Justice is the concept of moral rightness based upon ethics, law, religion, rationality, and fairness. But justice is not the same in every country. What some countries may consider to be just may be considered unjust and ever immoral by others. This is demonstrated in the 1999 film “Brokedown Palace”. In the movie, two lifelong friends take a trip to Thailand to celebrate their high school graduation. Long story short, they are accused of smuggling drugs and are sentenced to 33-years in a Taiwanese prison. What seemed just by the Taiwanese government would be considered unjust by the Canadian government. The reason for this is because they did not follow the four purposes of justice; justice as an instrument of society, substantive justice, procedural justice, and justice as a social norm. This outline what each of these purposes entitles and why the Taiwanese government failed to follow these when prosecuting the girls.
After watching the movie Brokedown Palace, you might assume that because of the way the girls were treated throughout the trial and by how unjust the laws imposed on the girls were that this shows how unjust the Taiwanese government truly is. But this is because what the Taiwanese government may see to be just may seem unjust to other nations around the world and vise-versa. According to as an instrument of society, the extent to which we recognize a nation’s laws as being just is the degree to which we identify that nation as being just. This was demonstrated throughout the movie.
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There were several examples of laws that in the eyes of the Taiwanese government seemed just, but in the eyes of Canadians were far from it. An example of this was the sentence that was given to the girls when they were found guilty of drug smuggling. A 33-sentence is a very out-dated and cruel punishment for any drug smuggler in the eyes of Canadians, any given the past history of these girls would seem barbaric. In Canada, the usual sentence for someone found guilty of drug smuggling is 10 years, and even this is usually reduced to 6-8 years.
You might also think that the very laws imposed onto the girls are unjust. According to substantive law, some laws may be inconsistent with a superior standard and although they might appear to be legal, they may not be just. In Canada, if a law is found to be unjust based upon the superior standard, that law will be changed or dismantled. The Taiwanese clearly have not based their laws on the superior standard. An example of this is when they allowed Alice to serve both sentences. While this may seem just, is it really appropriate for one person to serve someone else’s sentence. Other nations including Canada would never allow something like this to happen.
Another example of the Taiwanese government not understanding the purpose of justice in the movie Brokedown Palace was their procedural justice. According to Procedural justice, a country must use proper administration of the formal rules when exercising the law. In Canada as well as in many other countries, there are a wide range of procedures which must be followed when arresting and prosecuting someone. The Taiwanese government showed none of these when arresting the girls. When the girls were first arrested, they were not told what they were being arrested for and they were not told any of their rights, such as the right to an attorney or a phone call. Procedural justice also states that judges cannot not disregard the rules of law. An example of this is the judge who prosecuted the girls. He didn’t not take into account the girls past and even the severity of the crime. He just prosecuted the girls based on the testimony of the hotel worker who had said that they had tried to charge their drinks onto someone else.
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When prosecuting the girls, the Taiwanese government also failed to follow one of the most important purposes of justice. Justice as a social norm states that justice is based upon the beliefs that and attitudes shared and accepted as the norm. In Canada, we have multiple politicians from different parts of Canada with different backgrounds. This makes is so when we make laws, we get the social from our entire country to back-up the laws that we make. But we also follow the standards set forth by other countries we view as being civilized. The Taiwanese government did not follow this social norm when arresting these girls. Other nations would have considered the age of these girls as well as their past criminal offences when prosecuting them. This would have made their sentences much shorter and might have even aloud the girls to get off scot-free. They also tricked the girls into signing a faulty confession by telling Darlene what she was signing was a plea of innocence when really it was a confession to the crime.
In conclusion, the Taiwanese seemed to be very unjust based on how they made their laws and how they were implemented. The reason for this is because they didn’t follow the purpose of Justice. Brokendown Palace portrayed the Taiwanese government as using an outdated and uncivilized form of justice which to the civilized world would appear as being unjust. The purpose of justice is not just to enforce laws for the sack of cleaning the streets but is to make a society civilized. As shown in the four purposes of justice, societies strive to reach a more civilized and fair form of justice. Because after all justice is the concept of moral rightness based upon ethics, law, religion, rationality, and fairness.