Published on December 30, 2008
EthicsLecture #1 : EthicsLecture #1 Kelly Cheeseman Dial AJ 482/582 Why Study Ethics? : Why Study Ethics? Many justice topics have ethical implications. An act may be legal, but it is not necessarily ethical. Laws are often justified using an ethical rationale. Some laws are concerned with public safety. Others are based solely on moral or ethical grounds. Justice professionals are entrusted with power over others. : Police officers: Have the power of arrest. Control penalties such as issuing tickets. Decide which individuals to investigate or detain. Prosecutors: Decide whether or not to pursue charges and file a criminal case. Decide which cases to take to a grand jury. Decide how to prosecute cases, and whether to pursue the death penalty. Justice professionals are entrusted with power over others. Slide 4: Judges: Can reject or accept plea bargains. Make decisions about rules of evidence. Make decisions about sentencing. Probation officers: Can recommend prison sentences for the convicted. Slide 5: Prison officials: Can grant “good time” to offenders Can place an inmate in segregation. Parole officials: Decide when to file violation reports. All of these decisions involve some degree of discretion. What do criminal justice professionals have in common? : What do criminal justice professionals have in common? The duty to enforce the law The obligation to provide “due process” and “equal protection” for all A commitment to “public service” Why are ethics necessary for criminal justice officials? : Why are ethics necessary for criminal justice officials? Justice officials: Have the opportunity to abuse power. Have a duty to serve the public. Need tools to resolve the many ethical dilemmas they may face. Why should professionals study ethics? : Why should professionals study ethics? Professionalism depends the effective and morally responsible administration of policy. Ethics training helps to develop analytical skills needed to understand the pragmatic and theoretical aspects of the justice system. Slide 9: Criminal justice professionals recognize ethical consequences of actions and the moral principles involved. Ethics are central to decisions about discretion, force and due process. Ethics are germane to policy decisions about issues such as rehabilitation, deterrence and just deserts. Goals of the study of ethics (Braswell) : Goals of the study of ethics (Braswell) Become aware of and open to ethical issues. Begin developing critical thinking skills. Become more personally responsible. Understand the coercive element of the justice system. Develop wholesight (the ability to explore with one’s heart as well as one’s mind). Defining Terms (I) : Defining Terms (I) Morals: The capacity to make value judgments and discern right from wrong. Ethics: The study and analysis of what constitutes good or bad conduct. The two words are often used interchangeably. Defining Terms (II) : Meta-ethics: Technical investigation of the meaning of ethical terms as well as how ethical statements can be verified. Normative ethics: Definition of right conduct and moral duties. Applied ethics: “Real world” application of ethical principles. Professional ethics: Examination of the behavior of certain professional groups. Defining Terms (II) Defining Terms (III) : Duties: Moral obligations that one must carry out to be considered ethical. Superogatory: An act that goes beyond duty but is not required. Values: Criteria of desirability, worth or importance. Defining Terms (III) Are Ethics Relative? : Are Ethics Relative? Point of View #1: Values and ethics cannot be proven scientifically. Values and ethics are merely opinions. Therefore, ethics are relative to each individual or society. Are Ethics Universal? : Are Ethics Universal? Point of View #2: Ethical systems are based on fundamental values. Some beliefs (i.e., that murder is wrong) are universal among “civilized” societies. If a person believes murder is permissible and commits a murder, the act is still unethical regardless of the individual’s belief. Making Moral Judgments : Making Moral Judgments Some behaviors can be judged; others cannot. Most behaviors are ethically neutral (neither ethical nor unethical). To be judged moral or immoral, behavior must involve: Acts of free will affecting others. Slide 17: Acts: Intent is important as a motivation, but the act is what is judged. Free will: The person acting is rational and not under duress. Affecting others: The act has an impact on other humans or (in some definitions) animals or nature. Morality and the Law: Is there a Difference? : Morality and the Law: Is there a Difference? Some laws have an implied moral basis. Example: Laws against acts like murder, which is generally considered immoral. Some laws address issues that some consider immoral and others do not. Example: Laws against marijuana possession. Morality and the Law: Then and Now : Morality and the Law: Then and Now Some laws are now considered immoral but were once legitimate. Example: Laws permitting slavery. Some laws redefine previously acceptable behavior as illegal. Example: Laws against cocaine possession. Elements of a Crime : Elements of a Crime Actus reus: The act itself Mens rea: Intent to commit the crime (culpability) Causation: It must cause harm. Criminal/Moral Culpability : Criminal/Moral Culpability Levels of mens rea (culpability): Negligence (should have known the danger of the act) Recklessness (did know the danger of the act) Knowing (was aware of performing the act) Intentional (intended the act to cause harm) Excused from Culpability : Excused from Culpability The mentally ill Considered incompetent to stand trial. Juveniles “Age of reason” has trended downward in recent years. Younger children are now being held responsible for criminal acts. In the parens patriae model, the state substitutes for parents. Legal culpability is not synonymous with moral culpability. Regulations, Standards and Rules : Regulations, Standards and Rules Regulations Often set by government agencies. Standards May come from private or public agencies Guidelines Often come from professional organizations Often represent recommendations Rules are developed to control behavior but are not synonymous with ethical systems. The American Paradox : The American Paradox American morality stresses integrity, compassion, and fair play. American culture often emphasizes violence, aggression and greed. America has an extremely high crime rate and many examples of corruption. Americans are consistently some of the most generous people in the world. What Ethical Dilemmas Are Raised by…. : Decriminalization of soft drugs ? Sex-offender registries ? The death penalty ? Mandatory DNA testing ? Three-strikes legislation ? Racial profiling ? Police scandals ? Trying juveniles as adults ? The USA PATRIOT Act ? What Ethical Dilemmas Are Raised by…. Steps for Clarifying Ethical Dilemmas : Steps for Clarifying Ethical Dilemmas Review all the facts. Identify relevant values of all parties. Identify all moral issues. Identify the most immediate moral issue. Resolve the dilemma.