Ethics in Criminal Justice

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Ethics in Criminal Justice | Free Essay

Ethics in criminal justice is connected with problems arising in courts, police, correctional facilities, and other social organizations. Ethical issues may appear within the framework of punishment or human rights. Every decision and action of the law enforcement professional should be understood from the perspective of moral norms, serving as a basis for the law. Criminal justice decision-makers should develop certain strategies to issue policies that do not only correspond to legal requirements, but also to morality and professional ethics. This paper looks to analyze how they can utilize ethics when creating future policies.

The Role of Ethics in the U.S. Criminal Justice System

Ethics is supposed to be a foundation of the criminal justice system and should play a key role in creating future policies. It contributes to the moral reasoning of law enforcement professionals. Furthermore, it helps to identify the seriousness of a criminal activity, as well as develops moral reasoning and society’s concern about an acceptable punishment. While creating future policies, criminal justice decision-makers should deal with moral issues and think about factors that might have caused a particular situation. The findings reveal that the first step requires gathering and checking facts (Banks, 2016). However, the latter cannot tell what to do and, therefore, criminal justice decision-makers must be guided by the main values based on different approaches. Thus, they are useful tools to value moral issues.

The Utilitarian Approach

The utilitarian approach suggests selecting laws that can be morally better. Furthermore, it is important to find solutions that can balance good and evil. Legal scholars and philosophers belonging to the advocates of the utilitarian approach to criminal punishment point out that there is no absolute model due to the absence of the possibility to establish infallibly accurate and universal proportionality between criminal acts and penalties (Souryal, 2014). However, in relation to ethical considerations, policy-makers should detect ethical actions that provide the greatest good for both parties. At the same time, they should not ignore the fact that proportionality between crime and punishment cannot be reached due to the fact of the inaccessibility of absolute equality.

Oftentimes, both victims and criminals do not always adequately perceive the act of retaliation because the second in particular are characterized by cynicism, having their own system of values. As a rule, criminal justice decision-makers realize that inevitable criminal punishment is reasonable and necessary and should be developed in accordance with the requirements of absolute justice. Many philosophers and policy-makers recognize that the quest for absolute good is the highest stage of moral ethics in the field of contemporary morality and laws (Pollock, 2013). Any public punishment breeds certain emotions, feelings, and mental changes in victims and criminals. This resonance becomes important and must result in a law enforcement response.

The Rights Approach

The rights approach is based on the philosophy of Immanuel Kant on the individual’s right in choosing legal policies (Maguire & ‎Okada, 2014). According to these considerations, all people can choose what to do with their lives and others must respect their choices. Therefore, it is not ethically right to manipulate those who are free to make their decisions. Therefore, ensuring the strict observance of human rights and freedoms, as well as an effective system of protection against possible violations, should be a fundamental part of future criminal justice policies promoting ethical standards among law enforcement officers. Despite the fact that the problems of individual rights in criminal proceedings, legal assistance, and protection from illegal actions remain the most controversial because there are many unresolved issues, disagreements and legal conflicts. Creating future policies, criminal justice decision-makers should consider the rights to the truth, privacy, not to be injured, and to what is agreed (Maguire & ‎Okada, 2014). This approach can identify which action is moral considering human rights.

The Fairness or Justice Approach

Aristotle introduced the fairness or justice approach to ethics in ancient Greece (Jones, 2013). The key moral principle of this consideration deals with the search for an answer to the question “How fair is a certain action?” It is also observed from the point of view of discrimination and favoritism. Criminal justice decision-makers should not give privileges while discriminating others. The hierarchy of values often, if not always, involves a dilemma of justice or law. Sometimes, the gap between these concepts is very significant. Moreover, the idea of justice can be fairly subjective and debatable for each individual judge. Another specific representation of a legal system clash is international law and a crossroad of different states. Due to individual interests, each country pursues its own interests often ignoring universal legal norms (Jones, 2013). The reason is a subjective view on what is fairness and justice.

The Common Good Approach

Criminal justice policy-makers should consider the common good approach to pursuit common goals and values. The category of common good is significant mainly when it is necessary to normalize the behavior of people to organize a social dialogue or resolve a conflict situation. This concept was developed by Aristotle, Plato, and Cicero in the ancient times and has its value today (Banks, 2016). According to this approach, all individuals should have equal conditions to achieve advantages. Consequently, criminal justice policies should bring benefits to all. A just legal system is an example of common good.


Implementing ethics in policymaking, criminal justice decision-makers should consider the approaches mentioned above. They can help them develop certain strategies to issue policies that do not only correspond to legal requirements, but also to morality and professional ethics. Decision-makers should institute criminal justice policies both to achieve the agency mission and promote high ethical standards among law enforcement employees. Nowadays, the role of ethics is growing in all spheres of life, and criminal justice is one of them. Thus, it is important to consider ethical norms communicating with all sorts of people.

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