Thinking About Criminal Justice
The term criminal justice refers to state-imposed punishment for violation of its laws. It has a distant connection to lex talionis, the eye for eye framework of grievance-redress endorsed in the Torah. Lex talionis is a code of retaliation, however. Criminal justice differs from it in two respects. First, under a just system of state-imposed punishment, sanctions may be imposed only for culpable conduct: proof that an injury occurred is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for imposing punishment. Second, just punishment may be imposed only by an impartial judge; lex talionis doesn’t require this. Given these preconditions, impartial deliberators would call on government to serve as a surrogate on behalf of its citizens. Government’s role is to vindicate rights by imposing punishment only on those who have maliciously interfered with the security rights of others.