Analyzing the episode Aftershock from the well renowned television series Law and Order from a restorative perspective was really intriguing. The episode begins with a man, who had been convicted of raping and murdering a 26-year-old woman, being executed by lethal injection. Capital punishment is a undoubtedly a more extreme measure than any prison sentence, but ultimately, both actions portray the same message to the offender and to society; the justice system and the surrounding community have given up on this person, lost all empathy, and determined that this person doesn’t deserve restoration and healing. Watching just one episode of Law and Order made me that much more doubtful on the state of our criminal justice system.
Law and Order’s portrayal of the justice system further validated my preexisting notions of the flaws of the justice system, and also led me to an interesting realization; the episode seems to imply that the justice system’s spiteful, irrational response to violent crimes is, above all else, an indictment on society. Following the execution, District Attorney Adam Schiff is asked why he changed his stance on capital punishment. His response is clear: it wasn’t he who changed his mind; instead, “the people changed theirs” (“Aftershock”). The criminal justice system didn’t shape itself into the flawed institution that it has become; conversely, it was the general population’s insecurity and vengeance that really gave birth to this system. But why? As