domingo, 13 de novembro de 2011

7 November 2011

Justice Between Us

By Ronald W. Nikkel

If I had a song
I'd sing it in the morning
I'd sing it in the evening
All over this land
I'd sing out danger
I'd sing out a warning
I'd sing out love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land

Well I've got a hammer
And I've got a bell
And I've got a song to sing
All over this land
It's the hammer of justice
It's the bell of freedom
It's the song about love between my brothers and my sisters
All over this land [i]

Can there really be any such thing as a victimless crime? We know that not every illegal activity results in direct harm to another person; neither does every legal activity contribute directly to the well-being of other people. The driver of a car who is arrested for violating a traffic law may not directly have hurt anyone in the process of driving recklessly. Prostitution between consenting adults, while considered criminal in many countries, may likewise seem to be a victimless crime, an expression of free personal choice.

On the other side of the question we know that legalized gambling and drug use often bring great harm to the friends and families of participants. Similarly the free market exploitation of natural resources, while allowable by law, can result in great harm to people in this generation and damage to future generations.

While most people might consider a crime to be victimless when there seems to be no direct impact on another person, the magnitude of indirect impact on human relationships and the well-being of society are unavoidable. Every human act, whether it is considered criminal or not, has an impact for good or ill on human relationships – directly or indirectly, immediately or eventually.

Criminality, while most easily defined and understood in terms of legal violations, is not merely a relationship between persons and laws. Justice has everything to do with human relationships; private or corporate actions that are outside the reach or definition of the law are not, however, beyond the sphere of justice. Justice isn’t narrowly a matter pertaining to laws, criminality, and judgment; rather it encompasses the whole fabric of social relationships and inter-relationships—individuals, families, communities, nations—economics, politics, religion, gender, race, environment, etc. Justice is about us and how we live with one another in nourishing and supporting the individual and social well-being of all people.

Justice is both about rights and responsibilities and about right relationships. Both of these dimensions are twinned in the etymology of the word “justice” and rooted in the very concept of justice. The ancient words for justice in Hebrew (tsedeq) and Greek (dikaios) represent the unity of justice and righteousness, implying that there can be no real justice apart from right relationships. “Relationships mediate between choice (my freedom to do as I wish) and obligation (my responsibility towards others).…Philip Allott, has put it in these terms, ‘love in all its forms is so similar to justice in its effect that it is hypothetically tempting to suppose that each is the other, that justice is love, love is justice.’ ”[ii]

Justice is ultimately a matter that is just between us. Legal, judicial, and criminal justice systems play a necessary role in modern society as a means of defining and maintaining public order and advancing the public good. However, justice can never be accomplished in any society—even with the fairest and best policies and systems—apart from the goodwill and actions of people in that society toward one another. Even the most equitable justice procedures cannot substitute for right relationships between people in society, nor can they serve as an antidote when those relationships have been violated.

There is no crime that is victimless and there is no justice that is not relational. To work for real justice in society is to respond to crime and its victims by such means that will lead to the restoration of right relationships between offenders and those who have been hurt, directly and indirectly, as a result of their actions. Violated relationships can only be restored and healed relationally, not impersonally through institutional or punitive sanctions and reparations alone.

Justice exists when things are just and right between us. Justice in society is a relationship in which we are all involved.

No man is an island, entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were:
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind,
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.[iii]


[i] From “The Hammer Song” (1986 (renewed) TRO-Ludlow Music, Inc. BMI)
[ii] Nicola Baker and Jonathan Burnside in “Relational Justice,” November 1994.

[iii] John Donne, Meditation 17, from “Devotions upon Emergent Occasions,” 1623

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

Nenhum comentário:

Postar um comentário



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