Ethics Courses: Do the Values and Ethical Decisions of Criminal Justice Students Change?

Vivian B. Lord, University North Carolina at Charlotte
Beth Bjerregaard, University of North Carolina - Charlotte

Over the past several years there has been an increased interest in professional ethics. This increased attention has been mirrored in the academic community. Most universities and colleges have in some way incorporated an ethics component into their curricula. Typically, this means offering a course in ethics, frequently as an elective or attempting to interject a discussion of ethics into traditional course offerings. While many of the ethical issues facing criminal justice professionals are typical on other disciplines/fields, criminal justice practitioners are also likely to face a unique set of ethical dilemmas. Because employees in the criminal justice system are invested with both a great deal of authority and discretion, they are likely to face a number of original situations. As citizens we entrust criminal justice professionals with the awesome responsibility of enforcing laws and protecting us. We then empower them with the tools necessary to discharge this obligation. The current research examines the values of criminal justice students and their ethical decisions after completing a criminal justice ethics course. The findings are discussed in terms of theoretical and educational implications.

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Updated 05/20/2006