philosophies, supposedly based on the idea of individual justice, actually take away social justice for most members of the community. I think the further we go down this path, the worse will be the outcomes for society. And that’s sad – more than sad, it is criminal.


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