Justice and healing

A few days ago, I received a copy of the latest Swarthmore College Bulletin (the alumni magazine) in the mail. The cover story, "Seek Justice, Love Mercy," is by a Swarthmore alum who served on the jury for a murder trial. Late in the article, she said something that keeps rolling around in my head, though it hasn't yet found purchase on any other thoughts to form any sort of coherent whole. (Let the Katamari metaphors begin!) But I keep being struck by it, so I figured I would post it here for later pondering.

Our adversarial system of justice does a good job of determining guilt but does nothing to promote healing.

—Liz Kutchai

. . . Unrelatedly, a different story in the same issue, "Jung Love," describes some of the origin of the Myers-Briggs personality test; turns out the "Myers" in "Myers-Briggs" was Isabel Briggs Myers, Swarthmore class of 1919. ("Briggs" was her mother, Katherine Briggs.)

2 Responses to “Justice and healing”

  1. Michael

    Having recently had some experience with our adversarial system of justice, I think most aspects of how it works in practice (rather than in theory) are completely contrary to determining guilt. But it is certainly premised on a goal of retributive punishment that has no consideration for promoting healing, improving society, or mitigating past and future damage to any of the people involved.

  2. HH

    Some would argue that the very fact that we have a justice system at all is the first step in healing. Personally, I take some measure of comfort in the fact that there is a respected system in place that can convict and punish the wrong-doer. (For the sake of brevity, let’s assume the system works properly though it is clear that it does not – just see today’s news headlines.)

    Personally, I prefer our system to those of many other backwards countries where a brother’s crime of theft is “punished” by gang raping his sister who then, by custom, is expected to kill herself because of the shame to the family. I see no healing in that process.

    In working with our assigned “Victims Advocate” provided through the county resources, I would say she has been “step 2” in the healing process.

    The rest is up to us – as individuals, family members, community members and society – to take responsibility for ourselves, our emotions and turn that energy into a positive, final outcome. For what “healing” ever comes from hurting others? In my opinion, none.


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