Monday, September 22, 2008

How to write an article on a matter of justice without examining too closely whether justice has been served

Ms Adele Horin shows us the way. In an article in Saturday’s Sydney Morning Herod she reported the following:

IN A victory for prisoner rehabilitation, a Supreme Court judge has ordered three young offenders be removed from adult jails and returned to juvenile detention centres by Monday to complete their sentences.

Now here’s a quick concordance for you: the word rehabilitation appears seven times in the article, while the word justice appears six times, but only ever as part of a name, such as the Department of Juvenile Justice or when referring to Mr. Justice Johnson, the judge in question. The word punishment appears only once, and also only as part of a name (‘punishment cell’). So Ms Horin’s focus is exclusively on rehabilitation, which is distinct from and subordinate to strict legal justice. No doubt she adheres to the notion of ‘restorative justice’, which usually ends up being no kind of justice at all, and would have been foreign to not only the Catholic authors but also the great figures of pagan antiquity and the more clear-thinking luminaries of the so-called ‘Enlightenment’, such as Kant. And yet this mangled conception of justice has infested the judiciary in Australia and presumably much of the West.

Ms Horin also uses at least one dodgy journalistic technique. Early in the piece she says that the youngsters in question (all of whom were eighteen or over)

were transferred to adult jails in April despite court orders they serve their sentences in a juvenile facility until age 21 because of special circumstances that can include developmental delay, mental health issues, and rehabilitation prospects.
(my emphasis)
Presumably she lists them in this order so as to elicit our sympathy. Yet Ms Horin leaves the reader to infer from the following point:

[Mr. Justice Johnson] said consideration had not been given to the circumstances of the three, in particular, "the powerful body" of evidence that pointed to their progress in rehabilitation, and education and training, in the detention centre.
that in fact rehabilitation prospects were just about the only circumstances considered and that there was no question of psychological problems (which is surprising, given how liberally ‘psychological problems’ are invoked these days, especially with regard to the grounds for abortion). This is especially likely given that presumably Ms Horin would have specified any such circumstances if there had been any, in order to heighten the reader’s sympathy.

(And, predictably, Ms Horin managed to smuggle a purported ‘human rights breach’ into the article, when she quotes a psychoanalyst saying that

it appeared young offenders' rights had been compromised due to management putting pressure on psychologists to change their reports.
Someone who is not afraid to ask the hard questions of justice, however, is Dr. David van Gend in yesterday’s Sydney Catholic Weekly.

In connection with the imminent Victorian abortion free-for-all, he wonders

[b]y what wild superstition do legislators believe that a 24-week baby is a citizen deserving of all protection when wrapped in hospital blankets, but mere human waste when wrapped in the womb? I have held a baby born at 24 weeks, and if somebody attempted to assault her I would defend her. By what principle of justice do legislators conclude that there should be no restraint on adults who would assault the same baby when trapped in the womb?
I wonder whether the abortionist who was trying one minute to kill Miss Gianna Jessen and then signing her birth certificate the next ( asked himself these questions?

Reginaldvs Cantvar

1 comment:

Zoe Brain said...

Please see my comments on Sentencing here.