(Guest post by Greg Forster)
Max Eden’s outstanding piece, which Jay extols here, shows not only how lax discipline leads to bullying, chaos and death, but also how the language of “restorative justice” has been corrupted in ways that are already having terrible consequences.
Justice ought to be restorative. The purpose of justice is not revenge. It is to restore offenders to society – debt paid and ready to try again.
But the debt must be paid. With some exceptions, in general an offender is not really “restored” on a moral, psychological or social level until they have suffered just punishment. That is the only reason punishments exist. And people are ruined if they are raised up learning the lesson that there will be no consequences for bad behavior.
In other words, retributive justice is a necessary element of genuinely restorative justice.
Unfortunately, people whose goal is not to do justice but to reduce the severity of punishments have hijacked the concept of restoration. We are now trapped in a terminological system in which “restorative justice” means the opposite of “retributive justice.” People think they are helping restore kids when they are actually destroying them.
The really terrifying result of this change is not that it gives unearned rhetorical credibility to advocates of lax discipline. It is the response from the other side.
The overwhelming majority of people can see the destructiveness of lax discipline. They are therefore concluding that “restorative justice” is dangerous and destructive. Therefore they are rejecting restoration as a goal of justice. And when you do that, all that’s left is the limitless cruelty of revenge.
The increasing tendency of some to dehumanize criminals and demand harsher and harsher treatment of them cannot be fought by advocacy of lax punishments in the name of “restorative justice.” It is directly caused by advocacy of lax punishments in the name of “restorative justice.”
Only retributive justice, which affirms that punishment is not an arbitrary tool of social control but a just and necessary consequence of the crime that the criminal is morally obligated to suffer, can be effective in restraining the abuse of criminals – and promoting their genuine restoration.
As C.S. Lewis once said, I plead for retributive justice not primarily for the sake of society, or for the sake of crime victims, but for the sake of the criminal.