Study Of Moral Values In Society

Study Of Moral Values In Society

Ethics entails the study of moral values in society. In addition, ethics involves the study of rules and principles that govern human behavior.  Philosophers have developed different theories to explain ethics.  The theories include deontology, virtue and utilitarianism.  The theories have different principles that help in decision making.  The theories can be used in decisions making concerning treatment of prisoners in prisons.  The treatment of prisoners has become a crucial issue as they are subjected to harsher and stricter punishment that affect them psychologically, physically and emotionally.   Utilitarianism will help the government in determining the consequences of its action and decisions when correcting prisoners. Thesis:  Ethical theories are vital in solving issues in criminal justice system like treatment of prisoners. Theories like utilitarianism help in decision making as the government and workers in criminal justice consider the consequence of their actions when correcting prisoners. The theory prevents violation of rights of prisoners and improves the prison conditions.


The increase in crime rate in many countries including the United States has resulted to adoption of harsher methods of punishing offenders. Citizens are tired of crime, and this has compelled politicians to advocate for harsher treatment of criminals.  People believe that inmates lose their rights immediately they enter prison and thus should be punished, but not rehabilitated. Citizens and politicians object criminals living in resort like facilities with many privileges.  Prisons offer inmates a wide range of privileges’ including free education, libraries, weightlifting etc.  States have developed super max prisons to house troublesome inmates and hence reduced their privileges.  States do not provide such prisoners with education and vocational training. Also, they do allow contact with other inmates. Moreover, prisoners have been encouraged to work in different organizations.  Correctional facilities use the money earned to pay prison costs.  The prisoners acquire skills they can use when released while working. However, not all programs that impart skills to prisoners.  The advocates for get tough on inmates have encouraged the use of shock devices and stun belt to correct prisoners.

A shock device is used to incapacitate the prisoner by administering an electric shock that disrupts the functioning of the muscles (Bailey, 2005)  Issue of violation of the prisoner’s rights has been raised.  Advocates of   prisoner’s rights claim that harsher punishment and strict discipline have led to human rights violation. Most of the prisoner rights have been abused. Prisoners should be treated with respect as they have inherent dignity and value as human beings. Prisoners are not supposed to be discriminated because of their color, religion, sex and place of origin. However, most prisoners have faced discrimination inside and outside prison because of their race, ethnicity, religion and sex orientation (Tannsjo, 2008).  A report released by Amnesty international in 1998 showed violation of human rights (Amnesty international, 1998). The report examined the prison conditions in United States. The report listed examples of human rights infringement including physical, sexual and psychological abuse of prisoners.

The report showed sexual abuse of women. In addition, the advocates do not support the use of shock devices to control the inmates.  The device has resulted to abuse of the prisoners as it delivers 50,000 shock from almost 300 feet far.  The device   might have a long term effect on the prisoners.  The supporters of human rights believe that privileges’ for inmates are vital. Prisoners should not be denied their privileges as it affects them negatively.  The prisoners become more violent, angrier and are likely to commit crimes after release.  The supports reject supermax prisons as they deny prisoners their rights.  The treatment inmates get in such prisoners makes them more violent and do not get rehabilitation.  Further, the supports of human rights claim that the health care systems should be modified to accommodate prisoners’ needs. Most prisons give security and control priority and fail to meet the medical needs of the inmates. Prisoners should receive the some care other members in the society receive.

Prison facilities should make changes to accommodate the needs of elderly inmates and terminally ill inmates.  Poor health care services offered to prisoners and deplorable conditions result to diseases and deaths that can be avoided. The differing views about treatment of inmates in prisoners have affected prevention of crime and correction of criminals (Bailey, 2005). Further, the advocates of prisoner’s rights believe that privileges for inmates are vital.  Prisoners do not access a wide range of privileges due to the tough stance people have against crime in the society. Prisoners do not have recreational, learning and good meals.  The opponents of prisoners’ rights argue that providing privileges to prisoners has increased the cost of maintaining correctional facilities.  They assert that prisoners do not have the right to privileges enjoyed by other citizens in the society. Denying prisoners the facilities increases their chances of committing a crime in the society.  The prisoners become violent and angrier as they do not get equal treatment like other people in the society.

Different ethical theories can be used to resolve issues related to treatment of prisoners.  Utilitarianism theory can be used to resolve the unethical treatment of inmates (Shaw, 1999).  In utilitarianism, the moral importance of actions is based on the outcome of the action.  The moral value of actions should be determined by its importance in maximizing utility or reducing negative utility.  Morality is the behavior that distinguishes the decision, intention, and action of a person that are bad or good (Shaw, 1999).  The society has a moral code that governs human behavior. The code states what is wrong and right in the society. The offences committed by criminals are morally wrong. For instance, murdering, stealing and inflicting injury is wrong (Tannsjo, 2008).  Utilitarian theory can be utilized in correctional facilities to help inmates correct their behaviors.  The theory helps prisoners reflect on their behaviors and consequences (Tannsjo, 2008).

The government should consider the consequences of its actions and decisions regarding treatment of prisoners. Using torture and harsher punishment to correct inmates is not effective as it causes them to be more rebellious, angrier and violent. It also increases the chances of the prisoners committing crimes after release as they lack skills needed to survive outside.  Also, denying inmates privileges enjoyed by other people in the society does not contribute to rehabilitation as it causes more harm than correction. It increases the rate of crime in the society as inmates commit more crime than before (Tannsjo, 2008).  Instead, the government should provide training and education to inmates as this will have a pleasurable effect on them and enable them acquire useful skills.  The rate of recidivism in the society is high as many inmates commit crime after release. Lack of employment, education and support from the community members hinders the prisoners from reintegrating in the society. This is because the prisoners do not get employment due to lack of education and skills.

Only a small percentage of prisoners have appropriate skills and education needed to get a job.  Also, only a small number have jobs before arrest. The prisoners have problems reintegrating into the society as the chances of getting good paying jobs is low.  Therefore, the inmates opt for poor paying jobs and commit crimes to supplement their   wages.  Providing formal education to inmates will improve their lives after release as they will get high paying jobs. In addition to that, the government should not focus on torturing the prisoners by denying them privileges, but it should provide privileges. Providing privileges to prisoners motivates them to change and embrace behaviors acceptable in the society. It prevents inmates from becoming violent, angry and aggressive as they do not feel discriminated or neglected. Prisoners who do not get access to privileges are more violent and commit crime more than inmates who get priveledges.

The government should abolish super max prisoners as they have an effect on the rights of the inmates.  Supermax prisons are the cause of suffering, violent behaviors and high rate of crime among prisoners. Hence, the government should focus more on rehabilitation instead of   torture and punishment (Tannsjo, 2008).Additionaly, the government should consider rule utilitarianism when making decisions.  Rule utilitarianism encourages human beings to focus on the rules of action and determine what will happen if they follow the rules.  A rule that leads to happiness’ is morally right and should be followed (Bailey, 2005). For instance rules governing food  provision and medical services to inmates result to improved health and harmonious interaction between the inmates and guards.

Therefore,  the government  should provide basic needs to prisoners s to improve their health and reduce violence in prisons.  The government should give medical services, food and water priority instead of torture. The government should give health and wellbeing of the inmate’s priority.   Inmates do not get health care services and most of them have inadequate information regarding diseases.   Inmates do not have enough knowledge regarding sexually transmitted diseases such as HIV and blood infections. This has led to increase in cases of sexually transmitted infections in prisons. Insufficient financial resources have   hindered correctional facility managers from meeting the needs of the prisoners. Allocating adequate funds for correctional facilities will help overcome the challenges that prisoners face by meeting their needs (Bailey, K2005).

Prisoners should learn rules that help them live harmoniously with other citizens.  Inmates find it difficult to reintegrate in the community after release as they do not know the rules required to live harmoniously.  Thus, the society isolates them, and this compels them to engage in criminal behaviors and activities.  Prisoners should learn the behaviors acceptable in the society and those not acceptable. They should be conversant with the moral codes of the society. This will enable them to interact with other members and avoid criminal behaviors. Lastly, motive utilitarianism is vital in preventing unethical treatment of inmates (Shaw, 1999). The government should instill skills, ideologies and knowledge useful to prisoners later. The motive utilitarianism can help change the current management of correctional facilities and policies. Correctional facilities should adopt policies that allow prisoners to access education and acquire essential skills.

On the other hand, negative utilitarianism prevents the greatest amount of suffering for the largest number.  The government should prevent harm to the prisoners by using harsher punishment while at the same time preventing harm to the citizens (Banks, 2004). There are other perspectives that can be used to resolve the issues like relativism. In relativism, a person should determine if following a rule will cause harm to himself or not.   Advocates of relativism believe that the conception of truth and moral values is relative to the group holding them. Different groups or cultures have a different meaning of truth and moral values. Hence, people should tolerate people with different opinions or behaviors (Biddle, 2002).

Thus, the government should not harm the wellbeing of prisoners while making moral decisions or taking actions (Banks, 2004). Though the government is supposed to protect the society by punishing criminals, it should not cause harm to offenders and their wellbeing. The government should ensure the decisions made concerning the provision of basic needs and punishments do not affect the welfare of the inmates. The government should treat inmates like other members in the society because of their dignity and value.   The government should not disrespect inmates as they have dignity and value like other human beings.  The utilitarianism is closer to my own perspective on treatment of prisoners.  I think the decision to punish inmates should be based on the outcome  of the action.   For instance, providing rehabilitation services to prisoners has more benefits than torturing and subjecting them to harsh punishments.  Also, rehabilitation has more benefits than denying inmates their privileges. The government and correctional facilities should respect the rights of the inmates when making decisions and implementing policies (Biddle, 2002).


In conclusion, the ethical theories help in making decisions in the society. They enable people determine what is morally good or bad. What is correct or wrong in the society depends on the ideologies of the theories and moral code.  Utilitarianism can help resolve unethical treatment of inmates by ensuring the government considers the outcome of its decision. This will improve prisoners’ health and prison conditions.  The treatment of inmates in United has become an issue as prisoners are mistreatment. Torturing, denial of privileges and subjection to harsh punishments   is common in correctional facilities.  The correctional facility management and government do not consider the impact decisions and policies have on criminals and the prevention of crime. Torture and denial of prisoner’s privileges has led to high crime rate in the society. It has also increased the cases of recidivism as prisoners get rearrested and reincarnated for committing a crime.

This is mainly due to insufficient education and skills. The prisoners commit crimes after release due to limited job opportunities and difficulties in reintegrating to the society.   Utilitarianism theory can help in bringing change in correctional facilities by facilitating decision making. Utilitarianism can help in determining what is beneficial to the inmates and what causes harm. Integrating utilitarianism theory in the correctional facilities will help in the enforcement of laws preventing torture and mistreatment of prisoners. This will ensure inmates get equal treatment like other citizens regardless of their offense.


Bailey, K. (2005). How should prisons treat inmates. GreenHaven

Banks, C. (2004) Criminal justice ethics: theory and practice. SAGE

Biddle, C. (2002). Loving Life: The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It. Glen Allen Press Llc

Shaw, W. (1999). Contemporary ethics: taking account of utilitarianism. Wiley-Blackwell

Tannsjo, T. (2008). Understanding ethics. Edinburgh university press

Amnesty international. (1998). Rights for all. Retrieved from on 12/11/2012

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