Study Of Moral Values In The Society

Study Of Moral Values In The Society

Ethics entails the study of moral values in the 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 major 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 has led to human rights violation.  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 at a higher risk of committing 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 changed to accommodate the needs of the prisoners. Most prisoners give security and control priority and fail to meet the health care needs of the prisoners. 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).

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.

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.   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. In addition to that, 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, K2005). For instance rules governing the provision of food and medical services to inmates result to improved health and harmonious interaction between the inmates and guards. Therefore, prisoners should be provided with their basic rights to improve their health and reduce violence in prisons. Prisoners should learn rules that help them live harmoniously with other citizens. 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. 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 ethical egoism, emotivism and relativism. Ethical egoism encourages people to do what is their own self interest. In emotivism, ethical statements express a person’s feeling and hence are meaningless. In relativism, a person should determine if following a rule will cause harm to himself or not.  Relativism is similar to utilitarianism as one has to consider whether a rule causes harm to himself or not. Ethical egoism and emotivism differ with utilitarianism as they concentrate on treating other people as one treats him/ herself (Biddle, 2002). Ethical egoism is closer to my views as human beings should not harm the interest and welfare of others when making decisions. What is in the interest of a person can have a detrimental effect or benefit to others. Thus, the government should not harm the wellbeing of prisoners while making moral decisions or taking actions (Banks, 2004).


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.


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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