These formal definitions mean very little to citizens who strongly
believe their relative or friend, victimized by a crime, is not
being treated with
fairness and justice. Their view of justice is commonly negative: sentences
are too short and the law provides too much protection to criminals; the “rich” are
favoured over the “poor”; anyone can “get off” if
they have a good lawyer; the process is too slow (Brillon, 121).
Justice and a "Just World"
The field of social
psychology and research on “beliefs in a just world” help to
explain these attitudes.
Researchers examined the extent to which people
have control over their life experiences. They tested the hypothesis,
derived from analyzing public attitudes, that good things happen to good
and bad things happen to bad people. In other words, people generally
get what they deserve and they are responsible for the situations in
which they find themselves. A Just World Scale has been developed to explore
this concept further (Furnham, Smith & Green).
This research noted
contradictions in the way people react to the fate of one another: sometimes
and self-denying behavior is exhibited in response to the suffering of
others. At other times people react with relative indifference (Lerner,
p. 1).. Who
is “deserving” and what is just evolves out of the socialization
process for children and adults. So, not surprisingly, justice is not
always an altruistic matter of doing right by others; it can also be
matter of not letting others do wrong to us. It begins with what we think
for ourselves (Kain).
A sense of entitlement is also an aspect of viewing
the world as just. People generally set their expectations, engage in
activities, and evaluate outcomes for themselves and others based on
what they believe
they are entitled to, and not necessarily on the basis of what they want
“Power-distance” is an important factor.
Those who have more property, wealth, and power will more likely have
just world beliefs than those who have little or no power (Furnham).
sense of vulnerability and the inability to control their personal circumstances
tend to create views that the world is not just (Forest).
on beliefs in a just world offers some insight into the citizen who exclaims “There
is no justice!” They are more likely to be people who feel powerless
and vulnerable, believing that their relative or friend is entitled and
deserving of more in terms of retribution. What these citizens are asking
is not really justice.
Justice in Canada
It has often been said that
the primary purpose of law is, or ought to be, the implementation of
1859). It is for this reason that justice in Canadian society is simply
legal justice – the justice of law and the courts. Justice is what
is decided by the lawmakers in terms of how they view “the common
pp. 1864-1871) and the courts in terms of how they interpret the law.
Other considerations such as equity and fairness and similar dimensions
are difficult and sometimes impossible to be narrowly applied in a way
that will satisfy individuals and some groups of citizens. The law in
is the sole determinant of what a person deserves if they break the law
and what each victim will receive or not receive as a result of this
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Fourth Edition by the Publishers Editorial Staff. St. Paul, Minnesota:
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