"Who shall put his finger on the work of justice and say, "It is this?" Justice is like the Kingdom of God. it is not without us as a fact; it is within us as a great yearning."

George Eliot


"Neither famine nor disaster ever haunt men who do true justice."




"Sometimes street Justice is the only justice."

Edna Buchanan


"If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected- those, precisely, who need the law's protection most!-and listen to their testimony."

-James Baldwin



"Every law is an infraction of liberty."

Jeremy Bentham


"The law is reason free from passion."



"This is a court of law, young man, not a court of justice."

Oliver Wendell Holmes. Jr.


"Laws are spider webs through which the big flies pass and the little ones get caught."

Honore De Balzac


"Justice is really just a shallower synonym for human liberty. And liberty! It isn’t a gift or an indulgence or a luxury, it is the air we must all breathe, like the lions of the wilderness, if we ever hope to taste the true flavor of our brief existence."



"As a rule, it was the pleasure-haters who became unjust."

W.H. Auden


"Don’t be fair to me: I can do without everything but the tonic of injustice."

E.M. Cioran


"Corn can’t expect justice from a court composed of chickens."

African proverb


"I  find the public passion for justice quite boring and artificial, for neither life nor nature cares if justice is ever done or not."

Patricia Highsmith


"It will be of little avail to the people that laws are made by men of their own choice if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; or if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be like tomorrow."

James Madison 1797


"There is in fact a true law-namely, right reason-which is in accordance with nature, applies to all men and is unchangeable and eternal."

Cicero (50 B.C.)



"Justice is the earnest and constant will to render to every man his due. The precepts of the law are these: to live honourably , to injure no other man, to render to every man his due."



"One of the most disastrous errors in the history of Christianity is to have tried-under the influence of Greek definitions-to differentiate between love and justice."

Jose Miranda


"God is Justice."

Julian of Norwich


"In the face of suffering, one has no right to turn away, not to see. In the face of Injustice, one may not look the other way. When someone suffers, and it is not you, he comes first. His very suffering gives him priority….to watch over a man who grieves is a more urgent duty than to think of God."

Elie Wiesel


"Laws….are the product of selfishness, deception, and party prejudice. True Justice is not in them, and cannot be in them."

Leo Tolstoy

The Kingdom of God is Within You 1893


"A judge is a law student who marks his own examination papers."

H.L. Mencken



Justice without power is insufficient; Power without justice is tyranny. Justice without power is apposed, because there are always wicked men. Power without justice is soon questioned. Justice and Power must therefore by brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just. "




"We cannot be made better except by the influence upon us of

what is better than we are . "


Simone Weil




"Punishment is solely a method of procuring pure good for men who do not desire it. The art of punishing is the art of awakening in a criminal, by pain or even death, the desire for pure good. "

Simone Weil




"But we have lost all idea of what punishment is. For us it stops short with the infliction of harm. That is why there is one, and only one, thing in modern society more hideous than crime -- namely, repressive justice. The judge who passes the extreme sentence upon a convicted murderer, and the executioner who carries the mandate into effect act not in opposition to 'thou shalt not kill' but actually in support of this decree. Those who favor heavy sentences may have a more exact view of what crime is and of human nature in general than those who deny evil on humanitarian grounds. Dostoevsky maintained the need of every crime being met by punishment that has its sanction in man' s free conscience rather than in ex-terror law. Evil is evil: its nature is interior and meta-physical, not exterior and social"



"For the fact remains that it is the painful, tedious punishment which challenges the man of imagination, the poet, the prophet, because they can see clearly, in the protracted suffering of the victim, a symbol or man's struggle against over-mastering principalities and powers, a vague but poignant allegory of life itself. Just as a vagrant accused of stealing a carrot from a field stands before a comfortably seated judge who keeps up an elegant flow of queries, comments, and witticisms while the accused is unable to stammer a word, so truth stands before an intelligence which is concerned with the elegant manipulation of opinions. "

Simone Weil

Selected Essays

Oxford translated -

Richard Rees on Crime-




"What is the destiny of the man who has gone beyond the limits of what is allowable what regeneration of his being may it involve? Dostoevsky shows the ontological consequences of crime. After freedom has led through self-will to wrongdoing, punishment which tracks man in the deepest part of his nature. If man is nothing but a passive reflection of his social surroundings, an irresponsible creature, then there is no such thing as 'man' - nor is there God, freedom, evil or good. He (Dostoevsky) was ready to defend the severest penalties for crime, on the ground that they are the more fitting to free and responsible beings."





"At the moment of death, the victim does not cast his last glance of hate at the executioner: it is his comrades he hates, those who betrayed or abandoned or forgot him, or simply those who will remain alive. . .In our heart of hearts, we hate only who will remain alive. . .In our heart of hearts, we hate only what resembles us. The first murder was a fratacide."

appointment with hate

Elie Wiesel



" "I am sure that man will never renounce the genuine suffering that comes of ruin and chaos. Why? Suffering is the one and only source of knowledge. "




"Man is sometimes extraordinarily, passionately, in love with suffering, and that is a fact. There is no need to appeal to universal history to prove that; only ask yourself, if you are a man and have lived at all. "




"To cry out for justice in human terms is as foolish as can be we can look for mercy and pity, and, thank to Jesus, from God for forgiveness; but Justice-never! How delicately Pascal makes the same point when he says that judges have to wear wigs and ermine red robes! Otherwise who would take seriously their fraudulent judgments? If we were capable of rendering or receiving justice we should need no laws to codify injustice; no parliamentarians to make laws, lawyers to argue them, police to enforce them, revolutionaries to reject them with a view to remaking them in due course, prisons and executioners to dispose of all who refuse to abide by them. 'I only care for justice' , is the cry of every counterfeiter, whether of the hopes, the fears, or just the cash, wherewith we live. By comparison with asking for justice, the moon is a trifle, eternity a throwaway line, and happiness readily on sale at every supermarket. "

Malcolm Muggeridge


   "Among the many human needs disregarded by the System, the need for justice occupies a special place. The human desire for justice, for fairness, for observance of the fundamental law, can be as urgent as hunger and thirst. Justice is a need for which people throughout history have been willing to sacrifice their lives and possessions. Justice binds human beings together in a community or nation; injustice destroys the social fabric and ultimately leads to revolution. Of all the damage caused by our present System, perhaps the greatest is its destruction of justice, fairness, and our constitutional compact. 

   The institutions designed to protect justice, led by the Supreme Court of the United States, have tragically failed in their primary duty to the American people. This is no accident. The great judicial figures of our past have been replaced by mid-level bureaucrats carefully screened to assure their loyalty to the System. Their seal of approval upon the many wrongs of the System has desecrated the marble temple where they sit and brought confusion and cynicism to the trusting people who look to the Court for "Equal Justice Under Law."

Charles A. Reich


"Unjust laws exist; shall we be content to obey them, or shall we endeavor to amend them, and obey them until we have succeeded, or shall we transgress them at once?....If the injustice is part of the necessary friction of the machine of government, let it go, let it go; Perchance it will wear smooth....but if it is of such a nature that it requires you to be the agent of injustice to another, then, I say, break the law. Let your life be a counter-friction to stop the machine. What I have to do is to see, at any rate, that I do not lend myself to the wrong which I condemn."

-Henry David Thoreau



"The average American judge, as everyone knows, is a mere rabbinical automaton, with no more give and take in his mind than you will find in the mind of a terrier watching a rathole. He converts the law into a series of rubber-stamps, and brings them down upon the scalped skulls of the just and unjust alike. The alternative to him, as commonly conceived is quite as bad-an uplifter in a black robe, eagerly gulping every new brand of Peruna that comes out, and converting his pulpit into a sort of soap-box."

H.L. Mencken

American Mercury, May 1930


"I submit to you a very simple hypothesis; it is that stress, and the anxiety which it produces, is the cause of much, if not all, criminal behavior."


Dr . Arthur Anderson

(former director of the Criminal Justice Division of the State of Arkansas)




"Day by day, victims of violent crime in almost any large U.S. city outnumber the casualties of all international terrorists in any given year....Why do we show such indignation over foreign terrorists and such tolerance for the domestic variety?"

Chief Justice Warren E. Berger



NO intelligent person believes that they deter or change anyone. Detention has a proper rationale-for investigations, for protection, or for temporary holding prior to transfer. But people are not "cured" of the propensity for writing bad checks or picking up cars by being made to sit idle in an iron cage for five years while their families disintegrate. No thief is rehabilitated by having a hand cut off, as in some countries, or by being subjected to rectal rape and tedious boredom, as in our country. George Bernard Shaw wrote an essay 50 years ago on the crime of Imprisonment. Someway or other this message has never reached the ears of the public. "

Dr. Karl Menninger


"Nothing can be more certain, than that numerous written laws are a sign of degenerate community, and are frequently not the consequences of vicious morals in a state, but the causes."

Oliver Goldsmith



"We forbid, we arrest, we coerce, we incarcerate, we counsel, we parole, we treat, not infrequently with success-but we never forgive. "

Paul E. Wilson,"Collateral Consequences of a Criminal Record"- addressed to the Menninger School of Psychiatry, May 31,72



"This too I know-and wise it were

if each could know the same-

that every prison that men build

is built with bricks of shame,

And bound with bars lest Christ should see

How men their brothers maim.

The vilest deeds like poison weeds

Bloom well in prison-air;

It is only what is good in man

that wastes and withers there;

Pale anguish keeps the heavy gate,

and the warden is despair."


Oscar Wilde




;You can get farther with a kind word and a gun than you can get with a kind word alone.

Al Capone



"The alternative to forgiveness, but by no means its opposite,--is punishment, and both have in common that they attempt to put an end to something that without interference could go on endlessly."

Hannah Arendt



 But then, the bestial side does not develop equally in all men. If the beast in a man overpowers all his other sides, he becomes horrible, monstrous."


House of the Dead




"If a man destroy the eye of another man, they shall destroy his eye."

Code of Hammurabi


if Justice and righteousness perish, human life would no longer have any value in the world."


Science of Right




Justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice is the mother of dissolution."

Thomas Aquinas


"Society, by setting forth clear penalties for certain kinds of conduct sets its public ratification of moral judgment that this is wrong behavior and that it is deserving of punishment irrespective of whether the punishment will deter, re-habilitate or anything else. It is a way of society of defining what is wrong and what is seriously wrong. "

Jerry Brown



"Nobody wants a punishment to be humane; a punishment, so long as it is a punishment, cannot be humane. But everybody wants a punishment to be human; everybody wants a punishment to have just these two qualities about it. First, that a man can inflict it and remain a man. Second, that a man can receive it and remain a man. If it passes these limits the victim may very well kill the executioner or the executioner may very well kill himself."

G.K. Chesterton




"This modern scientific punishment in which a man cannot get away from his past belongs to the same world as that detestable determinism which declares also that he cannot get away from his past. It is making memory stronger than will. Its a thing not natural to men; and it will not long be endured among them. "

G.K. Chesterton




"Injustice is relatively easy to bear; what stings is justice."

H.L. Mencken



"Fear of punishment stains all ill-gotten gains. Damage and Force ensured their users, and will generally recoil on him who first sets them in motion. to conduct a calm and quiet life. For, even though he may deceive both gods and humankind, he must forever fear that his wrongdoings will come out in the open-- as indeed, many are said to have dragged into the open, by talking in their sleep or fevered ravings, crimes long since covered up, and published them."





"Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. . . . All infractions of love and equity in our social relations are speedily punished. They are punished by fear. . . . Commit a crime, and the earth is made of glass . Commit a crime, and it seems as if a coat of snow fell on the ground such as reveals in the woods the track of every partridge and fox and squirrel and mole ."




"I have seen many grim and terrible sights in the war, as well as in the. Caucasus, but had they hewn a man in pieces before my eyes, the shock would not have been so terrible as was the sight of this ingenious and elegant machine by means of which a young, strong, and healthy man was done to death in an instant. . . .On one point I am resolved: from this day forward not only will I not assist any such spectacles, but never again under any circumstances will I take service under any form of Government whatsoever. "


April 6,1857


'That's how it has worked out, this displacement of morality enforcement to the state with its new machinery. The machinery was a long time in developing into the present proud, mighty, and monstrous structure. It is slow, cruel, destructive, ineffective, and tremendously expensive . as a controller of crime it is a massive failure. And since it "processes" only a small percentage of all offenders (2%) it serves chiefly as a morality play a symbolic device rather than a practical control of misbehavior. "

Karl Menninger

Whatever became of Sin?



"The penalties for sins converted into crimes tend to be punitive and vengeful, although these motives are denied by the law. They're remnants of tradition somewhat modified by legislative enactment and bargaining procedures. They are nearly all senseless and cruel, expensive and futile.

"The modern world is wicked, because it is civilized. What is especially shameful and Pitiless in modern punishment is not the severity of the punishment; it is the continuity of the punishment . The modern philosophers say that they do not like the idea of everlasting punishment in the other world . Let them rest content. They have created everlasting punishment in this world. What is frightful about modern punishment is exactly that it is as logical as Calvinism. Its horror is that it is rational, that it remembers, that it treats the man who has broken trust as forever untrustworthy. There may be something in this which pleases those who have Calvinistic, Materialistic, or Theosophical minds, minds that enjoy the recurrence of an unforgiving, that is , a dead, law. But you and I only have the tradition of Christian Charity , and we should say , Beat the man about with a great stick and then let him go free for ever. "


G.K. Chesterton


""It will be a terrible thing in the modern world if the making of punishment mild only means making it eternal. To be in hot hell for ever is bad enough; to be in tepid hell forever and to be asked to admit the humane temperature-that is intolerable. "

GK. Chesterton


"Lawlessness is most often associated with crime and riots, but there is lawlessness and corruption In all the major institutions of our society-matched by an indifference to responsibility and consequences, and a pervasive hypocrisy that refuses to acknowledge the facts that are everywhere visible. "


Charles A. Reich

The Greening of America

Book: "Justice Overruled: Unmasking the Criminal Justice System" by Burton S. Katz

Book: "A People’s History of the Supreme Court" by Peter Irons

Book: "Guilty: The Collapse of Criminal Justice" by Judge Harold J. Rothwax

Book: "Justice as Fittingness" by Geoffrey Cupit

Book: "What is Justice? Classic and Contemporary Readings" ed by Robert C. Solomon & Mark C. Murphy

Book: "Militarizing the American Criminal Justice System: The Changing Roles of the Armed Forces and the Police" Ed. by Peter B. Kraska

© 2001




Back to Chrestomathy         Next Page