CBS Evening News did a piece the other night that I have been thinking about, having to do with the definition of justice. The backstory is that a baby was being tended by a day care center and a young girl working there marked off that the baby had been removed from a transport van when, in fact, she had not. The baby succumbed to heat and died. The girl was charged with manslaughter, which carried a sentence of fifteen years to life.
The judge saw that the girl had an immaculate record, was a great student and was on her way to college. He took note of something that the father of the dead infant said during the trial. “Who will remember my daughter?” the father asked. The judge said that the girl is “no criminal,” sentenced her to two years probation and ordered her to create a permanent memorial to the lost infant. The parents approved of the sentence.
That, to me, is how justice should be served. No mistake, no matter how terrible, in and of itself should turn a person into a criminal and ruin their life.
What struck me more than the judge’s decision is that the parents not only approved the sentence but asked to meet with the girl to tell her that they “held no grudge.” Not only will the town remember the lost infant; those parents will remember their daughter, and their memory will not be discolored by anger and hatred. They may have helped the girl who cost their daughter her life, but they helped themselves to a far greater degree. They set themselves free.
Ted McLaughlin at Jobsanger made the comment that “far fewer people are interested in justice and far more people are interested in revenge.” I think he makes a good point, and in fact I suspect that a good many people do not know the difference. Our system of courts and law enforcement is not named the “Department of Revenge,” though, it is named the “Department of Justice.”