Ethics in Corrections Essay

Total Length: 1971 words ( 7 double-spaced pages)

Total Sources: 8

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The importance of ethics in the criminal justice field cannot be overemphasised. All participants must portray acceptable moral conduct for positive criminal justice outcomes to be achieved (Braswell, McCarthy & McCarthy, 2008). This is particularly true for correctional institutions, a major component of the criminal justice system. Correctional authorities play a crucial role in rehabilitating offenders and facilitating their transition back to the society. The role places huge ethical demands on correctional personnel. This paper outlines ethical requirements for correctional officers. First, a comprehensive job description of correctional officers is offered, along with the key stakeholders they work together with in the fulfilment of their day to day duties and responsibilities. Next, a number of practical work scenarios where ethical decision making is required are highlighted, with an evaluation of the relevance of theoretical perspectives to the scenarios. Finally, a code of ethics and best-practices checklist relevant for correctional officers is presented, clearly demonstrating how the code will positively impact all the stakeholders, correctional officers work with.

Job Description

Correctional authorities are generally involved in rehabilitating offenders. Correctional personnel play a crucial role in achieving this end. This role entails admitting inmates, delivering meals to inmates, maintaining law and order within correctional facilities, retaining the accepted standards within the facilities, supervising inmates and monitoring their conduct, enforcing sanctions against inmates, and assisting in the counselling of inmates. Correctional officers are also involved in scheduling work assignments and educational opportunities for inmates, monitoring mails sent to inmates and visitors coming to see them, as well as escorting inmates to courts, other correctional facilities, and medical facilities.


Correctional officers work with a number of stakeholders in the fulfilment of their everyday roles. In addition to other members of staff, they work with or alongside law enforcement officers and courts (Joyce, 2013). Correctional facilities are used to hold convicted individuals and those awaiting trial. These individuals may be involved in further deviance while still in custody or prison. They may coordinate criminal activities, be in possession of contraband objects, and/or assault fellow inmates and staff members. Law enforcement personnel and courts can rely on this information to convict individuals awaiting trial. Without the assistance of correctional officers, investigations and prosecution may not be successful.

Counsellors, educators, and the general public are also important stakeholders (Joyce, 2013). Counsellors are involved in providing behavioural therapy to inmates, and hence require the support of correctional officers to achieve this. By ensuring security within the facility in general and monitoring inmate behaviour, correctional officers provide a good working atmosphere for counsellors. Educators constitute crucial stakeholders as inmates may take part in educational programs. They require a great deal of assistance from correctional officers. The public is an important stakeholder as correctional work is a public service. Correctional authorities, in conjunction with other elements of the criminal justice system, ensure justice is served to victims of criminal behaviour.
This means that public confidence in correctional authorities is vital. In essence, the work of correctional officers has important implications for both internal and external stakeholders.

Ethical Decision Making in Practice and Theoretical Perspectives

The fulfilment of the above duties requires ethical decision making. One practical scenario where moral action is required on the part of correctional officers relates to the supervision and monitoring of inmates. Correctional officers constantly observe inmates to ensure they remain where they are supposed to be at any given time. Nonetheless, instances of inmates escaping from prison or custody are not uncommon. While escapes may often be ingenious works of the inmates themselves, sometimes they collaborate with correctional officers to plan them. Outsiders associated with an inmate may approach a correctional officer with the intention of compromising them with money. Allowing oneself to be compromised demonstrates utter disregard on the part of the correctional officer for the grave consequences an inmate who escapes can cause. Some inmates may be dangerous, meaning that an escape is a threat to public safety. Correctional officers may also be compromised to allow inmates to smuggle illegal objects such as drugs and weapons into the facility, endangering the safety of other inmates as well as corrections staff. Therefore, correctional officers must always act in the interest of public welfare (Pollock, 2014).

Another practical scenario for ethical decision making in corrections relates to equality. Racial divide in correctional facilities remains prevalent, with correctional officers often showing preferential treatment to inmates from their racial background (Carlson & Garrett, 2008). While enforcing discipline within the correctional facility, correctional officers may treat inmates unequally. For the same offense, a Caucasian officer may take or recommend disciplinary action on an African-American or Latin American inmate but allow a Caucasian inmate to go scot free. In other words, Caucasian officers may often ignore offenses committed by Caucasian inmates while in prison or custody as they may perceive inmates from minority backgrounds to be more deviant.

Practical ethical decision making further stretches to the lives of correctional officers outside the work environment. Like typical citizens, correctional officers are involved in ordinary activities such as visiting grocery stores, driving, and having fun. While off duty, an officer may check in to a bar for drinks. As the night advances, the officer may drive home drunk. If pulled over by the police, the officer may be found to have exceeded the required alcohol limit. In defence, however, the officer may identify himself as a correctional officer in an attempt to avoid arrest. A good police officer will arrest the drunken correctional officer because the law is the law.….....

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Banks, C. (2013). Criminal justice ethics: theory and practice. 3rd ed. London: SAGE.

Birsch, D. (2014). Introduction to ethical theories: a procedural approach. Long Grove, IL: Waveland Press.

Braswell, M., McCarthy, B., & McCarthy, B. (2008). Justice, crime, and ethics. 6th ed. New York: Routledge.

Carlson, P., & Garrett, J. (2008). Prison and jail administration. 2nd ed. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Joyce, P. (2013). Criminal justice: an introduction. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge.

Kleinig, J. (2008). Ethics and criminal justice: an introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Pollock, J. (2014). Ethical dilemmas and decisions in criminal justice. 8th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.

Souryal, S. (2011). Ethics in criminal justice: in search of the truth. 5th ed. Burlington: Els evier.

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