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Ethical Dilemmas in Criminal Justice

Ethical Dilemmas Permeate the Criminal Justice
Case 1. The Parole Board
The decision on whether to release the offenders on parole to stop overcrowding may result in a dilemma. This is because the ethical issue in parole is the intended result of the community supervision process. The mission of parole in accordance with the law is to provide assistance and surveillance so that the offenders are monitored to prevent them from re-offending. The class of offenders who go on parole are those whose conduct while in prison is regarded as good, those who have served at least a third of the sentence and whose sentence did not object to the possibility of parole. The question would be whether relaxing of such standards and have more inmates go on parole would act to solve a societal problem of crime. The fact that the decision would be based purely as a measure to decongest the correctional facilities to avoid law suits does not offer adequate grounding to warrant such a decision that may compromise on the security of the society. Although the assumption is that if the law suits are successful such offenders will go back to the same community anyway, a more elaborate approach on the matter needs to be reviewed by both the parole board and security agencies to assess whether the adoption of any of the strategies would have a more effective impact than the other (Braswell, McCarthy & McCarthy, 2012).
In this case the motivation of the actor is to ensure that justice is served in the sense that the offender is punished for his/her transgression and that the community is safe. In such a situation, both options offer promises and challenges. When an offender is put in to prison, the concept behind is to withdraw him/her from the community against which a crime was committed. The offender may be described as an outcast per say. As such therefore, the poison is meant to be a facility in which by the virtue of their crimes, these offenders are supposed to be severely punished. This would entail withdrawal of benefits one enjoyed while living in the community as a correctional measure and as a punishment. The transformation of correctional facilities into accommodative havens where offenders continue to perpetrate crime does not seem to serve the purpose of their being incarcerated. The problem arising in the above described scenario is that the situation in the prisons where there is overcrowding goes against the provisions of human rights as provided for by the constitution and when this is challenged in the law court the offender may be released any way, a case the parole board may not eagerly opt for. The second option would entail changing the regulations governing the parole process. This option would be beneficial in the sense that the problem of overcrowding which violates the basic human right and can be challenged in a court of law would be amicably solved. The question would be whether allowing the inmate go on parole would have the same disciplinary and punitive impact such as being denied the freedoms being enjoyed by the outside world. This therefore depicts that both options have a direct consequence on the justice process, the offender and the offended community and would require an in-depth analysis to determine which of the two decisions is favorable to all parties (Braswell, McCarthy & McCarthy, 2012).
I believe the actor should opt for the option of parole. My argument is based on the fact that whether on parole or in prison, the offender is still regarded thus and therefore both are means to an end. If the community based correction model is accompanied by stringent rules on the offender it could even be more effective in rehabilitating them than it would be in prison. This would involve subjecting the offender to such requirements as curfews, drug tests, more strictly supervised community services, imposing fines and supervision fees on the offender. Such measures would result in more effective punishment of the offender as compared to being locked up in jail where among others he/she enjoys watching cable television, gymnasiums and massage services among other luxurious life styles. A study in New Jersey revealed that parole was more effective in rehabilitation than prison. The study showed that the percentage of a rearrests of up to four years after release were higher in prisoners directly released from prison at seventy percent compared to sixty percent of parolees. On the ethical basis, I believe the idea behind punishment is rehabilitation. If the society is involved in such a rehabilitation process, the offender will more likely adopt change. When a parolee is introduced into the society, it is the responsibility of such society to integrate them into the normal system. It beats logic to send a prisoner to jail for years on end and later release them into the world with no skills, resources or family and expect the same individual to be reformed. The utilization of the parole window seems a more effective avenue to incorporate the offender into normal living of the society provided the necessary support systems are put in place such as creating awareness among community members on the importance of integrating such an individual into their daily routine. This method is effective both psychologically and socially. The community could also organize special programs for the offenders in collaboration with the justice system such as educational training, drug abuse awareness and job placements or funding economically viable projects for them. The officers in charge of the parolees should also strive to help the offenders understand and accept the programs on offer for their wellbeing. The parole option will therefore effectively reduce congestion in prisons and make supervision less costly (Braswell, McCarthy & McCarthy, 2012).
Case 2: The Warden
In a prison environment where the staff is inadequate, there is a high likelihood of the few security officers available being exposed to physical, psychological and health dangers. It is a known fact that the prison environment is prone to violence, diseases and confrontations since the inmates being handled are in most cases overcrowded, ill treated and condemned law breakers. The environment poses such a great threat not only to the safety of the inmate but the security officer too. Mr. William as the chief warden therefore has to ensure that his staff’s safety is guaranteed. His options are however limited by budgetary constraints which have eliminated overtime for correctional officers, a factor that could demoralize them, no chance of replacement employees which translates into overworking of those available. To ensure the officers remain effective in duty performance without any form of threats directed upon them Mr. William would have to reduce the possibility of exposure to danger by effectively utilizing the officers at his disposal or opt to reduce the number of inmates by transferring them into community correctional processes despite the lack of security assessment on the inmates. Both options offer a solution but also face challenges. The ethical dilemma would be whether using the few officers would put their lives at risk of attack by the prisoners or communicable diseases and whether taking the prisoners back into the community as parolees without enough security assessment could put the larger community at risk of increased crime through re-offending (Lambert, 2001).
The motivation behind whatever decision Mr. William makes is the safety of his staff and each option has its consequences. The first option would be to utilize the inadequate staff through methods such as training the officers on the need to be more vigilant and observe all safety procedures available. To reduce the high rates of injuries prison officers are subjected to, the officers need to create a rapport with the prisoners, avoid high handedness when handling the prisoners. Many prisoners tend to be violent against officers due to the mistreatment and frustrations they are subjected to by the prison authorities therefore it would be advisable for the officers to treat the prisoners humanly to avoid arousing unnecessary confrontations that could jeopardize the safety of the security officers. The officers need to know that they are also handling convicts some of them hardcore criminals who have nothing to lose and are never afraid of any consequences that may follow should they cause harm to fellow inmates or the security officers. Creating such awareness among the officers could equip them with skills that could help them detect any form of misbehavior among the inmates and act to control it. Introducing reward systems in the prison system is a method Mr. William may adopt as an incentive to reduce cases of violence against prison guards. This would involve observing the behavioral development of the inmates and reward those with good behaviors with offers such as early release, enjoy privileges such as increased visits and gifts. The prisoners who are violent and/or threaten the security officers have such privileges withdrawn. This would see a drop in attack against the officers. Keeping data on attack against guards by the prisoners would greatly facilitate development of procedures and methods to handle any of the inmates who are regarded as high risk to guards’ safety. Another model to ensure the safety of the guards would entail separation and classification of the inmates in accordance with the severity of their crimes. This would avail an opportunity to effectively manage the prisoners who are regarded as high security risks. In such cages or areas, more security officers may be deployed to ensure reinforced surveillance and security. The use of primitive weapons to attack prison guards is a common tactic used by prisoners. On this the officers must be able to detect the tools in use in the prison that can be turned into dangerous weapons and if possible confiscate them. This accompanied by regular searches could help reduce the risk of attacks against William’s officers (Lambert, 2001).
The second option to ensure safety of the officers would involve transferring some of the inmates in the overcrowded prison to community correction programs. This would reduce the numbers of prisoners in the facility and possibly ensure safety of the officers. This method could however backfire since releasing prisoners whose security assessment has not been done may expose the community to prisoners who are not fully rehabilitated and who may likely be involved in crime again. Through strict supervision programs, the inmates could however be integrated back into the community and be reformed to normal members of the society. This would result in decongestion of the prisons for the benefit of both the security officers and the inmates’ wellbeing (Agnew & Cullen, 2003).
The decision I believe William should take is one of making changes within the correctional facility as proposed by option one. Such measures when adopted with professionalism can be very effective and assure the security of his staff despite the overcrowding in the prison and or other budgetary constraints. Furthermore the success of the second option of sending inmates back into the community without adequate assessment of their likelihood to re-offend is questionable. Despite using strict measures such as intensive supervision, this method has not been magically successful as earlier postulated. From the ethical point of view, I feel that the intensive supervision could also trample on an individual’s rights as it is applied without any reference to the individuals predicaments. Such methods as electronic monitoring invade the privacy of an individual which goes against the law. The officers in charge of released inmates could also be subjected to security threats and depression for keeping surveillance all time of the week when the offender is under probation. The officer in guiding the functions of the parolee may experience challenges in serving both as a security officer and as a social worker. This conflict of roles may not augur favorably for such an officer and the offender may also be affected by the inconsistent rehabilitation process. From some study carried out in Oregon, it was found that many offenders prefer prison to intensive supervision or electronic monitoring. This is based on the attitude some of the offenders displayed in the sense that they would rather interrupt their lifestyles by staying in prison for a while than change it all together through community correction programs. With such challenges it would be better to use the first model of observing security measures within the correctional facility (Braswell, McCarthy & McCarthy, 2012).
Case 3: The District Attorney
As the district attorney Mary wants to see felons convicted accordingly and to stop plea bargaining with an aim to deter criminals from committing felony. Her efforts get a boost when criminals she has records of are arrested and prosecuted for among others drug peddling. However most of these cases are dismissed in law courts for lack of evidence. Mary knows that though these criminals are being released with reference to the current cases that are weak; her records could be of great help in prosecution of these arrestees and therefore her prosecutors must be guided on what to do to achieve success in this war against drugs. Mary, the attorney, would wish to have successful prosecutions but the ethical dilemma is whether to prosecute the offenders based on their current cases and the past records of these arrestees or to let her prosecutors enter plea bargain with the defendants. Though both systems are acceptable before the law the dilemma is whether it would be morally right to adopt either of the two.
The attorney’s motivation is clearly to get rid of criminals from the society and as such concur with the mayor’s and police desire to get the criminals off the streets but can only do so in accordance with the law. By opting for the first option, efforts have to be made to gather enough evidence to incriminate the offenders and have them imprisoned. Once the prosecuting attorneys are given a warrant request they ought to be more vigilant in reviewing the charges placed against the offenders by the police. As such the prosecutors should be able to determine the strength of the case and if it can stand a court process. Mary should direct her prosecutors to thoroughly review any reports given concerning each case including statements from witnesses if possible. After this review and if the prosecutors in their judgment feel that the case is too weak either for lack of enough evidence or shoddy investigations, they should not just send the case back to the law enforcers but should also interact with the police and guide them on ways to conduct and collect extra evidence. This is the only way the process of prosecution will be successful. Upon possessing enough evidence, the prosecutors should proceed and issue a charge on a complaint if they are certain that the offender really committed the crime indicated. During the trial, Mary should insist on her prosecutors to ensure they avail as much evidence including as can be found including past criminal records of the offender so as to ensure they prove beyond any reasonable doubt the case against the offender. With the onus of proof squarely lying with the prosecutor, it is important that they can comprehensively give evidence and ask questions in a professional way to ensure that the suspect is found guilty for the crime committed (Del, 2010).
The second option Mary’s prosecutors may pursue is the plea bargain. Under this arrangement, the prosecutor and the defendant will have an agreement for the defendant to plead guilty in return for concession rom the prosecutor. The suspect will therefore be convicted on less serious charges or some of the charges while benefitting from dismissal of the other charges. This is geared towards avoiding lengthy court proceedings as well as prevents the offender from the possibility of being convicted with a serious charge. This approach however compromises on the institution of the legal system since the use of rewards and/ or threats does not give the accurate legal outcome. This could therefore see suspects with serious criminal records serve fewer penalties below their crime gauge. This could jeopardize any efforts such as Mary’s and the mayor’s to rid the streets off perennial criminals (Fisher, 2004).
I believe the decision Mary should take is to direct her prosecutors to follow the normal judicial process and let the judges determine the cases. She should discourage the plea bargain kind of agreements with the offenders since the impact of such a move affects even the general society. When criminals are charged with less offence with the prosecutor’s own conscious knowledge over the matter, the image of the judiciary loses credibility. The plea bargain approach may also impact negatively on suspects who may be innocent as the prosecutor may coerce them to plead guilty with the hope of getting lighter sentences yet if the due court process was followed the innocence of the victim could have been proven. This may therefore result in imprisonment of innocent suspects while at the sometime allowing serious offenders to walk scot free and reintroduce their havoc back into the streets. I believe that it would even be unethical f or an individual whose role is to uphold justice in the society resorts to such approaches as plea bargain that may seriously compromise the welfare of the general society (Fisher, 2004).
Case 4: The Officer
The situation depicted in this scenario concerning Linda, a police officer’s dilemma on whether to respond to a burglary incidence or deal with a petty drug peddler in the streets will require sound judgment to effect. The two are crimes punishable by law and as a law enforcer she has a role to play in ensuring that law breakers are punished. If she responds to the dispatcher’s request to serve as back up in the burglary in progress, she will have to leave the unidentified drug peddler in the street. Morally, it would be wrong to allow consumption of illegal drugs despite her seniors describing such cases as petty. Similarly her presence is required to assist in apprehending criminals involved in burglary. She has to make a decision.
The motivation of her as a police officer is to ensure law breakers are punished whether the crime is regarded petty or serious. As such she may opt to arrest the street drug peddler and press charges against him. This will ensure that even if the case may be dismissed as petty, the criminal’s fingerprints will already appear in legal records and thus can be used to incriminate the suspect if implicated in future criminal activities. The suspect could also avail important information that could help net the drug lords who make drugs available in the streets against the law. With such concepts in mind, it would only be right for Linda to arrest the man and press charges against him (Acker & Brody, 2004).
She could also opt to attend to the burglary incidence and leave the drug peddler in the street. This is because even on arresting the man, charges against him may be dismissed by her seniors in light of the numerous cases they are handling at the moment as well as the overcrowding in the local correctional facilities. Such a move would however help to exacerbate the problem of drug trafficking with detrimental effects on the society.
I believe the right answer Linda should give the dispatcher is that she can not make it to the burglary scene as she is handling another case that could have a more profound and deleterious effect to the society. The ethical reason would be that allowing continued drug use within the society will cause more harm than even a single incidence of burglary. Furthermore, the drug peddler at hand could help in investigations of great importance that could unravel the use of drugs in the wider society and even help identify global trends of the same all to the benefit of humankind.

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