So a convicted rapist was recently shot in both legs by vigilantes before he faced sentencing [thread], which raises some moral questions about whether or not justice and the rule of law are always congruent, or whether sometimes justice (real or perceived) should stand outside of the rule of law. However, with a case of vigilantism, it's a lot easier to maintain that the rule of law should trump justice. So I'd like to frame the discussion based on a true story that removes that variable. Fifteen years ago, a girl was raped on her 19th birthday. The individual who raped her had been her friend, and was driving her home. His place was on the way, and he said he needed to pick up something, so she went with him and he proceeded to force himself upon her. Charges were never pressed [reasons are unimportant, but he was guilty]. Fast forward to today. Through random chance, she encounters him at a bus stop. She confronts him in public, and he confesses, apologizes, and claims that he has spent the past five years of his life dedicated to his atonement. It's revealed (and verified) that he has spent the past five years working as a drug and alcohol addiction counselor, as well as volunteering for an organization like Men Can Stop Rape. Just like in the instance of the rapist getting shot in the legs, nothing is going to undo what he has done. But in both cases, some form of extralegal "justice" has been served. Assuming that the second rapist continues on this path well into the future, does his atonement have the same or greater value to society as serving a prison sentence? If no, why? If yes, are there other instances where a debt to society can be repaid outside of the legal system? And as a follow up question, should the rule of law be more malleable to best serve society on a case by case basis?