Deontological Ethics in Criminal Justice

The moral dilemma that has been described in this case study can be resolved by means of deontological ethics. In particular, one can apply the theory, developed by Immanuel Kant. According to this approach, a person, who has to choose between two alternatives, must act out of inner duty and not out of his/her desires, sympathies, motives, intentions, and so forth (Banks, 2009). In this context, the word duty can be defined as some internal rule or obligation that a person sets for oneself. These internal rules do not necessarily have to coincide with official norms or laws. Joe, who has to decide whether he should or should not report on his colleague who forced an inmate to eat food in a bowl. To resolve, Joe would have to think of what would happen if the officers of the asylum would resort to violence or abuse each time the detainees misbehave. It seems that living conditions in such institutions would be almost unbearable and the inmates themselves would turn into monsters. This is why Joe should tell the authorities of juvenile asylum about Daren’s treatment of this adolescent.

There is another approach in deontological ethics that would help Joe to form his decisions. We can speak about the principle of non-aggression, proposed by Robert Nozick. This axiom implies any form of violence and abuse contradicts both ethical and natural laws. More importantly, it can be used only defensively; otherwise it is morally impermissible (Wolf, 1991, p 31). In Joe’s situation the use of force was not justified, even despite Daren’s argument that he acted in the best interest of the teenager. More likely, this abuse can result into a psychological trauma that the boy will not be able to overcome. Thus, this deontological approach also suggests that Joe should have intervened. Overall, it is possible to argue that deontological ethics gives very clear guidelines for a person as to the morality of his/her actions and it gives no room for the justification of one’s immoral actions.

Reference List

Banks, C. (2009). Criminal justice ethics: Theory and practice (2nd ed.). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE

Wolf J. (1991) Robert Nozick: property, justice, and the minimal state. Stanford University Press.

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