What is justice?
Center for Court Innovation’s Greg Berman says:
Micro justice focuses on individual people and asks, “What is an appropriate response to the circumstances presented by this specific case?” Macro justice looks at the bigger picture, examining social impacts, both positive and negative, and tries to determine whether they have been distributed in a way that conforms to basic tenets of fair play.
How do we reconcile the reality that at the ground level many of the people in the justice system are trying to do the right thing with an overarching analysis that the system is not achieving just results?
Many of the potential answers being advanced at the moment — for example, eliminating cash bail or closing private prisons — are macro justice solutions that tend to limit the discretion of system actors. We need big ideas like these if we are going to improve justice in this country.
But big ideas alone are not enough. We need micro justice solutions too. Small changes in daily practice can also have far-reaching implications. We need to give front-line justice professionals the training they require to understand the traumatic life circumstances that bring people into the justice system, whether as defendants or victims. And we need to give them the encouragement and flexibility necessary to treat every person they encounter with decency, respect and individualized attention.
Perhaps most important of all, we need to convince bright young people, like the ones who initially befuddled me, to become front-line criminal-justice practitioners. The fight to transform the American justice system cannot be won from the offices of our foundations, elected officials or editorial boards. To create a fair, effective and humane justice system, we need judges, probation officials and correctional officers who are willing to wrestle with the question “what is justice?” on the ground each and every day.
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