justice | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Justice is the concept of fairness and conformity to the law, ensuring equal treatment and accountability for individuals and institutions.

In criminal justice, justice stands for fairness and equal treatment. It is about making sure that everyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, gets the same treatment under the law. This is a critical principle in our society. After all, it keeps us confident that our system is fair and unbiased.

Justice and Laws

Laws are a way to uphold it. They set rules that all members of society should follow. If someone breaks these rules, they face consequences. Punishments can vary, whether it’s a fine, community service, or even prison time. The goal is not only to penalize the wrongdoer but also to prevent them from committing more crimes. Additionally, this system helps deter others from breaking the law.

Elements of Justice

Justice in the criminal justice system has two main elements: procedural and distributive.

Procedural Justice

Procedural justice refers to the fairness in the processes that resolve disputes and allocate resources. It is about the steps that are taken to reach a decision. If a person is accused of a crime, procedural rules ensure that they have the right to defend themselves in court. They have the right to a fair trial where evidence is examined and a decision is made based on that evidence. Both the accused and the accuser can present their side of the story.

Distributive Justice

Distributive justice, on the other hand, is about the fair distribution of benefits and burdens in society. This aspect considers whether everyone is treated equally under the law. It makes sure that punishments are fair and fit the crime committed.


Equity in justice is a fundamental concept that ensures fairness within the criminal justice system. It’s about understanding that different people may have different needs and circumstances and addressing these differences is crucial to achieve true fairness.

Equity recognizes that treating everyone exactly the same may not result in fairness. For example, consider two people who commit the same crime but come from different backgrounds. One person may have had a life filled with opportunities and resources, while the other may have grown up in poverty with limited access to education or job opportunities. Although they committed the same crime, their circumstances are vastly different.

Equity means taking these factors into account when determining outcomes. In this case, it could mean providing resources and support for a person from a disadvantaged background to help them reintegrate into society after punishment. This can include educational programs, job training, and mental health services.

Additionally, equity also plays a role in how individuals are treated within the justice system. It aims to ensure that everyone, regardless of race, gender, or social status, has equal access to legal representation and receives fair treatment in court. This is to prevent biases or prejudices from influencing outcomes.

Equity in justice goes beyond just equality. It’s about understanding and acknowledging the different needs and circumstances of individuals and ensuring these are addressed to provide true fairness within the criminal justice system. It’s a critical concept that helps ensure a more balanced, fair, and just society.

Importance of Justice in Society

It is a cornerstone of a peaceful society. It promotes a sense of trust among its members. If people believe that they will be treated fairly, they are more likely to obey the law. In turn, this can reduce crime rates and maintain social order.

In the absence of this, chaos and conflict can ensue. After all, if people feel that they are being treated unfairly, they may take the law into their own hands. This could lead to more crime and instability.

Challenges to Justice

Despite its importance, achieving it is not always easy. There are many challenges that can stand in the way. These include bias, corruption, lack of resources, and societal inequalities. It is vital for these issues to be addressed to ensure that justice is truly served.

In Conclusion

All in all, justice in the criminal justice system is about fairness, equality, equity, and the appropriate punishment for crimes. It plays a crucial role in maintaining peace and order in society. However, achieving justice is not without its challenges. It requires continuous effort from all members of society to ensure that it is truly served.

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Last Modified: 06/12/2023

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