What Does Justice Look Like?

In May of this year, a man walked into a pharmacy told the young lady behind the counter that he had a gun and robbed the store. He demanded prescription drugs from the sales clerk. Fright and shock caused the sales clerk to fall and hit her head as she complied with the robber’s orders. A concussion resulted from the head injury leading to long term side effects: memory loss, trouble concentrating, sleep disturbances, sensitivity to light and noise, and her family has noticed personality changes. (Her medical bills are increasing, and she is unable to work.) Thus, the sales clerk’s recollection of seeing a gun, clouded by the totality of the circumstances, is uncertain.

This man (we’ll refer to him as Adam) has a wife and three children (two boys and a girl). Before Adam’s detainment, his wife held two jobs to help with rent, additional bills, plus food; now, she has to consider a third job or try to find a higher-paying position. The public school system offers a free and reduced lunch program, which is helpful, but school is problematic in other respects. The children are having difficulty connecting with the whole idea of school, i.e., teachers as authority figures and the underlying importance of learning, knowledge, and homework. Local authorities already know the eldest son by name.

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Adam was arrested and held in the county jail. He has a prior criminal record consisting of drug and property offenses, all of which were nonthreatening to the community. Court fees associated with these prior offenses, along with accrued interest charges (due to lack of ability to pay the fees), have increased his debt. Moreover, the suspension of his driver’s license was also a result of the nonpayment of his court-related debts. Not being able to drive together with having a criminal record has decreased employment opportunities as well as his ability to pay his debts. “Unsustainable debt coupled with the threat of incarceration may even encourage some formerly incarcerated individuals to return to criminal activity to pay off their debts, perversely increasing recidivism” (Council of Economic Advisers, 2015).

Now before a judge, Adam, the defendant, claims that he does not own a gun (even though he made threats of having one to the sales clerk). Knowing the defendant from prior arrests, the fact that he has a family, and being informed of the overcrowded conditions of the jail, the judge decides to grant Adam bail set to the amount of $25,000. Not able to pay this bail or a bail bonds agency fee, Adam remains in pretrial detention. (Pretrial detention may adversely affect this defendant; it may lead to a conviction, additional crime, and unemployment (Dobbie, Goldin, & Yang, 2016)). Two of Adam’s cellmates, charged with similar robbery offenses, were able to afford bail and were released.

In this scenario, Adam is symbolic of a broken world. Humans were created to be the image-bearers of God walking the earth, mere humans who were given dominion over the things of the earth (Psalm 8) but rejected their vocation. Life is now complicated. Jesus, the son of man, the new Adam, shows humanity what it is to be fully human. Humanity was meant to be like Jesus. Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, this is taking place now, but it not yet fully here. There is a chain of groaning taking place: all of creation is groaning, humanity is groaning due to the brokenness of this world (disease, violence, death), and God’s Spirit is groaning in intercession for this new creation (Romans 8:21-23). This groaning is evident in the suffering going on in this scenario.

For this assignment, you are to consider this situation from the viewpoints of two of the parties involved. Respond to the following questions from each party’s view.

First, choose ONE group of individuals (no modifications of sets are permitted). Your choices are:
A. Prosecutor/Adam’s eldest son

B. Defense Attorney (Court-Appointed Lawyer)/Sales Clerk (Victim)

C. Judge/Defendant (Adam)

Spend some time thinking about each party first. Watch the presentations associated with this assignment (in Reading & Study folder). Consider what is happening in their particular lives (their responsibilities, hardships, expectations, aspirations, and more). Be attentive to the many underlying issues presented in this scenario that may have an unintended effect on the people involved. After reflecting on your two individuals, discuss how you think each would understand this situation. For each party to believe that justice was accomplished in this situation, what would need to happen (what would justice look like to this person)? How would each party want this situation resolved?

Second, let’s say that it is possible for your two parties to get together to discuss a plan for justice in this situation in which they would both agree. What would they determine?
Council of Economic Advisers Issue Brief. (2015, December). FINES, FEES, AND BAIL. Retrieved from https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/sites/default/files/page/files/1215_cea_fine_fee_bail_issue_brief.pdf.

Dobbie, W., Goldin, J., & Yang, C. (2016). The Effects of Pre-Trial Detention on Conviction, Future Crime, and Employment: Evidence from Randomly Assigned Judges. doi:10.3386/w22511

Discussion Board Forum Requirements. Discussion Board assignments have a split structure. In the first week that the forum is assigned, you are to respond to the discussion prompt. (This is called a thread.) In the following week, you must post two (2) replies to your classmates’ threads in the forum.

First-week thread –In your response, support your views with the required readings and study materials for this week, or other scholarly sources to support your statements. Include four (4) in-text citations for this assignment. Your response must be formatted using 12 pt. Times New Roman font, with a 400-word minimum/425-word maximum. (No Title page or Reference page). Some examples of the formatting for in-text citations are: (Bohm & Haley, 2018), (Fischer, 2016), and (Venturo, 2018).

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