Even for violent crime, justice should mean more than punishment. By paying close attention to the relational harms suffered by victims, this book develops a concept of relational justice for survivors, offenders and community. Relational justice looks beyond traditional rules of legal responsibility to include the social and emotional dimensions of human experience, opening the way for a more compassionate, effective and just response to crime.
The book’s chapters follow a journey from victim experiences of violence to community healing from violence. Early chapters examine the relational harms inflicted by the worst wrongs, the moral responsibility of wrongdoers and common mistakes made in judging wrongdoing. Particular attention is paid here to sexual violence. The book then moves to questions of just punishment: proper sentencing by judges, mandatory sentences approved by the public, and the realities of contemporary incarceration, focusing particularly on solitary confinement and sexual violence. In its remaining chapters, the book looks at changes brought by the victims' rights movement and victim needs that current law does not, and perhaps cannot meet. It then addresses possibilities for offender change and challenges for majority America in addressing race discrimination in criminal justice. The book concludes with a look at how individuals might live out the ideals of a greater—relational—justice.
This is a very important book and I am hopeful it finds a wide readership. Pillsbury has galvanized our imagination of the justice system we actually could have. He manages to get underneath all the issues we need to explore with sophistication, keen insight and great heart. He proposes a point of view both larger and more humble and our country will benefit greatly… if we listen to him.
Gregory Boyle, S.J. Founder of Homeboy Industries. Author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.
This is an important piece of scholarship that offers meaningful insights and novel ways of thinking about issues of law, justice and the human condition. It contains numerous "aha!" passages that inspire head nodding in recognition of the fundamental truths laid bare. The author’s style successfully captures legal nuances without being tedious or overly technical. The issues explored could not be more timely; indeed, with recent broad societal recognition of issues of sexual abuse and harassment the prescience of the author’s observations border on startling. The discussion of racism—particularly the pervasiveness of unconsciously held attitudes about race—could significantly affect individual attitudes and legal and social policies.
James Acker, Distinguished Teaching Professor, School of Criminal Justice, University at Albany
This lucid and engaging book reconceptualizes criminal law in a fascinating way, drawing together a number of important strands of the discussion that are too often treated separately: criminal law, jurisprudence and philosophy, psychological questions, practical questions of institutional design and even spiritual questions. It also considers topics that are rarely treated in standard criminal law accounts: most particularly the role of the victim. One of the book’s unusual strengths is that although grounded in legal jurisprudence, it is highly attuned to—and comfortable discussing—the emotional aspects of crime and punishment.
Susan A. Bandes, Centennial Professor of Law Emeritus, DePaul University College of Law
I have long admired Samuel Pillsbury’s writing on crime and punishment for its intellectual rigor and commitment to make the law more just and humane. In Imagining a Greater Justice: Criminal Violence, Punishment, and Relational Justice he has produced his most important work. Drawing on law and social science and on his own work with crime victims and offenders, Pillsbury details the complex harms suffered by victims of violence and explores how offenders have come to commit violence. He creatively employs the perspectives of the different vocations he has followed—journalist, attorney, academic and Episcopal deacon—to develop a concept of relational justice for crimes of violence. Relational justice includes punishment, but sees justice as finally a community endeavor that should help victims heal and offenders be redeemed. Imagining A Greater Justice challenged some of my own views about crime and punishment; I am confident that it will challenge many others, as the best writing often does.
Jeffrie G. Murphy, Regents’ Professor of Law, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, Arizona State University
The author is well-positioned to write this book, given his multiple professional commitments and expertise. He clearly brings both knowledge and compassion to the project. Addressing criminal justice through the lenses of punishment and healing for all is an important and innovative approach.
Monica J Casper, Professor of Gender and Women's Studies; Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, University of Arizona
Part 1: Judging Wrong
1. Violence and the Soul
2. Blaming for Moral Disregard
3. Misjudging Wrong
Part 2: Just Punishment
4. Punishing With Regard
5. Cruelty by Law: Mandatory Life in California
6. Our Prisons, Our Prisoners: Cruelty in Penal Practice
Part 3: Relational Justice
7. Victims and Justice under Law
8. Victims and Relational Justice
9. Redeeming the Responsible
10. Healing the American Community: Race and Criminal Justice
11. Living a Larger Justice