Albuquerque Journal

Justice is not limited to one area of life

PUBLISHED: Thursday, November 6, 2014 at 12:02 am

How important is justice?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

Nov. 2 marked the anniversary of the day President Ronald Reagan signed the bill making King’s birthday a national holiday. During his remarks on that day, Reagan said: “In a nation that proclaimed liberty and justice for all, too many black Americans were living with neither.”

King, Cesar Chavez and Susan B. Anthony, as well as other leaders, all devoted their lives to the call for justice. These visionaries displayed courage under the most difficult of circumstances and at a time when their causes were not necessarily convenient.

The value of fairness and justice impacts all of us in the form of our economy, the taxes we pay and even our personal safety. One of the many obligations we have as Americans is to continue to pursue, through civic participation, the core value of justice on which our county was founded. Our Pledge of Allegiance, concludes with “… and justice for all” and serves as an ongoing reminder of its importance.

Justice is not limited to just one area of our lives.

For example, this past year, our news outlets reported on many high-profile criminal cases that moved through our state and federal court systems. We know that there are individuals in our community who have committed crimes of all sorts and deserve punishment. Let’s be tough on crime and criminals; however, in that pursuit, we should never rush to judgment lest we wrongfully convict.

The United States incarcerates the greatest number of its citizens, more than any industrialized country in the world. The Innocence Project was established in the wake of a landmark study by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Senate, which found:

• Incorrect identification by eyewitnesses was a factor in over 70 percent of wrongful convictions.

• 70 percent of those exonerated are from minority groups.

• The average sentence [in a wrongful conviction] is 13 years.

Justice or injustice does not only come from the courtroom though.

I recently spoke with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, where our conversation focused on justice and its meaning. Huerta emphasized that there are many of types of justice and injustices that we see all around us, and which impact our individual and collective lives.

From the streets, in the form of poverty, to lack of business and educational opportunities. It is estimated that 60 percent of the inmates in the our jails have mental health issues and some might be better served receiving treatment elsewhere. In New Mexico, the number of children living in poverty is reported at around 30 percent. All these are forms of injustice for which justice must be sought.

Justice can sometimes appear gray in color, with different interpretations of exactly what it means. We generally know justice when we see it and conversely injustice when we feel it. Therefore, in our pursuit of justice, we must always guard against injustices, no matter where they may be.