Criminal Justice and (a) Catholic Conscience

46 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2016 Last revised: 3 Feb 2017

See all articles by Leo Strine

Leo Strine

University of Pennsylvania Law School; Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz

Date Written: 2016


This article is one person's reflections on how an important influence on his own sense of moral values -- Jesus Christ -- affects his thinking about his own approach to his role as a public official in a secular society, using the vital topic of criminal justice as a focal point. This article draws several important lessons from Christ's teachings about the concept of the other that are relevant to issues of criminal justice. Using Catholicism as a framework, this article addresses, among other things, capital punishment and denying the opportunity for redemption; the problem of racial disparities in the criminal justice system; the problem of over-incarceration of poor defendants through the use of money bail; the problem of ever increasing mandatory minimums and a sprawling criminal code; and the need to improve the relationship between and the effectiveness of police in protecting communities of color. Finally, the article reminds us that Christ requires compassion and respect for all, and that any reasoned discussion of criminal justice must accord respect, empathy, and compassion to those victimized by crime, and those who do the tough job of law enforcement and corrections.

Keywords: criminal justice, ethics, capital punishment, Catholicism, Christianity, redemption, incarceration rates, law enforcement, mandatory minimum sentences, race, discriminatory sentences, bail, poor, income gap

Suggested Citation

Strine, Leo, Criminal Justice and (a) Catholic Conscience (2016). Santa Clara Law Review, Vol. 56, P. 631, 2016; U of Penn Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 16-6. Available at SSRN:

Leo Strine (Contact Author)

University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

3501 Sansom Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
United States

Wachtell Lipton Rosen & Katz ( email )

51 W 52nd St
New York, NY 10019
United States
212-403-1178 (Phone)

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