segunda-feira, 24 de outubro de 2011

A Toxic Justice

A Toxic Justice
By Ronald W. Nikkel

“A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values
is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception
which has nothing sound in it and nothing true.
One who is injured ought not to return the injury,
for on no account can it be right to do an injustice;
and it is not right to return an injury, or to do evil to any man,
however much we have suffered from him.”(Socrates) [i]

In 399 BC, Socrates, the famous Athenian philosopher, stood for trial based on two accusations: "failing to acknowledge the gods that the city acknowledges" and "introducing new deities." On these accusations he was charged with impiety and corrupting the morals of the youth of Athens.[ii] Judged guilty by the majority of votes cast by five hundred jurors, Socrates was sentenced to death by drinking a potion concocted of poison hemlock. As toxic as the potion was that killed Socrates, so was the toxicity of the justice system used by those in power to protect their familiar gods and the social status quo of Athens.

For justice to be served, it must not only seek and uphold that which is true, but it must be administered in such ways and by such means that do not undermine or violate the purpose of justice, or be unjust in addressing a wrong. The purpose of a criminal justice system is simply to deliver equal justice for all - protecting the innocent, assisting victims, and prosecuting offenders in order to create a more peaceful society.

However our delivery of justice typically falls short of that purpose and becomes toxic. A toxic justice is justice done and delivered in such a way that it has the unintended (or intended in some circumstances) consequence of damaging people and the good of society. Toxic justice is evidenced –

When victims are ignored and their pain and loss are overlooked.
When courts and legal systems are tools of political and economic self-interest in the hands of those with money and power.
When the public wants to “lock offenders up and throw away the key,” expecting tough prison sentences to turn criminals into citizens.
When the wrongful actions of addicts are punished while their addictions go untreated.
When justice that is inordinately delayed, essentially becomes justice denied.
When the outcomes of serving prison sentences are homelessness, unemployment, divorce, poverty, and still more crime (recidivism).
When prosecutors make deals with offenders to bolster their conviction rates.
When police manipulate evidence or take the law into their own hands.
When access to good legal representation is beyond the reach of the poor.
When society’s voyeuristic fascination with crime and violence feeds a culture of fear and revenge.
When imprisonment causes families to fall apart and the children of prisoners are stigmatized – far more likely to be the next generation of offenders.
When you and I, upstanding law-abiding citizens, are quick to judge and so very sceptical and slow to lend a helping hand to men and women coming out of prison.
When we don’t really know what justice looks like, or what we should expect to see when justice is really done.

During visits with thousands of people involved with criminal justice, I have met many who have a vision and passion for justice that makes things right, healing the damage done by crime, and helping offenders take responsibility for their actions. Yet, we live in a world tainted by corruption, greed, and conflict. Our systems of justice are in as much need of reformation as are the offenders we seek to correct. Much of what we accept as justice is actually toxic, and the collateral damage is seen in the broken lives of victims, families of offenders, offenders, and in fearful communities..

It would be naïve to think that any justice system can ever be perfectly just. But, as followers of Jesus we are called not to judgment and revenge but to seek justice that brings reconciliation and peace, healing, and restoration; to work for the good of victims, offenders, their families, and the well being of our communities.

So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us.
We look for light, but all is darkness, for brightness but we walk in deep shadows.
Like the blind we grope along the wall feeling our way like men without eyes.
At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead…
Justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has tumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter.
Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey…
The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene….[iii]


[iii] Excerpts from Isaiah 59:9-16


Ronald W. Nikkel, PFI President & CEO
Ron has served as PFI's president since 1982. Widely recognized as an expert on criminal justice issues, Ron has visited more than 1,000 prisons in every region of the world and met with church and political leaders, as well as criminal justice officials.

Ron's new devotional book Radical Love in a Broken World, featuring daily meditations, is now available on as is his previous book Your Journey with Jesus.

To Learn more about Prison Fellowship International, visit

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Mensagem de boas-vindas

"...Quando um voluntário é essencialmente um visitador prisional, saiba ele que o seu papel, por muito pouco que a um olhar desprevenido possa parecer, é susceptível de produzir um efeito apaziguador de grande alcance..."

"... When one is essentially a volunteer prison visitor, he knows that his role, however little that may seem a look unprepared, is likely to produce a far-reaching effect pacificatory ..."

Dr. José de Sousa Mendes
Presidente da FIAR