Society has become increasingly diverse and mobile, which presents a number of risks not only for governing but also for the justice system. The use of simulated justice is one way of managing those risks. Simulated justice is partly an emulation of the justice system, which it is a part of, and its processes. Although simulated justice is quite broad, it generally involves monitoring, profiling, and predicting. It is a convergence between the virtual and real worlds. Simulated justice may be divided into “soft” and “hard” zones. Generally, soft zones include the less restrictive administration of sanctions such as requiring fines, governing via privilege deprivations, licenses, and commodities. Hard zones include the use of electronic devices to monitor high-risk offenders. These high-risk offenders are often targeted in the justice system because they are regarded as ungovernable in the soft zones.
Simulated justice that includes monetary sanctions stands in contrast to punishments such as incarceration or corporal punishment. Fines are usually seen as alternatives to incarceration because incarceration is sometimes deemed to be counterproductive for certain offenses. Fines are largely applicable to minor offenses. For example, traffic lights are sometimes fitted with cameras, which detect violators for any infringement such as failure to stop at a red light. Violators can be punished remotely via online or by mail. The easy administration of fines for this kind of unlawful behavior indicates the possibility that there will be an increase in the type of behaviors subjected to this discipline. Additionally, the monetization of justice has broadened the scope of a depersonalized justice.
Generally, such sanctions have very low profiles and do not elicit much public or political resistance. The money is regarded as a universal exchange and penalties are expected to apply equally to all violators. Revenues are raised, which cover and maintain the cost of such security. It is expected that such fines will result in a reduction in law-violating behavior by forcing violators to pay the fine, but its effectiveness in reducing the rate of such behaviors remains to be seen. It should be noted that the offender does not need to be present to receive the penalty for the violation or to pay the fine, which might in fact be paid by a third party such as a parent or spouse. Thus, offenders might not change their behaviors if fines are the only penalties. The concept of equal justice also merits serious consideration, given the nature of fines.
With simulated justice, societies have shifted away from a more centralized and territorial governance to one of risk management. As such, the way in which risks are currently managed results in an unequal distribution of risks based on the principle of utilitarianism. In other words, there is a need to maximize security and minimize the risks for the common good. To accomplish such goals, the nature of governance has undergone a number of changes due to technological developments, which have also influenced how justice is administered. In short, simulated justice is one way of addressing the mobility and diversity of populations while ensuring there is as little disturbance as possible.
Some offenses such as driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), and speeding are examples of dangerous behaviors that could put other lives in greater danger. The demand for physical police presence is not always possible, and in an attempt to minimize such risky behaviors the implementation of tolls, traffic lights, traffic cameras, parking meters, and soon became commonplace. Similarly, beginning in the 1960s, seatbelt and helmet laws were passed and became mandatory for drivers and bikers to wear, or they would be forced to pay huge fines or risk the possibility of incarceration for failing to abide by the laws. These behaviors are directly linked to greater harm, not just to the offenders, but to others as well. As such, the law regarding these offenses is based on the utilitarianism principle. Utilitarianism is an ethical philosophy advocated by late-
18thand early-19th-century philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. It is based on the notion that all actions in society should rest on achieving the greatest happiness for the greatest number, essentially acknowledging that some individuals will not be granted the same happiness enjoyed by the greater part of society.
Telemetric policing is one example of simulated justice. It includes electronic monitoring of certain high-risk offenders, including former and likely offenders. Such electronic devices usually contain global positioning system (GPS) chips to identify their locations and potential curfew violations. These are seen as objective and measured precisely through the use of technology, and as such offer an objective assessment of risks. Individuals are profiled and sanctioned based on an electronic trace rather than in a physical and human way. The penalty could be assessed remotely and subsequently justified. For example, in the case of parking meters, police officers do not need to be present or to patrol to penalize violators because the devices record offenses. The frequency of these devices have become more common in recent years where authority figures/law enforcement officers are replaced with parking meters, surveillance cameras, and other electronic devices that record and transmit information on law violators to a remote computer, which then issue notices of said fines to those responsible. More importantly, many of these offenses are judged and dealt with on an aggregate level rather than an individual level. In other words, unlawful behaviors are looked at broadly, and the risks and harms are assessed before penalties are attached to those behaviors. Although when one examines the concept of justice, such an approach is questionable, especially when one considers the diverse human population and different capabilities.
However, citizens enter a social contract in exchange for privileges and freedoms. The social contract, a concept defended by philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and more recently John Rawls, is an implicit contract based on certain moral responsibility. Inherent in the social contract is the notion that certain rights and duties are essential for a functioning society. A functioning society is one that is interdependent and filled with compromises. It is a sense of rationalization based on a universal perspective of privileges and freedoms.
Given society’s changing demographics and increasing mobility, it is expected that technology is used in the justice system to minimize harm and protect the innocent and defenseless. Many of these efforts are geared toward reducing dangerousness and insecurities in a changing world. Further, individuals have voluntarily subjected themselves to be governed and protected in certain ways because of the nature of the consumer society in which they live. For example, when citizens register their vehicles or obtain a driver’s license or credit cards, there is an expectation that they will be allowed to operate in a precise way for a price. Individuals purchase material freedom from the government in exchange for their personal freedom insofar as having an expectation of privacy from government observation.
The normal reach of policing is expanded under simulated justice, and the anticipated unit costs and visibility of law enforcement officers are greatly reduced. Purchased freedoms are indeed consequential. As such, citizens have licensed privileges that render them subject to electronic monitoring devices. Technology presents its own share of risks and harms as individuals learn and develop new ways of committing other types of crimes. There is also the possibility of privacy invasion and racial profiling that might lead to mistrust in such a system of governance. Also, the use of electronic devices or surveillance is not without human error. Telemetric devices may save individual’s personal information without their full knowledge, which can be accessed by persons to commit more serious crimes. Thus, these devices are intrusive, despite their helpfulness in some regards. Simulated justice to a certain degree can be escaped if individuals do not buy into such system of governance, but that, too, has consequences and is likely to affect other privileges and freedoms.
The reality is that persons inadvertently purchase certain privileges and freedoms, which carry certain consequences. So, while simulated justice might be invasive and inconvenient, it is in some respects a necessary evil. It is virtually invisible and rarely causes much disturbance, unless an individual decides to challenge it. Nevertheless, there is a need to create a balance between individuals’ freedom and security.
- Bogard, William. The Simulation of Surveillance: Hypercontrol in Telematic Societies. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
- Carrington, Kerry, Matthew Ball, Erin Obrien, and Tauri Juan, eds. Crime, Justice and Social Democracy: International Perspectives. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
- Deleuze, Gilles. Negotiations, 1972–1990. New York: Columbia University Press, 1995.
- Ericson, Richard and Kevin Haggerty. Policing the Risk Society. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
- O’Malley, Pat. “Simulated Justice: Risk, Money and Telemetric Policing.” British Journal of Criminology, v.50/5 (2010).
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