The focus of the criminal justice system and scripture sometimes align but not always. Sometimes there are “competing perspectives” in the criminal justice system but there are certain “Biblical Perspectives,” as well, one of which is restorative justice.
Restorative justice focuses on restoring the victim by making the offender compensate the victim for the wrong and adding some punishment. Numbers 5:6–7 highlights this principle very well. “Say to the Israelites: ‘When a man or woman wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord, that person is guilty and must confess the sin he has committed. He must make full restitution for his wrong, add one fifth to it and give it all to the person he has wronged” (NIV 1984). There is also a secondary emphasis of reintegrating offenders back into society.
However, the topic of this course is Criminal Procedure. By nature, criminal procedure is “rights-based.” This is because much of the law comes from the Constitution, which was drafted to enumerate the powers of government. This limits government behavior to only those listed powers, but the Constitution also clearly lays out some rights (but not all) of states and citizens, particularly certain criminal procedure rights. As such, it can be said that criminal procedure focuses on the offender’s rights and government behavior.
Based on your practical and educational experience, what is the focus of the criminal justice system, restorative justice, or criminal rights? Give specific examples. Can these seemingly competing perspectives be better harmonized?