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Namo Buddhaya!

Here are my questions regarding justice systems & their morals:

Would it be skillful & moral to report someone to a principle, a police officer, or any sort of authority when someone is being hurtful to others (such as killing, bullying, etc.), knowing that reporting them will most likely cause them suffering e.g. expulsion from school, jail time, etc?

And also is justice skillful, moral and is incarceration moral, skillful in terms of the Dhamma?

Metta!

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Justice system is driven by unskillful intentions, but a necessity to maintain society. Essentially any action rooted in hatred, greed or ignorance is not skilful. For many justice is a form of retribution for some action done by another which is based on hatred which and unskillful root.

If you are judge you are expected to judge justly.

Reporting crime one needs to weigh the karmic consequences one may willing to bear and impact or betterment it brings.

If you are a witness brought forward by subpoena then you have to tell the truth. In many cases of coming forward to report a crime may not be skilful if it is motivated by hatred, greed or ignorance. Generally when coming forward one has sympathy towards the victim and hatred towards the perpetrator.

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'Dhamma' means 'that which upholds' society & individual minds.

Without law, there would be chaos & anarchy.

Therefore, it is proper to report criminals.

The Buddha appeared to take it for granted society punishes criminals. For example:

And what, mendicants, is the fear of punishment? It’s when someone sees that the kings have arrested a bandit, a criminal, and subjected them to various punishments—whipping, caning, and clubbing; cutting off hands or feet, or both; cutting off ears or nose, or both; the ‘porridge pot’, the ‘shell-shave’, the ‘demon’s mouth’, the ‘garland of fire’, the ‘burning hand’, the ‘grass blades’, the ‘bark dress’, the ‘antelope’, the ‘meat hook’, the ‘coins’, the ‘acid pickle’, the ‘twisting bar’, the ‘straw mat’; being splashed with hot oil, being fed to the dogs, being impaled alive, and being beheaded.

AN 4.121

Morality in Buddhism is not harming yourself or others. If you make the choice to not report a criminal, this is an act of mental kamma that harms another. The scriptures say:

If you, Rāhula, are desirous of doing a deed with the mind, you should reflect on that deed of your mind, thus: ‘That deed which I am desirous of doing with the mind is a deed of my mind that might conduce to the harm of self and that might conduce to the harm of others and that might conduce to the harm of both; this deed of mind is unskilled, its yield is anguish, its result is anguish.’ If you, Rāhula, reflecting thus, should find: ‘That deed which I am desirous of doing with the mind is a deed of my mind that might conduce to the harm of self and that might conduce to the harm of others and that might conduce to the harm of both; this deed of mind is unskilled, its yield is anguish, its result is anguish.’, a deed of mind like this, Rāhula, is certainly not to be done by you. But if you, Rāhula, while reflecting thus, should find: ‘That deed which I am desirous of doing with the mind is a deed of my mind that would conduce neither to the harm of self nor to the harm of others nor to the harm of both; this deed of mind is skilled, its yield is happy, its result is happy’, a deed of mind like this, Rāhula, may be done by you.

MN 61

Criminal reap what they sow, as the Buddha taught:

  1. He who inflicts violence on those who are unarmed, and offends those who are inoffensive, will soon come upon one of these ten states:

138-140 Sharp pain, or disaster, bodily injury, serious illness, or derangement of mind, trouble from the government, or grave charges, loss of relatives, or loss of wealth, or houses destroyed by ravaging fire; upon dissolution of the body that ignorant man is born in hell.

Dhammapada

Buddhism is not Cultural Marxism, which protects the sexual immoral, the creators of pornography, the destroyers of families, genocidal Communists and co-tribal imperialists/colonizers. A Buddhist should not be meek & timid in using whatever moral laws of society are available to them.

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Protecting the victims

The justice system exists in order to reduce crime and protect victims. It's important to realize that not only our actions can harm others, but also our inaction can cause harm.

Yes, reporting a culprit will most likely cause them suffering e.g. expulsion from school, jail time, etc. However, not reporting a culprit will most likely cause other people suffering through your choice of inaction. Reporting a bully or thief or rapist is necessary to protect other, innocent people from harm.

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You might reflect that "beings are heir to their own kamma".

Ideally too it wouldn't be the case in society that "the cure is worse than the disease" -- perhaps it's better, when you're at school, better for a bully and for their victims, that a bully might learn justice and mercy early than not.

Incidentally, one of the Zen stories is The Thief Who Became a Disciple.

I'm not sure what you'd do, in a hypothetical case where you think that the "justice" is unjust.

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