Is Revenge Justice?

A sixteen-year-old boy, driving drunk, killed four people. His attorneys cited “affluenza” as the cause of his recklessness and recommended treatment, not confinement. Affluenza is the term used to describe youngsters who are out of control as a result of wealthy indulgent parents who set no limits or consequences.

The judge sentenced him to ten years’ probation and treatment for his alcoholism. Her decision has attracted a lot of attention. The victim’s families are outraged, demanding justice. Would a poor or minority teen have escaped incarceration? Was justice bought? Is punishment justice? Is justice subjecting everyone equally to the harshest punishment?

My experience with youngsters afflicted with affluenza shapes my opinion that this is an enlightened judge and a reasonable sentence. Good treatment and community service can teach this young man responsibility and remorse, allowing him to redeem himself through a life of service to others. Incarceration, revenge and punishment would merely reinforce his sense of entitlement and victimization, the cause of his irresponsible actions.

Enlightened consequences to criminal and irresponsible actions should be equally applied, regardless of wealth or the best defense attorneys. This to me, is more just than subjecting everyone to a system of punitive confinement that is equally ineffective. “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The Visiting Scribes series was produced by the Jewish Book Council‘s blog, The Prosen People.

The Jewish world is full of debates. Get the latest in MyJewishLearning’s weekly blogs newsletter.

Discover More

The Most Essential Kitchen Gadgets for Jewish Cooking

For everything from chicken soup to latkes, we can't live without these useful tools.

CRISPR, the Eclipse and Rabbi Soloveitchik

The fact that we can even think about changing genes to let blind people see is an incredible achievement in and of itself

When The History of Anti-Semitism and Racism Come Together

How the grandchild of Holocaust survivors and mother of an African American navigates the history of hate.