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August 17, 2009 | by  | in Opinion | [ssba]



There are many conceptions of what justice should be. In my conception justice is—or at least should be—like science. There is a theory. That theory needs to be tested. Our conceptions of justice, like our understanding of science, should be constantly being refined. Constantly improved.

In the search for justice nothing should be taken for granted till you have the evidence to support it. Most of all, those administering justice should admit when it is wrong when new, better evidence comes to light.

Justice is evolution in motion. Over hundreds of years the common law system and humanity’s changing beliefs have led us to this point.

Evolution occasionally leads to dead ends—the slowly dying provocation defence has just been put on the ‘soon to be extinct’ list. Just as anti-homosexual laws were in 1986 and the capital punishment laws in 1961. Short sharp shocks—changes in our beliefs force their extinction.

I find it truly sad that the level of discourse around our justice system has reached new lows. Talk of private prisons, shipping container cells, longer, harsher sentences, crushing cars, more prisons, arming police with tasers, putting offenders back into communities without the support they need, turning our backs on restorative methods that evidence shows actually works.

The Chief Justice cannot even say what most people would consider a few choice words about her valued and expert opinion.

New Zealand has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world and a startling recidivism rate.

Play word association with someone. You say “prison”. They say “easy street”. You facepalm. They rant for half an hour about how easy it is for crims on the inside.

No one wants to talk about miscarriages of justice. Passions understandably run wild with those involved, but all too often those who aren’t involved fail to see a bigger picture behind airing justice issues.

Something is going wrong somewhere. The evidence shows this. We as a country just don’t seem to have the courage to engage in rational debate about the entire system, nudging it in the right direction.


About the Author ()

The editor of this fine rag for 2009.

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