Introduction: General Overview of Ideas
When considering the main features of the criminal justice system, the first issue that should be analyzed is the definition of crime. In this regard, crimes are identified by law as wrong. However, such a definition does not imply that this action is morally wrong because the main principles of laws are primarily based on the concept of duty and reason. Much contradiction arises concerning the problems of morality and its involvement in criminal justice system.
Nevertheless, there are different levels of crime gravity, which allows to measure the wrongness of action. Such an assumption reveals an idea that crimes have different extents of gravity because they correlate with social standards of prudence, morality, and etiquette.
However, the law does not admit the possibility to measure the wrong actions by those standards, but by the recognized measures identified by the law. In this regard, there is a big controversy between morality pursued by law and the one established in society. The criminal justice system faces a great number of ethical dilemmas that are impossible to resolve with the help of laws only. More importantly, the presence of Civilian Review Boards make the situation even more complicated because sometimes legal actions of the police officers are accompanied by morally unjustified conduct.
The consideration of Ethical Theories
The existing theories of ethics differ considerably from one another due to the establishment of different absolutes. This particularly concerns three schools of thought: deontological, consequential, and virtue theories (Banks, 2008, p. 299). Hence, the first theoretical approach considers a moral action as the one originating from duty and reason. The second framework is concerned with the morality of action with regard to its consequences irrespective of motives and duties. Finally, the virtue ethics focuses on the character’s moral or immoral behavior. All these approaches are closely associated with the actions taking place in criminal justices and, sometimes it is hard to solve ethical and moral dilemmas within this sphere.
Moral and Ethical Bases of Criminal Justice
Discussing the principles of Kantian ethics with regard to Civilian Review Board and Criminal Justice System
Consequential ethics juxtaposes non-consequential views of Kant, the philosopher who strongly believes that morality is primarily based on the concept of duty (Banks, 2008, p. 285). It means that the action is morally right if it derives from the meaning of duty. In this regard, a moral person is the one that performs an action based on motives and obligations, but not on good feelings and intentions. Kantian ethics also provides explanation for the principle of universality, meaning that person’s action should not depend on wishes and desires. On the contrary, one should do this and this because he/she ought to do that (Banks, 2008, p. 286).
While considering ethical dilemmas in criminal justice system, it is also imperative to discuss such problem as conflicting duties. This issue particularly concerns the concept of lies. According to Kant, lying is always wrong “…because it treats the person lied to as a means to an end other than that person’s own” (Kleinig, 2008, p. 101). In criminal justice, Kant’s principle of absolute truth does not provide reasons for revealing the actual facts because there are cases when a lie is the only way to defense. The point is that people have obligations to respect people and do them no harm. These are one of the circumstances when deception is justified from the concept of conflicting duties.
With regard to the above-presented considerations, the ethical aspects have inevitably entered the criminal justice system due to many factors among which is human nature. Ethics and moral is still the basis of human actions and decisions, which is supported by criminal cases (Pollock, 2008, p. 30). The problem is there is no a particular scheme of acting in certain situations even if there are laws and duties.
Therefore, Civilian Review Boards greatly contribute to the objectiveness of police officers’ decisions and actions. Discussing the presented ethical theories, it should be noted that law and morality are closely interconnected concepts where one supplements another. In this regard, the Kantian concept of duty and respect for people should be presented in a balanced ratio within the context of criminal justice.
In general, the implementation of non-consequential ethics put forward by Kant is more consistent with the legal norms that are primarily based on the concept of duties and obligations. This theoretical framework provides more objectivity to the legal process. At the same time, the deception, which is prohibited by Kantian ethics, can still take place in the sphere of criminal justice if it can do harm to people.
Discussing the Principles of Consequentialism with Regard to Civilian Review Board and Criminal Justice System
According to consequentialism, “what makes an act morally right or wrong is its consequences and nothing more….The motives for the act and the nature of the act itself are not important considerations in consequentialism” (Banks, 2008, p. 299). With regard to this statement, the action is morally justified is the outcomes of this action produce more benefits even if the initial intentions are not based solely on good motives and intentions. When it comes to criminal justice, particularly to the establishment of punishments, this ethical theory concerns the importance of forward-looking considerations (Kleinig, 2008, p. 197).
While debating on punishment, it is necessary to consider the question of general practice of punishment and its imposition on certain cases. In the first case, the consequential position can be applicable, meaning that the general practice of punishment can be justified in relation to social protection. In the second case, the issues should be answered retributively, meaning that the wrong actions only are to be punished (Kleinig, 2008, p. 198). The problem is that the law is not always congruent with social values denying the role of ethics in solving dilemmas.
Due to the fact that Civilian Review Board is concerned with unlawful actions carried out by the police officers, the problems come to the forth when ethical considerations are confused with the legal ones that are more based on principles and rules established before. According to consequentialism, if it is possible to define whether an action is right or wrong, it is possible to measure this action as well (Banks, 2008, p 300).
However, when confronting law, the consequential ethics seems to be more reasonable suggesting that that each human should be evaluated as a source of value first. While establishing control over the police department, the Civil Review Board strives to introduce the policy of moral conduct in relation to regulate the policy officers’ actions toward the accused people. Apparently, the legal standards cannot guarantee proper behavior on the part of the police department because it is impossible to apply universal rules to particular cases (Cole and Smith, 2006 p. 231). Though ethics of consequences cannot be applicable to all cases, its relevance to the policies pursued by the Civilian Review Board is quite admissible.
The implementation of the consequential and utilitarian ethics allows to evaluate the goodness or wrongness of each separate action. In this regard, such an ethical approach is quite valuable for the Civilian Review Board to apply because the imposition of past experience on evaluating actions can contribute to better judgment of actions. In addition, assessing actions from rule consequentialism perspective can be the only way to define whether an action is right or wrong.
In conclusion, it should be stressed that there is a great confrontation between the concept of morality pursued by law and the one accepted in society. The criminal justice system faces a lot of ethical dilemmas that are hard to solve within the framework of the law system.
What is more important is that the participation of Civilian Review Board in making solutions becomes even more complicated because there are frequent cases when legal actions of the police department are not adhered to morally justified principles. In this regard, a careful examination of existing ethical approaches to identifying the nature and role of morale in making decisions and performing actions is crucial. In particular, the analysis of consequential and non-consequential views on human action explains the existing controversies concerning the wrongness and goodness of action.
Banks, C. (2004). Criminal Justice Ethics: Theory and Practice. US: SAGE.
Cole, G., and Smith, Ch. (2006). The American System of Criminal Justice. US: Cengage Learning.
Kleinig, J. (2008). Ethics and Criminal Justice. UK: Cambridge University Press.
Pollock, J. M. (2008). Ethical Dilemmas and Decision in Criminal Justice. US: Cengage Learning.