Ethical and Moral Behavior in Corrections
Life behind the doors of the prisons and jails constitutes a different world. Items such as cigarettes and a cellphone are valuable trade items within a prison environment. Frequently, inmates try to manipulate officers for favors. State prisons and jails developed a code of ethics guiding officers’ conduct with inmates. Most important is the ethics of care as the correction officers are responsible for the inmates’ care and safety. Ethics of care is a deontological perspective concentrating on acting good. “Good” is defined as meeting the needs of those concerned. This concern and care for others are paramount (Stohr & Walsh, 2018).
Unfortunately, despite these ethical frameworks, sometimes correction officers still act in an unethical manner. Correction officers working in prisons and jails may be accused of corruption and accepting bribes from the inmates. The most common reasons for unethical behavior are personal gain and selfishness. Especially in private prisons, managers cut staff salaries and inmate food to lower the cost and increase the profits. These actions increase the safety risk for the inmates and officers and increase the risk of riots. Poor food and living conditions led to the State Prison riot in Attica, New York, in 1971 (Getlen, 2016).
Behind the walls of the prison and jails, correction officers have the discretion to grant privileges to inmates. Unethical officers may abuse the discretion by accepting bribes for favors such as cell phones, cigarettes, or food. Officers smuggle drugs into the facility and then sell them to inmates. Also disturbing are the reports of cases of sexual assault of female inmates by correction officers.
Landmark case Lucas vs. White 1999, Northern California
In August 1996, three female inmates, Robin Lucas, Valerie Mercadel, and Raquel Douthit, housed at Pleasanton, CA federal prison, filed a lawsuit seeking damages and injunctive relief from present and former officials of the United States Department of Prison (BOP). The BOP officials allegedly violated the inmate’s constitutional rights by subjecting them to multiple serious sexual assaults, sexual harassment, and unwelcomed sexual advances orchestrated by the prison officials (Lucas v. White, 1999).
The plaintiffs stated that when they were transferred to the J-2 Special housing unit, only a few women were housed among the all-male prison population. The correction officers allowed the male prisoners to roam the hallways and harass the female inmates through the food port. Female prisoners were propositioned for sex. Correction officers gave male prisoners access to the female’s cell in the middle of the night without their consent, resulting in sexual assaults. The officers also harassed the female inmates by asking them to show their breasts and genitals to receive a prison t-shirt (Lucas v. White, 1999).
Inmate Lucas filed an official complaint. On September 22, 1995, her cell door was opened while she was sleeping; and then three men entered her cell, restrained her, brutally beat, raped, and sodomized her. She was informed that this was in retaliation for her complaint (Lucas v. White, 1999).
In November 1995, the inmate’s attorneys became involved, and the three inmates were transferred to another jail. A criminal investigation was conducted. It was found that the constitutional rights of the three inmates under the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Eighth Amendments of the United States Constitution were violated (Lucas v. White, 1999).
Ultimately, the Federal Bureau of Prisons settled the suit for $500,000 (Lucas v. White, 1999). The prison agency also agreed to drastic changes to curtail the sexual abuse of female inmates.
Stohr, M., & Walsh, A. (2018). Corrections: From research to policy to practice. Sagepub.
Getlen, L. (2016, August 20). The true story of the Attica prison riot. New York Post.
Justicia US Law (1999). Lucas vs. White.
Assignment: Evaluate an Ethical Issue in Corrections
For this assignment, you will assume the role of a criminologist with expertise in corrections. You have been asked by the editors of Corrections Today to write an article on the ethical obligations of the corrections department. You will identify a current ethical issue that corrections face. For example, your article could focus on mass incarceration, treatment of ill offenders, prison riots, use of solitary confinement, or a similar ethical issue. In your article, be sure to:
- Identify the ethical issue in corrections.
- Include specific examples of unethical practices.
- Identify the impact the issue has had on the correction’s department.
- Include possible solutions and reform based on current research.
Length: 5-7 pages, excluding the title and reference pages
References: Include a minimum of 5 scholarly references.
The completed assignment should address all of the assignment requirements, exhibit evidence of concept knowledge, and demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the content presented in the course.
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