equity | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction

Equity in justice means giving everyone what they deserve based on their unique circumstances and needs.

In the context of justice, equity refers to the basic idea of giving everyone what they deserve. This means that individuals should be treated fairly and justly based on their unique circumstances and needs rather than simply receiving the same treatment as everyone else. The principle of equity is closely linked to the concept of fairness, which is a key principle of the justice system.

One of the main challenges in promoting equity in the justice system is determining what constitutes “deservingness.” This can be a complex and subjective issue, as different individuals may have different needs and circumstances that affect what they require in order to be treated fairly. For example, an individual who has experienced significant trauma may require different forms of support and assistance in order to participate in the justice system than someone who has not experienced such trauma.

Another challenge in promoting equity is addressing systemic inequalities and disparities that may exist in the justice system. For example, certain communities may be more likely to be subject to policing and criminalization than others, leading to disproportionate representation in the criminal justice system. In such cases, simply treating everyone the same may not be sufficient to ensure equity, as it fails to account for the underlying structural factors that contribute to these disparities.

To address these challenges and promote greater equity in the justice system, it is necessary to focus on a range of strategies and approaches. One important strategy is to ensure that decision-makers in the justice system are trained to recognize and address implicit biases that may influence their decisions. This includes judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers, who may unconsciously be more likely to view certain individuals as “deserving” of harsher treatment based on their personal characteristics.

Another strategy for promoting equity in the justice system is to address the root causes of inequality and disparities in society. This includes addressing issues such as poverty, lack of access to education and healthcare, and discrimination, which can contribute to disparities in the justice system. By addressing these underlying factors, it may be possible to promote greater equity and fairness in the justice system.

In addition to these strategies, there are also debates about the role of equity versus other principles, such as efficiency or retribution. Some argue that promoting equity should be the primary goal of the justice system, while others believe that other goals, such as deterring crime or punishing offenders, should take precedence.

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Last Modified: 06/24/2021


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