Kathryn- Ph.D./Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education/Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics Villinova

“In the Hebrew Bible, justice is used not only as a term to describe the right distributions of things, but justice is about a saving intervention. So justice is done for vulnerable and oppressed peoples. The people who get justice are the widows and orphans. There is a sense in which justice and mercy are very similar because justice is always acting on behalf of those in need.

Justice restores God’s original intentions for the world. Justice is fundamentally restorative. It’s about healing relationships.

If we understand justice, not just as a word but in the sense of a virtue, justice is an attribute that makes people relate to everyone well. It’s a virtue of right relating. If a crime happens, and we want to see that justice is done, that’s not about slapping a prison sentence on to someone. “Justice is done” would mean that people would have to become more just. If justice is a virtue, you can’t determine whether there has been justice by the fact that a person got convicted and received a 20-50 year sentence. Are relationships becoming righted? That’s a process, and that’s going to take time. You have to look at what’s happening to that person during their punishment, you have to take a look at what’s happening in the community, how it is taking responsibility.

Prisons should be all about creating opportunities for these men and women to develop the virtue of justice. We are taking this drastic step of excluding them from the community and fragmenting really vulnerable relationships with their family. We are doing that because we think that they need to have a reorientation in how they relate to others.

These men often think about communities in ways that most people don’t bother, and we paralyze them from giving back, and we give them very few opportunities.

It’s a horrible thing that we cage human beings. As long as people are incarcerated, I feel like I need to be there. The whole structure of the place that they are in is crafted to make them forget that they count, that they matter, that they are worthy, and that they have hope. I want to be a face that says something different.

As a Christian theologian, the idea of resurrection is a pretty big deal… something greater than death. And to me, seeing the transformations that these guys go through inside, and the transformations they go through getting out, that is the closest thing to resurrection that I’ve seen on this earth. ”

Kathryn Getek Soltis- Ph.D./Director, Center for Peace and Justice Education
Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics Villinova University

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