Ethics in Criminal Justice Administration

Categories: Criminal Justice
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Nowhere is ethical behavior more important than the administration of criminal justice. Lack of ethical behavior undermines the purpose of the criminal justice system. The cost of unethical behavior will be the downfall of the criminal justice system and only by gaining a true understanding of what ethical behavior is and how to maintain it will the system continue to flourish. While the ethical standard individuals develop through the years are important; utilizing critical thinking skills ensuring ethical standards stay in place.

Many people assume that good ethical behavior is part of an individual’s makeup but in reality ethical behavior is learned and therefore not the same for everyone. Ethical and moral behavior begins developing from the time individuals are young and continues to develop and change during adulthood.

It is important to understand that the initial ethical values a person gains usually come from the home environment and are highly influenced by the ethical behavior displayed by parents and family members.

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Should this life be impacted by crime and violence then this behavior could become the norm and this individual’s ethical values and standards would be outside of the societal norm. As individuals grow into adults life experiences continue to impact ethical and moral standards. Many people live by the assumption that while something may be unethical it is not illegal so no one cares but right and wrong do not always deal in legalities. Just because something is not illegal does not make it right. In the administration of criminal justice ethical considerations are the basis for the use of discretion, force, and due process required to make sound moral decisions.

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The study ethics helps understand the consequences of actions and the moral principles used. In the administration of criminal justice ethics must be a permanent part of management and policy making related to punishment. Ethics are also a vital part of decision making in regards to rehabilitation, deterrence, and sentencing. Individuals working in the field of criminal justice maintain authority over other individuals lives (Banks, 2004). This power must not be taken lightly. These individuals must be aware of the power of the position and the ethical standards required when carrying out those duties. So how can the system ensure that individuals maintain ethical standards? Training is the answer to ensuring ethical standards. Most individuals are receptive to training and understand the necessity of maintaining ethical standards.

The cost of legal fees, litigation and damages from claims of ethical violations could cost millions and it seems simpler to maintain training for staff than pay millions if claims. A recent increase in claims against officers for unethical behavior only substantiates this ideal even more (Eastvedt, 2008). It is important for professionals in the criminal justice field to understand the ethical framework where individuals gain their approach for decision making. The first concept is idealism where it is believed the desired outcome may be obtained through using the appropriate action. The issue for these individuals is choosing the correction action in a given situation. The second concept is relativism. This concept is derived from the ideal that while the desired outcome is preferred, everything is relative to circumstance and therefore undesirable outcomes are inevitable no matter the action taken.

There are four approaches to ethical decision making and knowing these will help to identity the orientations of those whom you employ. Situationists believe that everything is relative and base the actions taken on the assessment of the situation. These individuals choose not to acknowledge the universal moral code or rules followed by society. Subjectivist also believe in the relative and reject societal codes however these individuals maintain personal moral principles used when assessing situations. Absolutists follow idealism believing that the best outcome is attained by following the universal moral principles. Exceptionists follow the same belief as absolutists with the slight difference. They believe that certain situations allow deviation from these beliefs (Bailey, 2009). Another important training module is critical thinking.

Critical thinking helps individual’s reason right from wrong to ensure good decision making skills. Critical thinking helps individuals make objective decisions when analyzing information. At the core of critical thinking are cognitive skills and affective dispositions. Cognitive skills are used during interpretation, analysis, evaluation, inference, explanation, and self-regulation. Affective dispositions require and individual to be inquisitive, maintain a concern for being well-informed, know when to employ critical thinking, be aware of one’s own bias, and willingness to reconsider or revise when needed. Making an ethical decision does not occur instantly. Individuals usually have time to consider the action and any alternatives. This is where crimtial thinking plays an intricate part. Critical thinking allow the individual to consider what to believe or what action to take (Meisel & Fearon, 2006).

The Williams Institute and the APPA are working together to introduce the compliance based model and responsibility based model into ethics training. The Williams Institute maintains a belief that ethical responsibility is not based on rules and codes rather relationships and responsibility for ones actions. By giving people the tools to make the right decisions, TWI believes that individuals will make the right decision. The first step is to remove fear from the decision making process and enable individuals to be responsible for the decision made (The Williams Institute, 2001). Ethics training for individuals in the field of criminal justice requires an understanding of individuals within the field and the roles held.

Individual within this field are analyzed and judged on the decisions made whether ethical or unethical. Discretion is required of all individuals in all areas within the system. Understanding of the discretionary roles of each person is vital to understanding how unethical issues can occur. Legislators have the power to define what is considered illegal and punishable under the law. Police officers have a great amount of discretion during decision making on arrests, citations and investigations. Prosecutors often face the least amount of scrutiny based on the faith placed on them upholding the law. Prosecutors maintain discretion when filing charges, downgrading charges, influencing officers, and the death penalty.

Judges maintain discretion over plea bargains, sentencing, reviewing the law, and rules of evidence. Individuals working in corrections have discretion over probation, determining appropriate behavior, supervision of inmates and parole. Each of these individuals has a responsibility for enforcing the law and protecting the rights of the constitution. Training for these individuals should include analytical skills and reasoning, and the ability to recognize the consequences of actions. The five goals that should be attained once the ethical training is completed are being aware and open to ethical issues, become personally responsible, develop critical thinking skills, understanding how the system often encourages coercion, and the exploring individual feelings (Drylie, J.).

Individuals must learn to uphold the rights and liberties of the suspect, the interests of the community, and the law (Albanese, 2006). Ethics in the administration of criminal justice go hand in hand. Individuals who work in the field of criminal justice must maintain ethical integrity to ensure the law functions as designed. As individuals grow and take their place in the world the ethical and moral values from childhood change based on life experiences. Knowing the ethical framework that people use to define their ethical outlook helps administrators develop a plan of action for working with these individuals. By providing training and education to individuals within the criminal justice field society can ensure those values are maintained within the system.

Albanese, J., 2006, Professional Ethics in Criminal Justice: Being Ethical When No One is Looking, retrieved May 12, 2013 from:…-a0158093018″>Professional Ethics in Criminal Justice: Being Ethical When No One is Looking. Strahlendorf, P., Professional Ethics, Ryerson University, School of Occupational and Public Health, Session No. 174, Retrieved May 12, 2013 from: Banks, 2004, the Importance of Ethics in Criminal Justice, retrieved May 12, 2013 from: Drylie, J., Ethics in Criminal Justice, Week 1, CJ3750, Kean University, retrieved May 12, 2013 from: Eastvedt, Steven R., 2008, Criminal justice ethics- a view from the top, retrieved May 12, 2013 from: Meisel, S. I., & Fearon, D. S. (2006). “Choose the future wisely”: Supporting better ethics through critical thinking. Journal of Management Education, 30(1), 149-176. Retrieved from

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Ethics in Criminal Justice Administration. (2016, Apr 16). Retrieved from

Ethics in Criminal Justice Administration
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