Incorporating Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development into the Justice System

CRJ 220 Assignment Instructions

Imagine you are the chief of police. As the chief of police, you will need to ensure that your law enforcement officers lead ethical careers. In order to prepare for this assignment, review Chapters 7 through 9 in the textbook. Then, research Kohlberg’s stages of moral development and find at least two (2) relevant articles that discuss Kohlberg’s theory, Means vs. Ends, and Kantian ethics.

Write a two to three (2-3) page paper in which you:

  • Identify and discuss the three (3) levels of Kohlberg’s stages of Moral Development, and explain how you would address each level within your department.
  • Explain how your officers can use Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development to evaluate three (3) types of criminals who are at different stages of moral development.
  • Illustrate two to three (2-3) ways in which you would address self-interest and pursuit of pleasure to prevent police corruption.
  • Identify and discuss at least three (3) Prima Facie Duties that you believe all of your law enforcement officers should fulfill.
  • Support your position statement with two (2) relevant and credible references, documented according to SWS.

Incorporating Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development into the Justice System

Morality is defined as the principles that are used to tell right from wrong. These principles can be universal or personal and encapsulates a person’s attitudes and understanding on morals. Moral development is the evolution of a person’s definition of what is moral over a long period of time, such as from childhood to adulthood. This paper elaborates how Kohlberg’s theory of moral development can be applied in the justice system, specifically in the police department.

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There are three stages of moral development according to Lawrence Kohlberg. These are pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional levels. The pre-conventional level defines a stage in moral development where an individual’s sense of morality is highly controlled by external forces like parents, and that the person’s actions are guided by the consequences of their actions (Audi, 2015). Conventional stage is where an individual’s actions and sense of morality are guided by possible benefits that could result from those actions. The post-conventional stage involves an individual defining morality in abstract manner and holding opinions of some rules being unfair and therefore should be eliminated. As the Chief of Police, I would ensure that there is a great understanding of this theory of development in order to foster investigations of criminals who might fall into the different categories which could result in better findings.

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The Kohlberg theory can be used to evaluate criminals at different stages of moral development. In stage 1, a criminal entirely attempts to duly follow the law and obeys the authority. However, their criminal actions are as a result of experimenting with their actions in order to see what happens and may end up in the wrong without intending to harm. In the second stage, a criminal is motivated by the returns that they would achieve from their actions. In the third stage, the criminal may be having attitudes that some rules and regulations are unfair and unjust and therefore would not consider them as worthy of being adhered to. This leads them to break some of the rules that end them up in jail.

Police misconduct is rampant and I would therefore institute effective measures for the public to report the police that engage in misconduct as well as proper retraining mechanisms. I would push for the creation of a public reporting system which would ensure that all police officers that do not adhere to the rules while in service are reported to the relevant authority for action. This has been shown to be effective and should be pushed even further. Retraining would involve introducing regular classes where the police are reminded of the right conduct and the negative impacts of police misconduct in society.

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Prima facie duties that police have include a duty to not cause harm. This includes avoiding excessive force while arresting an individual in order to prevent injuries and other bodily harm to the person. Another prima facie duty is to seek to expand personal knowledge and skills in order to provide more efficient and effective services to the community (Cameron, 2019). This gaining of knowledge helps to expand the competence of the police officers in their line of duty.

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In conclusion, it is clear that Kohlberg’s theory of moral development can be effectively applied in the justice system. This is seen in its application in the evaluation of criminals at different stages of moral attitudes. The theory can also be applied to improve the conduct of police officers in their line of duty. Additionally, it is seen that a duty to not harm people as well as a duty to expand personal competence comprise the most important prima facie duties of the police.

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