How would justice work in a free society? I imagine there would be more justice than there is now, it would be difficult to have less. Most advocates of a truly free society agree that anyone found guilty of violating the rights of another individual should be required to pay restitution in order to make the victim whole.
There are some advocates for a truly free society who believe that jails would still exist, but only to house those individuals who can not, or who will not, make their victims whole. Those people who are considered a true danger to society. I am not writing to debate the validity of that position. Rather, to ask a question about substitutionary justice.
Imagine if you will that the following scenario takes place in a free society:
Someone has information about a group who was committing horrible acts of violence across the globe. That person infiltrates the group to collect information about their actions, and then releases the information to the public at large. This action obviously angers the people who are said to be in charge of the group, and they decide to torture the individual who leaked information about their actions. The leaders of the group, then claim their rights were violated by the individual, and they convince a court to find this person guilty. The group convinces the court that the individual’s actions are so heinous that he must spend the next 136 years of his life in jail, because there is no way he can ever make them whole.
Now, on the other hand, many of the people who were informed of the horrible misdeeds of the group are not convinced that said individual is guilty of any tort against the group. Some of the people are so adamant in their support, that they offer to serve a portion of his sentence in order for him to go free. Would a free society allow for such substitutionary justice?
I would like to think so.
If you missed the parallel, the above scenario is a basic summary of the supposed crimes of Bradley Manning, the Army private who was recently found guilty in a military court of 19 counts of espionage, computer fraud and theft related to the release of information to Wikileaks.
Despite the guilty verdict, there are thousands of people who believe that Bradley Manning did nothing wrong, and should not be incarcerated. Some of his supporters have even offered to serve part of his yet to be determined sentence, which could be as much as 136 years in military prison.
Charlotte Scot created a petition titled “I will proudly serve part of Bradley Manning’s sentence.”
Scot told me, “People in our country should not go to prison for telling the truth… I’m a senior citizen who is fed up with the secret laws, the secret courts the secret everything. Bradley Manning is a scapegoat for our government policies. He should be praised, not punished.”
I agree that Manning should be praised not be punished, so I signed the petition as signer #2,381 and added the message, “Bradley Manning is a whistleblower who exposed potential war-crimes. For his actions, he was a recipient of the FPP Peace Prize in 2010. As a journalist dedicated to ensuring the freedom of the press, I would gladly serve 30 days in military prison on behalf of Bradley Manning.”
I know that this is a largely symbolic action, but I stand by my words that I would serve part of Bradley Manning’s sentence. Scot admits that the petition is largely symbolic, saying that she “hope[s]… to make people aware of the injustice,” adding, “Since when do we send truth tellers to prison for 136 years?”