Week 1 Study Guide Summary
A number of concepts surround the notion of ‘Justice’, for example: fairness,
equality, harm, and inclusion/exclusion.
These related concepts will be discussed, and will provide a broad overview of what
‘Justice’ actually refers to, and how it relates to social institutions and the criminal
Despite our efforts and commitment to equality and justice, inequality and injustice
still occur, and do so in ways that are not always individual in character.
Will explore how inequality arises and whether or not social inequality impacts the
criminal justice system.
Barcalow (2004) suggests three parameters of justice:
1. That we treat equals equally
2. That we treat people the way they deserve to be treated
3. That we treat people as they have a right to be treated
This way of thinking involves the moral idea that humans have inherent and
deserved equality – an idea that has formed the basis of modern understandings
about human rights.
Justice is thus connected with the moral question of how people should act, and also
definitions of ‘good’.
Plato, Kant, Marx, Rousseau, and Rawls are philosophers who have all thought and
written extensively about these issues.
However, our ability to define what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ is limited, as the problem of
finding a universal definition has arisen.
What may be defined as ‘good’ in our culture may not actually reflect in that of
another culture, therefore, how are we supposed to define them?
The dictionary associates justice with treating others fairly and rightly. We think of
this in a legal, criminal, and retributive justice context.
Retributive Justice: ‘let the punishment fit the crime’. A theory that considers
punishment, if proportionate, is a morally acceptable and beneficial response
Retributive justice is related to how the courts are expected to deal with a crime in
an appropriate and consistent manner. The punishment should fit the crime.
There is a strong expectation that justice should be impartial, meaning that factors
such as wealth and social status should play no part in how the penalty if found and
Variations and inconsistency in sentencing, when dealing with similar or same
crimes, raises suspicions of injustice.
However, aggravating and mitigating factors must be considered when examining a
sentence. In many cases, these factors may mean the difference between a lesser or
more harsh penalty. Aggravating Factors: are any relevant circumstances which support the
evidence presented in the trial, that make the harshest penalty more
appropriate in the eyes of the jury.
Mitigating Factors: are any relevant evidence presented regarding the
defendant’s character or circumstances surrounding the crime, which would
make a lesser sentence more appropriate.
Generally in society, justice assumes a fairness of the distribution of resources,
whether economical, material, or emotional in nature, which satisfies the basic
needs of people. This form of justice is coined distributive justice, because it is
concerned with the allocation of goods based on individual need.
Distributive Justice: concerned with the socially just allocation of goods to
members of a society, usually based on individual needs. This is reflected in
tax brackets depending on income.
This does not necessarily conform to notion of treating everyone the same, however,
as it requires differentiation between people based on relevant issues of difference.
The idea of equality plays a key role in our ideas of justice. In our society, it is
generally assumed that all people are equal, and we demand proof for any claims
made that there are inequalities which hold relev