In regards to morality, utilitarianism is arguably one of the most fundamental theories that seek to offer a clear comprehension of the ethical considerations which ought to be taken in a given situation. The theory infers that the final outcome of a particular situation determines whether it is justified or not. The utilitarian perspective is focused on ensuring that the good supersedes evil within the society. Additionally, it is also implied that the benefits resulting from punishing a criminal outweigh the negative implications on the same offender. Ethics are highly regarded amongst utilitarians since they have a higher likelihood of contributing to a better society. One thing that is, nonetheless, apparent is that utilitarianism is indeed among the most essential ethical components in the criminal justice system.
1. Explain why this system of your choosing matches your personal values and norms.
Ethics and integrity are two qualities that I value very much. Based on my understanding, every individual deserves a fair judgment regardless of their status within the society. Utilitarianism matches my behavior based on the idea that before I do anything, I have to rethink my options and also consider the likely consequences of my actions. Besides, I believe that all individuals need to be treated equally and fairly at all times. Along the corridors of justice, there are many incidences where justice has been denied to innocent individuals. Besides, some people work without any concern for the law. For instance, there are a lot of occurrences where law enforcers stop individuals who they perceive to be suspicious owing to their race (Pollock 147). This is a matter of racial profiling which the utilitarian theory considers to be immoral. When it emerges that an officer of the law`s action was racially motivated to bring in an alleged offender, the there is a high chance that the court will side with the defendant.
Besides, I believe that offenses considered be minor owing to the fact that they cause a significant impact on individuals' lives should not be subject to incarceration. This is a utilitarian thought whereby it is evident that the negative effects likely to be incurred by the criminal may end up being greater than the crime committed (Pollock 351). In the end, it may be unjustifiable for such a person to be imprisoned. This situation does not, however, apply to people involved in drug trade despite the fact that the harm caused to the society by their actions cannot be measured (Pollock 351). In addition, the utility theory is only applicable in a situation where the person who has been involved in a felony is a rational thinker. This is the only time that punishment can be effectively used. This also applies to a situation whereby the law that prohibits the offense is passed after the crime has been committed. In such an instance the accused may end up not being liable for the offense. In some situations also, a minor may commit a crime without prior knowledge that whatever they are involved in is illegal. In such a circumstance, it is only fair that they are exonerated.
The end justifies the means is a common phrase popularly used by utilitarians, though this is not essentially the case (Pollock 73). Members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been observed to bend the law and do everything in their power to capture a criminal, even if this would mean having some suspects languish in some penitentiary (Pollock 147). There are limits to this rule whereby whatever is done has to be effected fairly. The aforementioned axiom is also very popular among corrupt police officers, and it may end up contributing to a great loss of such skilled individuals in the long-run when they get dismissed (Pollock 147). I personally believe that a corrupt police officer should be controlled since the harm likely to result from their actions may end up being detrimental. This is similar to the utilitarian standpoint, which implies that the harm caused could end up being worse than that experienced when such an officer is exposed.
2. Now explain the core criteria of your ethical system along with its strengths and weaknesses (according to the academic literature).
Utilitarianism offers a mechanism for individuals to measure harm resulting from a particular crime against the action used to control it. This is one of the greatest strengths it possesses. Being an ethical component that aims at offering individuals a happy life, it happens to be one of the most viable constituents in regards to integrity. In addition to this, it is generally implied that harming individuals is wrong; which is one of the things that are highly upheld by utilitarianism (Kosley 164). Besides, another strength is based on the fact that the principle is simple for anyone who seeks to adopt it. Determining the likely occurrences of a particular situation is one of the things that this theory holds dear. Additionally, the theory is objective, meaning that it offers people an opportunity to decide what is right. Utilitarianism also upholds democracy which is why most government institutions are focused on applying the principle in the course of their operations.
Despite its many strengths, there are a number of weaknesses which can be associated with the concept. For instance, it is not easy to quantify pleasure. The pleasure that results from success is not compatible to that which is one gets from consumption of a desirable commodity (Kosley 164). It is also difficult to predict the consequences likely to result from a particular action. Despite advocating for justice, utilitarianism does not specifically indicate how such impartiality will influence the lives of lives of people from minority sectors of the society. It can also be observed that the theory also fails to offer attention to the possible meaning of happiness (Kosley 164). The latter is defined differently based on an individual`s intuition.
3. Finally, apply your ethical system to a situation in criminal justice. Demonstrate how and why your ethical system applies to that situation.
Coercion is one of the many tactics that police officers use to incriminate individuals who in actual reality are innocent. Utility-based upon utilitarianism holds that this is not justifiable in any way. This is due to the fact that false confessions are likely to result in injustice. Instances of such a situation have occurred previously, whereby individuals are made to confess to a crime they never took part in. One such example is the Central Park Jogger wilding case whereby some Hispanic and black youths were apprehended for raping and assaulting a lady (Pollock 182). The real culprit, Martin Rayes emerged later on and confessed to having taken part in the crime alone. In addition to this, DNA was also obtained thus supporting his claim (Pollock 182). A similar dilemma occurred in Texas where an innocent man was arrested and sentenced to death alongside another who confessed thus implicating him. After twelve years, the District Attorney received a confession from a man who admitted to committing the crime (Pollock 183). When implored, it emerged that the innocent man who was captured confessed after being threatened by the police who told him that if he failed to confess he would not only be jailed indefinitely, his mother would also be arrested by the Mexican police (Pollock 183). Utilitarianism is clear that people should not do unjust things under the impulse that it will be justified in the end, since failure to thoroughly investigate a situation is likely to result in injustices being committed.
The utilitarian reasoning may in some instances apply to situations whereby it may be justifiable to use bad actions which will finally result in a good ending. This is a tactic that is commonly used by undercover police officers. There are incidences whereby a police officer gets involved with the criminal to an extent of getting into a relationship with them in order to gain their trust. In some instances, policemen take up roles as drug dealers and seek to get their culprits to sell the drugs to them after which they initiate an arrest (Pollock 173). In one scenario, a police officer consents to an engagement in order to grow closer to the criminal under investigation, and get a confession from him (Pollock 173). This shows the extent to which law enforcers are willing to go to in order to make an arrest. In reference to the law, however, this may be considered as a violation of the individual`s privacy.
Despite the fact that utilitarianism may appear to be in favor of the aforementioned situation, this is not entirely true. Some officers have been known to target specific individuals and insisting that they sell drugs to them or commit a particular offense so that they can arrest the supposed criminals. In such a scenario, it is unethical and there is no basis that can be used to support such actions. In reference to utilitarian ethics, causing harm to someone in a bid to justify a cause of action is tantamount to being termed as a wastage of resources (Pollock 174). Despite there being a need to get justification for such an action, it is supposed to be done in an ethical manner. Failure to which it might as well be seen as an offense. The extent to which utilitarianism supports operations undertaken by an undercover officer is dependent on the utility likely to be derived in the end. This is, nevertheless, dependent on the level of seriousness accorded to a particular crime. For example, drugs may appear to be injurious to individuals` health and thus end up being considered a worthy crime to focus on compared to prostitution (Pollock 168). Besides, utilitarianism is against undercover operations being undertaken in situations whereby it is likely that the police officer may end up dead. Owing to frustration, some of the officers may also change and join the illegal trade in a bid to get higher returns, and in such a case, the end result will not be permissible.
Utilitarianism is undeniably the most essential ethical components in the criminal justice system. The theory champions for fairness and equal treatment of all individuals. Besides, in a number of cases, it is implied that some of the bad things done by law enforcers are justified by the end result though this does not entirely apply in the utilitarian thought. In addition to this, there is also a lot of clarity inferring that the perspective of utility requires that for someone to be exonerated from crime the harm caused has to be less than the punishment that is likely to be sanctioned on such an individual upon their confinement. The utilitarian viewpoint is advantageous owing to the fact that it focuses on promoting good in the society. It is, nevertheless, disadvantageous since it does not essentially define the extent of happiness individuals are likely to experience upon its adoption. Cases where the theory has been misused are common in the society whereby the police end up coercing individuals to confess to a crime they never committed. It is, however, apparent that utilitarianism promotes a lot of good to the society than any other element that ethics has to offer.
Kosley, Jaya. "Utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham." Research Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences 4.2 (2013): 164-165.
Pollock, Joycelyn M. Ethical Dilemmas, and Decisions in Criminal Justice. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
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