Proper governance and prosperity-fostering social stability requires a criminal justice system that is responsive to the needs of communities, consistently effective in addressing criminal threats, and applied in an evenhanded manner. Even under the influence of authoritarian regimes, people must feel they are better served by following the rules instead of rejecting that power, which requires some degree of consistency and security. For more democratic societies, where proper governance balances the interests and freedoms of all through transparency and representation, all must face the same consequences. In short, justice is required.
Justice is the social institution that ensures an individual constrains his, or her, actions for the benefit of the whole by offering some guarantee his, or her, most pressing interests will be addressed by society. When society fails to adequately address the interests of individuals, it is the innate desire for justice that drives communities and individuals to demand offenders attempt to address their offending grievances and offer some sort of restitution for their actions. Justice is what we need to feel the rules of our society are worth following. It is when we feel violated and unheard or we lack choice that we feel the world is unjust.
Justice is about accountability. The Law must be crafted to hold wrongdoers accountable for their misconduct and harmful negligence. It must be enforced in such a way that all individuals are held accountable for their misconduct in order to protect everyone. In addition, laws must be written and enforced in ways that they do not harm the community and protect those who abuse power. This is why authority figures and powerful individuals must be held accountable. This is why authorities from the police involved in unjustifiable shootings to high-profile political figures must be held responsible for their wrongdoings and negligence.
Ultimately, justice is a servant of the people. As such, the Law has no real authority, unless the People can and do respect laws and the overall criminal justice system. Most individuals will tolerate laws that they find unjust or offensive for the sake of peace and stability. Others will not. If the Law becomes too unjust, people will no longer feel compelled to respect the Law. Clearly, authorities, such as the police, have legal authority, but the fact that they have a badge and gun does not mean people respect their authority. Respect cannot be dictated, it cannot be bought, and it cannot be coerced. Respect is a personal choice that must be earned from and by all individuals.
From local police to lawmakers, respect for the Law and one’s authority is earned through the pursuit of justice for all. That said, justice is not simply about building a criminal justice system that safeguards us from criminal acts. There is also a need for social, economic, and personal justice. Although a lack of legal justice undermines the fabric of society, all forms of injustice cause damage to our communities and personal relationships. Justice is, therefore, not simply the responsibility of public servants, which includes more than just the police. Justice can only be served in all of its forms when all the People of a society fight for justice.
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