Adherents to a Judeo-Christian theory may agree on the principles but not on their application
to the criminal justice system’s treatment of juveniles.68 On the one hand, the Bible teaches that
the judicial and legislative branches have been established by God and thus have the authority to
promulgate laws and make decisions that address the issues facing our society, including juvenile
crime.69 On the other hand, the governing authorities are not always motivated by what is best for
society as a whole, and, as recent DNA exonerations illustrate, the criminal judicial system has
considerable flaws.70 The resulting tension demands that the citizenry critically evaluate whether
its decision-makers are correctly using their position and power to maintain a safe and productive
society, while simultaneously protecting the interests of the most vulnerable in society, including
juvenile criminal offenders.
In sum, the Bible provides principles, as opposed to black letter law, for the public to use when
determining whether a law is just; therefore, natural law adherents should apply other theories of
jurisprudence, in conjunction with the Bible, to evaluate our justice system’s treatment of
B. Therapeutic Jurisprudence
Therapeutic jurisprudence examines the existing procedures, policies, and roles of the various
players of the legal system and asks whether the system promotes therapeutic rather than anti-
therapeutic consequences in relation to those affected by the system.71 This theory of jurisprudence
has two goals: (1) to promote positive therapeutic outcomes, and (2) to reform those anti-
therapeutic legal rules and practices that produce negative psychological and behavioral effects.72
Scholars have explained that the judicial system is most effective, reformative, and “therapeutic”
when individuals feel like they have been treated with “fairness, respect, and dignity.”73 In light of
“Lord when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When
did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see
you sick or in prison and go visit you?” The King will reply, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for
one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
68 See generally Martin H. Pritikin, Punishment, Prisons, and the Bible: Does “Old Testament Justice” Justify Our
Retributive Culture?, 28 CARDOZO L. REV. 715 (2006) (challenging the assumption that the Old Testament of the
Bible condones harsh retribution as a means of punishing criminal offenders).
69 See supra notes 62–64 and accompanying text (providing a broad overview of the natural law theory of
jurisprudence as it relates to a Biblical framework for understanding this issue).
70 Romans 3:11–12, 23 (“There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have
together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. . . . [F]or all have sinned and fall short of
the glory of God . . . .”); see generally DNA Exonerations Nationwide, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT (Jan. 15, 2016),
statistics on the 337 post-conviction DNA exonerations and noting several weaknesses in the criminal justice system
which may have contributed to wrongful convictions.
71 Bernard P. Perlmutter, “Unchain the Children”: Gault, Therapeutic Jurisprudence, and Shackling, BARRY L. REV.
1, 55 (2007). This branch of jurisprudence “is a perspective that regards the law as a social force that produces
behaviors and consequences . . . . Therapeutic jurisprudence wants us . . . to see whether the law can be made or
applied in a more therapeutic way so long as other values, such as justice and due process can be fully respected.”
David B. Wexler, Therapeutic Jurisprudence: An Overview, INTERNATIONAL NETWORK ON THERAPEUTIC
JURISPRUDENCE (1999), http://www.law.arizona.edu/depts/upr-intj/.
72 Perlmutter, supra note 71, at 55.
73 Amy D. Ronner, Songs of Validation, Voice, and Voluntary Participation: Therapeutic Jurisprudence, Miranda
and Juveniles, 71 U. CIN. L. REV. 89, 94 (2002).