From Argentina, the experience of a judicial official who tries to reconcile fraternity and justice by putting people first.
“I’ve been working in the criminal justice system of Santa Fe for twenty years. It’s not a good business card to be holding these days in Argentina, where officials and institutions are the subject of constant suspicion, whether justified or not.
Ever since my first experience, the spirituality of unity has given meaning to my presence in the environment where crime, violence and non-love are more evident than love, which is the fulfillment of the law, as St Paul says.
During these years of constant challenge I tried to gear professional training, ethics, career and social relationships towards serving people, and certain difficult steps made in this direction have turned out to be decisive for me on my journey.
When my wife and I decided to adopt a little boy, we didn’t profit from the knowledge of people who could have helped us to complete the adoption process more speedily by going ahead of other couples who were perhaps living in solitude and suspension. Finally we were called: the official on duty, who knew me, was quite surprised by our attitude during during all the years of waiting. With the arrival of our adopted daughter, it was confirmed for us that God’s plans are perfect and can be realized when we do His will.
One time I had to take care of a case in which the defendant was ready to take justice into his own hands if he didn’t receive a favourable verdict. Meanwhile I continued to receive alarming anonymous messages regarding the dangerousness of the defendant and his close links with local authorities. In spite of it all, I stayed faithful to the juridical process and more than once had to give serious warnings to the defendant regarding his obligations in the procedural process. In the end, the verdict was not in his favour, but I gained the trust of his lawyer which continues until today. When I finished the case, that person came to greet me. He confided in me concerning his violent tendencies, and how in future situations in which he felt the urge to become violent, he would turn over to his son that problem which seemed unsolvable to him.
Since trials are recorded in writing, the whole process produces a mountain of paper work that makes consultation quite difficult, and often defendants and their families suffer helplessly. It is precisely in these situations that creating a space for sharing allows for bringing into evidence the individual dignity of each person, which is a first step towards hope for a better life.
At times, the mere fact of listening to someone with the heart and mind, can give us a light that goes beyond procedural practices for formal interrogation of a detainee, so that the person can explain his dramatic situation, and the justice official can have an adequate knowledge of the facts for making a truly humane decision. This has happened to me many times, like when I decided on a psychiatric visit for a detainee whom I had deeply listened to. There was a real danger that might attempt suicide, and this decision restored some balance to his situation.
“You know better than I do. What always makes the difference everywhere is: love, even in the exercise of justice.
(M.M. – Argentina)