Criminal Justice & Social Justice: The Issues of Equity & Fairness

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  • 0:02 What is Justice?
  • 1:14 Social Justice
  • 2:40 Criminal Justice
  • 4:28 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Sherri Hartzell

Sherri has taught college business and communication courses. She also holds three degrees including communications, business, educational leadership/technology.

In this lesson, you will learn about the relationship between criminal justice and social justice. Additionally, this lesson applies the concepts of justice to wider notions of equity and fairness.

What Is Justice?

The meaning of justice depends on who you ask. It is an elusive term that can be very personal in nature and vary on the circumstances in which justice is required. Because of this ambiguity, there are many definitions of justice. Justice is often used interchangeably with the word fairness. In any situation in life, we want to feel we are being treated fairly by receiving equal and unbiased treatment.

This applies to situations as simple as having our number called in order at the deli counter to earning the same wages as a coworker who is in the same position as you are. While we all want to be treated fairly, we have different versions of what is considered fair. Consequently, people often disagree on what they deserve and if they are receiving it. Nevertheless, society has the responsibility of setting moral codes, expectations, laws, and sanctions to attempt to provide justice for the masses. Two examples of how society accomplishes this goal are though social justice and criminal justice.

Social Justice, Equity, and Fairness

Social justice is the overarching societal concern about what is right and wrong, fair and unfair. Social justice applies these concepts of correctness and fairness with the notion of equality or equal opportunity in society. Essentially, social justice ensures that every member of society, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, education, etc., is afforded the same opportunities, privileges, and protections as everyone else. Some examples of social justice include equal opportunity employment, free public education, welfare programs, the universal right to vote in elections, etc. Social justice is vast and encompasses equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities for all.

Recall the previous example of wanting equal pay as your coworker and you can see social justice come into play. Remember, justice implies a sense of fairness, equality, and unbiased treatment. Therefore, if two employees share similar backgrounds, college education, and experience, they should be paid equally. It would be unjust to pay one person less because of their gender, race, ethnicity, religious preference, etc. Social justice ensures each similarly qualified employee receives the same compensation.

Criminal Justice, Equity, and Fairness

Criminal justice is a subset of social justice that applies the criminal justice process when principles of right and wrong, and fair and unfair are violated according to criminal law. So where social justice is concerned with how we define fairness and equity, criminal justice upholds those ideals whenever they relate to criminal law. For example, in American society we have agreed that it is wrong to steal and have developed laws upheld by the criminal justice system to promote social justice. Therefore, if Paul steals his neighbor's Christmas decorations to put them up at his house (something we consider socially unjust and unlawful), Paul should be held accountable by the criminal justice process. When Paul's neighbor realizes that his Christmas decorations have been stolen, he will, without a doubt, expect to see justice for this crime committed against him.

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