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CRM 4712 Criminal Justice Ethics

Course Description

Examines the various dynamics of ethical behavior. Focuses on ethics in justice policy, administration, and research and the impact on individuals and society.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Explain the difference between morals and ethics
  • Recognize the characteristics of an ethical system and the various systems that apply to them
  • Explain the theories of moral development
  • Describe the origins of the concept of justice and its components
  • Explain the paradigms of law, the justification for law, and criminal and moral culpability
  • Discuss the factors that go into making policy in criminal justice
  • Discern the role of police in society and understand subculture, discretion, duty, and discrimination
  • Describe the various types of police corruption and explore the code.
  • Discuss excessive force, the culture of force, and the research affiliated with it
  • Explore investigative methods affiliated with police corruption and methods designed to reduce that corruption
  • Analyze the various ethical issues that challenge legal professionals to include criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors
  • Explain judicial ethics and issues that challenge judges
  • Examine the ethics of punishment and corrections, the rationales for punishment, and the ethical frameworks for corrections
  • Examine ethics and institutional corrections by exploring the internal issues related to the management of modern-day jails and prisons
  • Examine ethics and community corrections, the use of discretion by probation and parole officers as well as the probation and parole officer subculture and their caseload supervision

Week 1

Lecture: Introduction
Lecture: Morality, Ethics, Human Behavior and Determining Moral Behavior, Part 1
Lecture: Morality, Ethics, Human Behavior and Determining Moral Behavior, Part 2


  • Explain the major arguments supporting the importance of studying ethics in the criminal justice field
  • Review the vocabulary of ethics that is, morals, ethics, values, ethical codes, ethical standards, and dilemmas
  • Discuss how to analyze an ethical dilemma
  • Identify the types of ethical dilemmas faced in one’s professional life
  • Explain and understand the major ethical systems and the criticisms leveled against each
  • Generalize the other ways to resolve ethical dilemmas in addition to the ethical systems
  • Explain the controversy between relativism and absolutism
  • Analyze how the major ethical systems have relevance to issues in criminal justice
  • Express how to apply the major ethical systems to ethical dilemmas

Week 2

Lecture: Making Ethical Decisions and the Origins and Concepts of Justice, Part 1
Lecture: Making Ethical Decisions and the Origins and Concepts of Justice, Part 2


  • Distinguish the major theories regarding the development of moral behavior
  • Explain Gilligan’s research exploring gender differences in moral development
  • Recognize the difficulty associated with the relationship between moral beliefs and behavior
  • Explain the applications of moral development theory to criminal offenders
  • Explain issues regarding teaching ethics in criminal justice
  • Explain the range of answers to the question “Why be ethical?”
  • Explain the definition, concepts, and origins of justice
  • Discuss the components of justice including distributive, corrective, and commutative
  • Define procedural and substantive justice
  • Explain the difference between the utilitarian rationale and retributive rationale under corrective justice

Week 3

Lecture: Law and the Individual and Ethics and the Criminal Justice Professional, Part 1
Lecture: Law and the Individual and Ethics and the Criminal Justice Professional, Part 2


  • Define the paradigms of law
  • Explain the justifications for law including legal paternalism and legal moralism
  • Distinguish between moral culpability and legal culpability
  • Distinguish the issues of culpability for juveniles, the mentally ill and handicapped, and white collar criminals, and in situations of victim precipitation
  • Define the concepts of restorative justice
  • Discuss the ways that paradigms and ideologies shape our beliefs about crime and how to control criminals
  • Explain how policy makers moderate the law and criminal justice professionals implement policy
  • Define some of the issues faced by criminal justice professionals
  • Explain the elements of good, ethical leadership
  • Recognize the reasons for and elements of ethics training

Week 4

Lecture: The Police Role in Society and Corruption and the Code, Part 1
Lecture: The Police Role in Society and Corruption and the Code, Part 2


  • Explain the role of law enforcement in a democracy including the use of authority, power, force, and persuasion
  • Recognize the differences between the formal ethics of law enforcement and the values of the police subculture
  • Discuss the extent of discretion and its creation of opportunities for unethical decision making
  • Discuss the issue of racial profiling, why it is an ethical issue, and the methodological problems present when attempting to establish its prevalence
  • Recall the range of law enforcement deviance
  • Define the arguments that support and criticize the practice of gratuities
  • Grasp the prevalence of and explanations for the use of excessive force by police officers
  • Recognize the types and range of law enforcement deviance in other countries
  • Discuss the various explanations offered for law enforcement deviance 

Week 5

Lecture: Investigative Methods, Noble Cause, and Reducing Police Corruption


  • Explain the concept of noble cause corruption
  • Discuss the ethical issues involved in investigation and interrogation
  • Distinguish between physical and mental coercion and understand the arguments for and against these methods of interrogation
  • Recognize the ethical justifications for and arguments against whistleblowing versus loyalty to co-workers
  • Describe an effective, ethical leader
  • Explain the methods employed to reduce or minimize corruption among police officers

Week 6

Lecture: Ethics and Legal Professionals


  • Discuss the source of legal ethics
  • Explain the concept of an attorney as a moral agent or as a legal agent
  • Discuss the variety of ethical issues faced by defense attorneys
  • Explain the variety of ethical issues faced by prosecutors

Week 7

Lecture: Justice, Judicial Ethics, and the Ethics of Punishment and Corrections
Lecture: The Ethics of Punishment and Corrections


  • Discuss the various perceptions of judicial processing
  • Discuss the responsibilities and challenges of judges in the criminal justice system
  • Explain the criticisms of the justice system, including those alleging that it perpetuates racism and social inequities
  • Recognize the concepts associated with judicial activism or constructionism
  • Review the definitions of punishment and treatment and their rationales
  • Describe how the ethical frameworks justify punishment
  • Evaluate the arguments for and against capital punishment
  • Discuss the role that discretion, authority, and power play in corrections
  • Explore the ethical issues involved with privatization of corrections

Week 8

Lecture: Ethics and Institutional and Community Corrections, Part 1
Lecture: Ethics and Institutional and Community Corrections, Part 2


  • Explain the role conflict and subculture of correctional officers
  • Discuss the ethical issues for correctional officers
  • Explain the ethical issues for treatment professionals
  • Explain some of the unique ethical issues for correctional managers and administrators
  • Define the concept of community corrections
  • Discuss the ethical issues that might face probation and parole officers
  • Discuss the concept of peacemaking corrections and restorative justice
  • Explain the ethical issues inherent in the restorative justice approach

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. March 2012