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Is Vigilante Justice Ever The Right Choice?

The majority of societies have a clear criminal justice system in which there are rules and laws that citizens are expected to uphold. This system is upheld by law enforcement officials who are trained and paid by the state. When people violate the law, they are supposed to be found by the police, tried in courts of law and sentenced. Sometimes this results in imprisonment, sometimes fines. The problem lies when at one point or another the criminal is allowed to slip through the cracks. This essay looks at some of the reasons that citizens who are ordinarily law abiding might take the law into their own hands in a quest for vigilante justice.

The legal system is slow

There are some cases that take a very long time to go to trial. If the injured party is able to recover stolen property before the law can have it returned, the desire to make things right can be difficult to ignore. Similarly, if the criminal is likely to commit the crime again and again, the victim may feel like acting to prevent this before officers are able to intervene.

The victim does not trust the system

There are many people who feel like their needs are ignored by the legal system and law enforcement professionals. They may be members of an ethnic minority that has traditionally been marginalized and brutalized. They may also be guilty of crimes themselves and feel like their issue will not be taken seriously as a result. These concerns are very real.

The system is actually corrupt

In cases where the perpetrator is very wealthy and powerful and the victim is powerless and poor, it is not unreasonable to feel like justice may never be served. Money can make witnesses change their stories and cause evidence to be lost under mysterious circumstances. Having witnessed similar things happening, victims are much less likely to expect their situations to be treated with respect. They may even worry that working through legal channels might result in additional victimization.

Vigilante justice can take many forms because it is limited not be laws but by the imagination and moral code of whomever is dispensing it. It may involve the damaging of the perpetrator’s property or even his or her torture and death depending on the circumstance. With such a wide range it cannot be agreed with in all cases but may be the best choice in at least some.

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