Ethics In Criminal Justice Case Study Examples
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The criminal justice system is permeated with numerous ethical dilemmas. Creation of conflicts that distort the basis upon which judgments are made is due to incongruous laws, practices, and regulations. The conflicts created result in debilitating ethical dilemmas that require tact to solve amicably. In this paper, several situations are considered and in the process the inherent ethical or moral question is conclusively described. Moreover, the perceived actor’s motivation is also described, and a suggestion of decisions that the actor should take is also provided. The suggestions of the decisions the actor could take are based on the particular ethical basis.
The Parole Board
In the case of the Parole Board, the ethical question is whether it is right in allowing overcrowding in the state prisons. It is unethical to allow overcrowding in the state prisons because of the health hazards such a situation presents. Overcrowded environments can lead to infections of communicable diseases like tuberculosis, flu, and a host of other maladies among the prisoners (Haney, 2006). Moreover, allowing overcrowding is complete disregard of the dignity of prisoners and respect of their fundamental right to humane treatment and conditions.
For all purposes and intent, the prisoners remain human beings who deserve treatment that is humane and which affords them the chance to access fresh air, clean water, uninterrupted sleep, and protection from being infected with communicable diseases. It should be the prerogative of the Parole Board to ensure protection of the basic rights of the prisoners despite their offending records. Allowing overcrowding in state prisoners goes against the tenets of ethical accommodation of prisoners in correction facilities. Therefore, the ethical thing for Robert to do is to find ways in which the prisons can be decongested and to ensure that they accommodate only the capacity that they are designated to. Moreover, in this case, a moral question similarly arises.
The moral question is if Robert should release inmates to community-based supervision. It will be immoral for him to release inmates to community-based supervision when current risk-assessment results show that the inmates will most likely re-offend and thus exceed the safety levels. Releasing inmates who are going to re-offend exacerbates the crime problem and will most likely lead to more arrests and subsequently the persistent overcrowding of state prisons. The underlying element in this phenomenon is the failure of correctional facilities to achieve their core mandate of ensuring behavior change among the prisoners. Robert has to consider this moral question before arriving at the most appropriate decision.
The motivations behind Robert’s dilemma are two-fold. First, Robert is reluctant to allow the release of inmates to community-based supervision because he wants the prisoners to be reformed before they can be allowed to mingle freely with other members of the society. Reformed criminals will mean fewer instances of crime in the communities and hence the success of correctional facilities. The consequences of this decision are freeing up space in correctional facilities but there is possible increase of crime in the community.
The second motivation that will guide Robert in decision making is the desire for the Parole Board to achieve more eligibility in the criminal justice system If federal suits manage to convince courts that state management of prisons has failed to come up with novel ways to decongest the prisons, the inmates will be released under a federal process. Therefore, the Parole Board will be less eligible in the management of state prisoners. This means that the state will be ceding the management of state prisons to the federal government.
In this scenario, Robert is supposed to make an appropriate decision that does not jeopardize the communities and which also enhances the Parole Board’s eligibility in the management of state prisons. The best decision Robert should take is to allow more inmates to be released to the community-based supervision. He should not base his judgments of the inmates re-offending on mere hearsay but thorough corroboration of available evidence. The results can only be used to guide his decision if they are based on available evidence.
In addition, the prison correction should be fast-tracked to ensure minimal days are used but with immense outcomes. The correction process should not be stretched over long periods of time since this result in overcrowding in the state prisoners. By decongesting the prisons, the eligibility criteria of the board will be enhanced hence they will have greater control over the management of state prisons. This will ensure state autonomy in the running of criminal correctional facilities, and this may increased funding from the federal government.
Robert’s decision to decongest the state prisons by allowing more inmates to be released to the community-based supervision has its roots in the ethical reasoning. The decision is taken by the Parole Board so as to ensure protection of prisoners from unhygienic and inhumane conditions.
Despite the prisoners being offenders, they should not be contained in an environment that increases their susceptibility to contracting non-communicable diseases or an environment which does not afford them the due dignity a human being deserves (Lynch, 2002).
Therefore, it is ethical to save prisoners from overcrowded environments and be put them in other correction programs. To ensure that is a double win for the Parole Board and the community, it is necessary that the community-based supervision is more thorough and achieves better outcomes in inmate supervision and correction. This will lower instances of re-offending thus reducing the possibility of persistent overcrowding in state prisons.
The ethical question in the Warden’s case is ensuring safety of his employees. There is an increased arrest and prosecute campaign in this community. This has led to overcrowding in the facility.
Surprisingly, a solution to the overcrowding situation may not be found soon as things stand. The facility is overcrowded whilst there is no enough staff to manage the high inmate population. He cannot hire extra staff because his operating budget was cut severely in the current financial year. The budget he was allocated was to cover for the average inmate population, but this population has increased exceedingly.
The small number of employees will experience numerous problems managing the huge population of inmates. There is the likelihood of inmates overpowering or beating up the few employees available.
Essentially, the officers will be threatened by the huge popula1ation of inmates and feign sickness to avoid reporting on duty. The ethical thing to do, in this case, is to ensure that the officers are safe and protected from inmate aggression.
Moreover, a moral question arises in this circumstance the warden is in. The moral question is whether the release of inmates to community-based supervision will increase insecurity in the community (Unit, 2002). It is impossible to gauge whether releasing inmates to community-based supervision will be a security threat for the community since there is no screening process or risk assessment to ascertain the impact of such an action. It will be ethically right to ensure the safety of the security officers by decongesting the prison. However, it will be immoral to release inmates to the community when there is probability that this will increase insecurity problem in the community.
The warden will be motivated to release inmates to the community-based supervision so as to decongest the facility. The consequence of this is that safety of the warden’s security officers will be enhanced. They will now deal with a population of inmates that are commensurate with the staff numbers. Decongesting the facility up to its capacity will ensure that the allocated funds are enough to run the affairs of the facility in terms of personnel and inmate management.
Elsewhere, the warden may decline to release inmates to community-based supervision hence maintaining overcrowding in the facility. The decline to release inmates to community-based supervision may be necessitated by the desire of the warden to protect the community from possible insecurity propagated by recently released inmates.
The incessant overcrowding in the facility will result in low morale among the security officers and increased absenteeism, resignation, outright negligence of their work. Working with a depressed budget will hinder the warden from hiring more security officers.
In such a circumstance, the warden is expected to weigh his or her options in order to come up with the most appropriate decision. The decision the warden should take is releasing some of the inmates to the community-based supervision. This will lead to the decongestion of the facility hence enabling safety of security personnel from inmates’ aggression. The number of inmates should be commensurate with the capacity of the facility and the number of available security officers. Allowing overcrowding in the facility does not make sense and side-steps the important function of correcting behavior criminal offenders.
Correctional facilities should hold a number of inmates that is equivalent to its capacity to ensure that available funds are adequate to run the affairs of the facility and that the security officers are free from inmates’ aggression. This will increase morale among the security officers and there will be reduced instances of absenteeism or neglect of their duties. This decision will necessitate the creation of additional facilities to hold prisoners if there is a feeling that releasing inmates to community-based supervision will heighten insecurity in the community.
This has an ethical basis which ensuring the safety of staff first before proceeding with any behavior correction in inmates. The overcrowding of inmates in the facility can be controlled through the creation of additional facilities (Haney, 2006).
In addition, the warden can outsource funding to be used in expanding the facility so that it can accommodate more inmates, and use a part of the funding to hire more security of the personal. It is more ethical to consider the safety of the security officers first because they are the ones involved in behavior correction of inmates. It will impossible to reclaim their lives if they are brutally aggrieved by the inmates.
The District Attorney
The resulting ethical question in Martha’s case is ensuring prosecution only results from concrete evidence and not speculation. Being an attorney, it is imperative that any prosecution of a supposed drug dealer is supported with concrete evidence. Martha has reviewed some of the cases and the common thread in most of them is that arrests are made without the support of enough evidence that indicate that a particular person is a drug dealer. It seems that the police make arrests based on hearsay and speculation.
In a legal process, it is necessary that the accused are given a fair hearing and are only prosecuted using available concrete evidence (Robertson, 2009). So the ethical question that Martha should address is whether the cases meet the prosecution threshold based on the lack of supportive evidence.
Elsewhere, Martha is faced with a moral question to address. This moral question is her active involvement in ridding the city of the devastating drug culture. From criminal records, Martha has knowledge that most of the arrestees are involved in the drug business. It is immoral for her to fail to use her position as the district attorney to be instrumental in ridding the city the inherent drug culture. Morality demands that she supports causes that promote the common good of the community at the expense of few drug dealers as much as their cases are weak.]
In this circumstance, Martha has two options to choose from. The first one is to dismiss cases that are not supported by strong evidence despite her knowledge of the participation of the culprit in the drug business. The consequence of this is that the police will be expected to make arrests only after gathering concrete evidence that can sustain a prosecution. The motivation behind the dismissal of cases that have weak evidentiary support is the upholding of the rule of law (Robertson, 2009). The rule of law assumes a person is innocent until proven quality. A person can only be proven guilty by basing on the strength of available evidence. Martha, being an attorney, it is very crucial that she promotes the rule of law, and this will necessitate the police to be thorough in their investigation.
The other option available to Martha is to ensure the full trial of the cases despite the lack of concrete evidence or probable cause of arrests. To take such a decision, she will be guided by her personal knowledge of the involvement of some of the arrestees in the drug business. This decision goes against tenets of law because an attorney should not take position of a witness in any case since this will influence or compromise the prosecution (Robertson, 2009).
Martha’s situation has both ethical and moral sides. The decision Martha should take is dismissing cases that are not supported by strong evidence. She should stick to principles that guide application of law and prosecution process. By dismissing cases that have weak evidentiary support, she will ensure that the police carry out thorough investigations before making arrests or proceeding to prosecution. The ethical basis of the decision is that the accused remain innocent until proven guilty. The attorney should not be part of the prosecution because it will lead to compromising of the outcome of the cases. It is the role of the prosecution to use the evidence they have to argue the case for the accused to be tried.
The ethical question, in this case, is if it is right to side-step minor offenses like arresting a person found in possession of drugs to only attend to major offenses like burglary. Despite the difficulty experienced in identifying the identity of the man found in possession of crack cocaine, Linda should proceed and arrest him. She should ignore the chastising of his sergeant at roll call of the officers bringing in petty drug cases. If the petty cases are not acted upon appropriately, their prevalence will multiply. Moreover, the people who commit petty crimes have a high susceptibility to commit big crimes (Lynch, 2002). Therefore, it is important that crime in all its forms is nipped in the bud at the earliest opportunity. It is the role of Linda’s sergeant at roll call to seek the expansion of his or her unit through the addition of more officers. Moreover, the prosecutor’s office should not complain about overloaded dockets or overcrowded jails. Instead, it should seek ways in which it can expedite the conclusion of criminal cases and offer varied correctional practices depending on the severity of the committed offense. About overloaded jails, the unit should seek expansion of the jails or come up with innovative ways to correct behaviors of offenders without necessary holding them in jails.
The motivation behind Linda’s pursuance of the arrest of the man found in possession of crack cocaine is ensuring the adherence to the law by all people regardless of them engaging in minor or major crimes. Linda wants to see a society where crime is not classified as either major or minor. Moreover, she believes the criminal justice system should be robust enough and responsive to all crimes. Robustness encompasses the availability of criminal justice officers be it police or prosecutors. In addition, she believes that ignoring or failure to make arrests due to committing of minor crimes is counterproductive because it is from minor crimes that offenders learn how to get involved in major crimes. Therefore, all crimes should be treated equally regardless of their magnitude.
With the preceding motivation, Linda should arrest the man found in possession of crack cocaine and proceed to charge him so he can be fingerprinted, and his identity positively identified. Moreover, she should keep the cocaine vials to be used as evidence during prosecution. This will be crucial in sustain a prosecution and ensuring that the man is tried and possibly put in jail for behavior corrective action. In such case, Linda will inform the dispatcher of her unavailability because she is attending to an arrest. This will prompt the dispatcher to seek out other officers who are available to be called in action and act as backup officers for the burglary. Her commitment to proceed with the arrest of the minor crime offender is in line with her motivation that all crimes are important and should be given equal attention.
The ethical basis for this decision is the necessity to view all crimes as important and requiring equal attention. Minor crime offenders graduate to major crime offenders with time, and thus they should all be arrested and prosecuted. Ignoring to arrest minor crime offenders can lead to the emergence of a lawless society. The criminal justice system should not be allowed to use excuses for its failure to prosecute minor crime offenders. Instead, it should enhance its robustness to ensure all crimes committed are attended to.
Haney, C. (2006). Wages of Prison Overcrowding: Harmful Psychological Consequences and Dysfunctional Correctional Reactions, The. Wash. UJL & Pol'y, 22, 265.
Lynch, M. (2002). The culture of control: Crime and social order in contemporary society. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review, 25(2), 109-112.
Robertson, C. B. (2009). Judgment, identity, and independence.
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