Ethical Behavior in Criminal Justice


An ethical dilemma is a situation that implies a complicated state of affairs, which in most cases involves an evident psychological difference between ethical imperatives. In the field of criminal justice, ethical dilemma is extremely rampant. In most cases, this is explained by the existence of strange laws, inappropriate regulations, inconsistent policies and unordinary practices, which result in conflicts and change the circumstances of decision making related to a criminal case. Current paper assesses ethical behavior in criminal justice system. Although there are situations in which the code of ethics is a must, in many situations, there is a need for a balance between application of instant reasoning and the available code of ethics. 

Criminal justice refers to a coordination of practices in governmental institutions, whose aim is to ensure social control, deter and mitigate the criminal activity rates, as well sanction individuals who act against the law by imposing criminal penalties and making efforts to rehabilitate criminals. However, ethical behavior is the demonstration of respect for the most crucial principles of morality which include being honest, acting fairly, ensuring equality, maintaining dignity, being diverse and taking into account the rights of individuals.


1. The Parole Board

Examination of the Situation

Robert tells the governor that he is faced with an ethical dilemma since if he as the chair of the parole board fails to act professionally by broadening the eligibility criteria as a way of allowing inmates be released in greater numbers than the norm suggests, he would be subject to a lawsuit. Robert, however, warns the governor that the release of inmates would come along with a number of adverse effects among which is a desired security of the general public and the resources of the government.

The Ethical and Moral Question

Robert argues that there is a conflict in terms of maintaining the moral obligation of offering security to the majority and observing the prevention of torture and degrading treatment towards the inmates.This means that keeping the inmates locked up and crowded would lead to attending a court hearing on behalf of the inmates while releasing the inmates would also be subject to a hearing in court in favor of the public for neglecting the duty of ensuring the public security.

The Decision the Actor Should Take

According to Robert, the most appropriate course of action would be to broaden the eligibility criteria so as to ensure the release of inmates in greater numbers. This would secure the governor and Robert from getting a lawsuit for infringing the rights of the inmates. However, releasing the inmates from prison would also call for a lawsuit, and therefore to avoid this, they would have to come up with a way of monitoring the inmates daily when they are out there in the public by enrolling the inmates in a community service program. It is important to consider the meaning and limitation of the moral principles involved.

The Ethical Basis of the Decision

Robert argues that locking up the inmates will result in a social benefit while releasing the inmates will result in a personal benefit. According to Robert, locking up the inmates would uphold the principle of harm where the public will be secure from any possible occurrence of an insecure situation. However, setting the inmates free would uphold the principle of autonomy so that it would be acknowledging their freedom over their physical bodies.

2. The Warden

Examination of the Situation

William tells the union representatives that he as the warden is faced with an ethical dilemma since he is understaffed hence keeping inmates longer and in a crowded place poses a threat to security of his staff members. At the same time, William argues that releasing the inmates back to the community and subjecting them to community service poses a threat to the community. According to William, since he is understaffed the available officers would not be able to monitor the inmates’ activities accordingly when they are out there in public. If the consequences are brutal, then the individual should consult others in order to come up with an alternative plan on how to act in the given situation.

The Ethical and Moral Question

William argues that he as a warden has a moral obligation of upholding the right to life, right to liberty and right to personal security of his officers, which can be achieved by releasing the inmates back to the community. This is because when the inmates are locked up in a crowded place, William’s officers will be outnumbered and hence they will be subject to attacks from the inmates. Again, releasing the inmates back to the community upholds the right to desirable work of William’s officers since they will not be working in constant fear of being attacked at any moment.

According to William, it is important to create an enabling environment for his officers to work in. This would have a positive impact on the performance of the officers. This would also help uphold the law by ensuring that the things the officers have sworn to do is being achieved, and the things the Constitution offers in the contract of the officers is taken into account to the letter. Upholding the principle of harm and the principle of paternalism would be  essential for achieving this.

The Decision the Actor Should Take

William argues that it is important to release the inmates back to the community in as large numbers as possible to create an enabling working environment for the staff. However, William argues that it is important to push for strict laws to be put in place to ensure that immediate justice is guaranteed. According to William, such orders should include announcement of curfews and allowance of execution of shoot and kill others. This would be beneficial for reducing the number of crimes as well as maintaining a healthy working environment for the officers.

The Ethical Basis of the Decision

William argues that keeping the inmates locked up is upholding the principle of benevolence as it helps the public achieve maximum security. William also argues that releasing the inmates will uphold the principle of harm by securing the officers from being attacked by a large number of inmates. William also argues that releasing the inmates would uphold the principle of paternalism as his officers would then be able to pursue their interests according to the law once they have a manageable number of inmates.

William argues that releasing the inmates would result in personal benefit for the inmates since it would be hard to monitor the inmates when they are out there in public. This is because the staff that William has is not enough for the allocation and supervision of a minimal number of inmates when they are carrying out community service. William also argues that keeping the inmates locked up would be socially beneficial since the number of crimes taking place in public will reduce but the problem would include overcrowding and security of the officers.

3. The District Attorney

Examination of the Situation

Martha tells the staff manager that she as the district attorney is faced with an ethical dilemma of whether to support the arrests of drug dealers in great numbers since most of the arrests made have no supporting evidence and hence the public might feel victimized. At the same time, Martha argues that when she had sworn to perform the duties of the district attorney, the mandate was to uphold the law through ensuring a fair trial, creating a platform for plea bargaining, and dismissing cases that were not viewed as strong enough.

The Ethical and Moral Question

Martha says that she as the attorney general is mandated by law to safeguard the Constitution and the Constitutional laws. The arrest and release of drug traffickers awaiting public hearing serves as a social benefit. This is because the public will have faith in its security forces so that this will enhance the public trust towards the government. Owing this, the public may be involved in reporting drug traffickers they know to the security forces. Again, this will prove the existence of a due process in the running of governmental activities.

However, Martha perceives the release of drug traffickers to the public as a personal benefit to the drug traffickers. She argues that it would allow them to get back to their activities in trafficking and have increased influence on the streets. Notably, Martha views the release as a lesser evil compared to keeping the drug traffickers locked up. To serve a universal benefit would be more appealing. As an attorney general, observing the interests of the public and upholding the rule of law is of primary importance.

The Decision the Actor Should Take

Martha advises that it would be beneficial for both parties if the number of arrests of drug dealers increased but at the same time there is a need to release them on heavy bonds waiting for the trial. This would be in accordance with the right of the drug dealers to have a fair public hearing and also their right to equality before the law. At the same time the release would assure the public of their right to social security and freedom from state or personal interference in their rights. This would help build public trust and have a channel to isolate offenders from the public .

The Ethical Basis of the Decision

If Martha calls for the arrest of drug traffickers then releasing them on bond awaiting trial will be according to the principle of lawfulness. This is because the arrest is an obligation mandated to the security forces by the Constitution while the release on bond awaiting trial is a right given by the Constitution to the traffic offenders and any other suspects breaking the law. Another principle being ensured is the principle of justice. This principle is realized by giving the drug traffickers a chance to attend a fair trial and bargain for a bond.

To some extent, the principle of deceive is realized by the decision. Martha does not deceive the public that they are safe from availability of drugs in the market as the drug traffickers are locked up. However, she makes public hope for a promising future by ensuring fair public hearings. Another principle served at a minimal price is the principle of paternalism where according to the decision of Martha, security officers show more confidence in work in their fields as they are covered by the law. However, for an individual to identify the relevant ethical principles, he/she must apply professional judgment.

4. The Officer

Examination of the Situation

Linda tells the dispatcher that she as an officer is faced with an ethical dilemma since on the one hand she has a suspect who is supposed to be a drug dealer while at the same time taking the suspect to the station would end up in the suspect being released by the sergeant for insufficient evidence. Linda argues that her efforts would be cut down if she took the suspect to the station. At the same time, Linda also argues that letting the suspect be released will break the law, as she has sworn to uphold principles of the Constitution in terms of carrying out her mandate as an officer.

The Ethical and Moral Question

Linda argues that she as an officer on the ground has the mandate to make an informed decision before engaging in any official activity. According to Linda, locking up the suspect will be a misuse of public resources carrying out investigations where there is no sufficient evidence. Linda argues that taking time to escort the suspect to the station will be time-consuming yet he is a petty offender and they have a real offence situation in which the dispatcher was asking for back up. For instance, a person has a right to choose how to react to a situation such as robbery in a way that benefits them in person but the decision they make may cause harm to other people.

According to Linda, the suspect might have been consuming drugs but not selling them. The sergeant would be infuriated with handling such a case and would only end up releasing the suspect. Linda sees no need in this as it would diminish her efforts as an officer and would end up making her unmotivated in terms of carrying out her official duties. Though it is a personal gain for both Linda and the suspect, Linda argues that it will be a social gain since public resources will not be misused in this case. 

The Decision the Actor Should Take

Linda argues that the most appropriate thing to do is to let the suspect go. According to Linda the suspect she is a petty offender and will only attract a misuse of resources for investigation according to the sergeant. Locking up the suspect would only lead to a situation, in which the system will be congested. Furthermore, Linda sees the suspect as cooperative since when asked to empty his pockets he does what he has been asked for. Linda is also open for any ideas of the dispatcher, who agrees to support what she decides to do.

The Ethical Basis of the Decision

The principle of honesty is applied by Linda in this situation. She does not deceive the dispatcher by just saying that she would be available as back up to handle the emergency situation that might come up. Instead, Linda explains to the dispatcher the situation at hand and asks for his opinion before confirming her availability. The right to be considered innocent until proven guilty is applied by Linda to the suspect. Linda was looking for a drug dealer, even though the suspect had some vials that only pointed to him being a consumer and not a dealer.

The other principle realized is the principle of harm. Linda as an officer does not use violence when confronting the suspect especially after realizing that the suspect is cooperative. Furthermore, Linda opts not to subject the suspect to harm by taking him to the station, where there might arise a situation of congestion and unwelcoming conditions as the suspect waits until the investigation of his/her case is complete. By this Linda exercises freedom of opinion and information.


The best way to approach ethical dilemmas is to determine whether an issue of moral ethics’ violation exists in the first place. This occurs when there is a conflict between values and rights of individuals. Another situation, in which an ethical dilemma would occur, is when a professional does not meet their expected responsibilities. The second way to approach an ethical dilemma is to identify which of the existing moral principles have been violated in the given situation. 

The third step to approaching ethical dilemmas is to rank those ethical principles which you think apply most to the situation at hand. One has to come up with a reason for giving priority to a certain moral principle over the other moral principles. For instance, consideration of its effects on other people. 

The forth approach is to develop a plan of actions which will be consistent to the identified moral principles which are the key to finding a solution to the problem. To achieve this, one has to confer with their clients and their colleagues appropriately with reference to the risks involved in case they take a certain course of action, and the expected consequences. 

The fifth approach is to implement the plan that has been set up. This calls for using personal skills in practice if they are appropriate and sufficient enough in the situation at hand. One should use skills like being sensitive in the course of communication, conducting negotiations in a skillful manner and being competence in terms of culture. The sixth and last approach is to reflect on what comes out of the moral decision made. This is achieved by evaluating the consequences that arise from the decision and the people who are directly affected.

The four cases involve an ethical dilemma in terms of serving criminal justice. In the case of the Parole board, Robert as the chair is faced with a dilemma of putting more emphasis on the security of the general public and focusing on improving the conditions that inmates and suspects are kept in. Releasing a large number of inmates back to the community would help Robert to monitor the inmates appropriately and take care not only of their needs but also the situations that might pose a threat of public security.  

As for the second case of the warden, William who is the warden is faced with an ethical dilemma of either focusing on the security of his officers or paying more attention to the security of the public. William is understaffed which causes a security threat to his officers as they are carrying out their constitution duties of maintaining law and order within the community. At the same time, releasing in mates back to the community would pose a threat as the officers manning the areas are fewer and are not able to attend to all cases at once. Hence criminal activity rates will increase.

In the third case of the district attorney, Martha who is the district attorney is faced with the dilemma of ordering the arrests of drug dealers and creating a platform which would work in favor of drug dealers. When she was campaigning for the seat, she promised to ensure that the trial of drug dealers would be fair and that they would be given bail upon plea in a court of law. She also promised to dismiss cases that had insufficient evidence. However, Martha knows that if she does this, the public will lose trust and faith in their government.

In the last case that involves the officer, Linda is faced with an ethical dilemma related to a situation where she has to either let go a person who is suspected to be a drug dealer because of insufficient evidence or escort the suspect back to the station where she knows the suspect will be just as well released by the sergeant. Linda knows that letting the suspect go would mean breaking the law since she will not be fulfilling the duties she has sworn to perform. However, she also knows that taking the suspect to the station will be demoralizing to her and will diminish her efforts as the suspect will just as well be released by the sergeant.

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