If there was but a single innocent person punished by our laws, it should raise doubt on the entire system of Justice - yet there are many such innocent people punished. Not all criminals are punished in jail, nor are all people in jail criminals. And even when criminals are punished in jail, there are those who depend upon those criminals who are collaterally and inadvertently punished by the incarceration of the criminal.
Not only jail, but bad things do happen to good people. And good things happen to bad people.
Upon such lines of inquiry, it questionable whether Justice is a false goddess, blind as She is impotent, utterly unworthy of our devotion.
Yet Justice does exist. Even without the expediency of establishing Justice there are bad consequences to bad actions. Those who commit misdeeds find they must account to the consequence of their misdeeds, sooner or later - the deprivation of what is desired, the ending of what is pleasurable, the distress of pain, and other suffering naturally results from misdeeds. The rate at which misdeeds ripen is dependent upon numerous conditions: just as not all fruit on the same tree or bush ripen simultaneously, the rate at which our actions (both bad and good) bear their fruit is also not uniform.
The speed of this ripening of bad actions is factored through a combination of both weakness and vulnerability. As the speed of the ripening of good actions is factored through a combination of both strength and opportunity. This is because a person who is weak cannot defend themselves from misfortune, any more than a person who is not strong can take advantage of their good fortune. Misdeeds are those which weaken our body, mind and will. Good deeds are those which strengthen our body, mind and will.
For example, a drunkard may end up in jail. The drunkard does not become intoxicated in a day, or a night, or in a week, or a month - but by increasingly habitual use of alcohol. This dependence on alcohol is itself conditioned over a long time, through genetics and lifestyle, training and healthcare - among other conditions. When misfortune strikes a person, their weakest point breaks, and if they are susceptible to drinking, the first drink is taken.
This drinking results in further misfortune as well as a further weakening of the body, mind and heart. The drunkard experiences distress daily, and increasingly. The drunkard eventually loses all that is dear to them, not at once, but gradually. The drunkard's choice in the matter matters increasingly little: they have developed conditions of intoxication they cannot escape - long before they are placed in a jail they cannot leave.
Intoxicants take many forms, besides drink. There are numerous other means by which a person might weaken themselves, besides intoxicants. These weaknesses combine and reinforce each other, gradually, to become overwhelming - until a person, no matter how much they would make a better decision, cannot escape their doom.
Misfortunes take many forms, besides jail. There are numerous other means by which a person's weaknesses are challenged, besides misfortune. These challenges combine and reinforce each other, gradually, to become overwhelming - until a person, no matter how much they would make a better decision, cannot escape their doom.
A person only gradually becomes bound and brought to captivity, a person only gradually is made captive and distressed, a person only gradually is distressed and destroyed.
Like a cow brought to slaughter, our doom was sealed long before the butcher's knife was made. If we have been complacent in our impending doom, when it finally arrives we complain it seems unjust. We mistake the unimpassioned lassos of Karma for Yama's hatred.
In that moment of destiny, with profound ignorance, the complacent doomed regret not their misdeeds, but their lack of strength and their misfortune - not understanding that strength and good fortune is obtained only through avoiding misdeeds and performing good actions. They know only their present weakness and misfortune - without understanding the conditions that lead to weakness or misfortune.
The wise understand the causes of strength and fortune, and produce those conditions favorable to strength and fortune by abstaining from misdeeds and performing good actions. As a doctor first seeks to understand the cause of disease and injury, then to produce the conditions favorable to healing, and then secures their patient by remaining vigilant in sanitation and safety, the wise examine themselves daily for weakness, and are vigilant against misfortune. They continually strengthen themselves, and ready themselves for any opportunity by cultivating resourcefulness and optimism, by diminishing their ignorance, by reducing their desires and fears, by quelling their hatred.
This is the nature of distress: seeking pleasure and avoiding pain to prevent suffering is ultimately not satisfying – all instinctual, irrational behavior will result in more suffering.
This is the condition of distress: it is such irrational behavior, the act of seeking pleasure and avoiding pain, the attachment to things and ideas, the actions themselves which results in suffering.
This is the ending of distress: ending the desire for pleasure and aversion to pain, ending all instinctual hope and fear results in no new suffering because it results in no irrational action.
This is the condition for ending distress: ending is accomplished by practicing and training in an eightfold path of logical, rational behavior: of doing what is loving rather than what is pleasurable or not painful. All that began must end if not sustained. Suffering will end if not sustained.