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How should the legal system respond to this data? Or, rather, what should motivate it to
change? This Section discusses two jurisprudential theories, contending that a Judeo-Christian
natural law theory and a therapeutic theory indicate that incarceration should not be the justice
system’s chief remedy for juvenile delinquency.61
A. Natural Law
Proponents of a natural law theory of jurisprudence contend that an extra-human source is the
foundation of human law.62 Natural law adherents are a diverse group, encompassing those who
believe that nature is the source of this law, and others who hold that the Judeo-Christian God, or
some other higher being, is the motivating factor.63 For purposes of this discussion, this Article
applies a Judeo-Christian perspective, evaluating existing laws through a biblical framework.64
The Bible vests governmental bodies with authority on the basis that “there is no authority except
that which God has established.”65 This includes authority to punish wrongdoers.66 However, the
Bible is also very clear that individuals have a duty to defend the rights of the weakest members
of society, including the orphan, widow, alien, and prisoner.67
61 See infra Part IV.B, Part IV.C.
62 Richard L. Gray, Eliminating the (Absurd) Distinction Between Malum In Se and Malum Prohibitum Crimes, WASH.
U L.Q. 1369, 1379 (1995).
63 Id. Although America is very diverse in terms of religious beliefs, for purposes of this discussion, this Article focuses
on the Bible as God’s revelation to mankind and thus a source of natural law.
64 Michael P. Ambrosio, Legal Realism, THE NEW JERSEY LAWYER MAG. 30, 31 (2000).
65 Romans 13:1 (New International Version). If not otherwise stated, this Article is referencing the New International
Version of the Bible.
67 There is precedent for this view in both the New and Old Testaments. See Deuteronomy 10:18–19 (“[God] defends
the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love
those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”); Deuteronomy 24:17–18 (“Do not deprive
the foreigner or the fatherless of justice, or take the cloak of the widow as a pledge. Remember that you were slaves
in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there. That is why I command you to do this.”); Deuteronomy
27:19 (“Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow.”); Psalm 82:2–3 (“How
long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the
cause of the poor and the oppressed.”); Proverbs 31:8–9 (“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for
the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.”); Isaiah 1:17
(“Seek justice, defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.”). God later
judged his people in Israel for taking advantage of the most vulnerable members of its society. See also Isaiah 10:1–
2 (“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and
withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”); Jeremiah
5:28 (“Their evil deeds have no limit; … they do not promote the case of the fatherless, they do not defend the just
cause of the poor.”); Zechariah 7:9–10 (“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy
and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor.’”). For authority
in the New Testament, see James 1:27 (“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look
after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”). Perhaps one of the
most powerful motivations for the Christian to care for the rights of the most vulnerable in society comes from
Matthew 25:31, where Jesus tells his listeners that whatever they have done for the “least of these” (those for whom
society has little regard), they have done for him:
I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink,
I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you
looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” Then the righteous will answer him,