Essay: Ethics and the Criminal Justice System

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Ethics and the Criminal Justice System

In most professions, there is a Code of Conduct that addresses ethical and moral issues that surround that particular activity. These standards of practice help the public feel confident that professionals (doctors, lawyers, judges, police officers, etc.) are bound by an honor code individually and as a profession. However, it is within the context of the day-to-day activities that ethical ambiguity occurs, and the Code then becomes a toolbox to help the professional navigate their dilemma (IIT, 2012).

A CBS News Report in 2009 focused on one segment of the criminal justice system that has been increasingly in the news -- Judges who break the law. The case in point was Judge Victor Baron who, after 14 years on the bench, was convicted of taking thousands of dollars in bribes and sentenced to a 3-9-year prison term. While most public officials are scrupulously honest, some watchdog groups find that in some areas of the country, corruption seems to be rife. Critics of the judiciary system note that the political nature of the bench allows for corruption, particularly in areas like New York City. Specifically, "at issues is an arcane system in which voters pick delegates to a judicial nominating convention, but do not pick the judges themselves" (Chery, 2009).

One must ask, though, is it the system that needs changed, or will individuals who lean towards corruption find a way to circumvent legalities anyway? Instead of changing the system, perhaps the curriculum in law school should add additional coursework on ethics, and perhaps public officials (judges, etc.) should be required to take continuing education courses dealing with the problem of ethical behavior in the contemporary arena? Thus, the central idea of a Code of Ethical behavior is to allow individuals to understand the moral and ethical consequences of their actions, to review the basic ethical theories of the past, and to be able to pull from those theories tools to be expressed within professional behavior, while still maintaining the agreed upon legal actions associated with the position held. For example, within the day-to-day actions of law enforcement personnel one might ask: 1) Does the Code of Ethics for my profession give clear advice on x issue? 2) if someone were to endorse the opposite course of action, could they also buttress their argument with the Code? 3) Are there apparent conflicts within the Code regarding x or y? 4) Does the Code conflict with my own individual moral stance? If so, is there a way to make an appropriate compromise? 5)… [END OF PREVIEW]

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