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Criminal Justice Ethics

Criminal Justice Ethics
Theory and Practice

Fifth Edition

January 2019 | 448 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Criminal Justice Ethics examines the criminal justice system through an ethical lens by identifying ethical issues in practice and theory, exploring ethical dilemmas, and offering suggestions for resolving ethical issues and dilemmas faced by criminal justice professionals. Bestselling author Cyndi Banks draws readers into a unique discussion of ethical issues by first exploring moral dilemmas faced by professionals in the criminal justice system and then examining the major theoretical foundations of ethics. This distinct and unique organization allows students to understand real-life ethical issues before grappling with philosophical approaches to the resolution of these issues. The Fifth Edition includes updated discussions around ethical issues in policing, corrections, the changing technological environment and its influence on courtrooms, mass imprisonment, and the ethical implications of current criminal justice policies.

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About the Author
Chapter 1: The Importance of Ethics in Criminal Justice
The Meaning of Ethics

The Value of Ethics

Normative Ethics

Ethical Relativism

Cultural Relativism

Ethical Absolutism

Ethical Pluralism

Religion and Ethical Standards

Ethics and Natural Law

Ethics and Law

Ethical Dilemmas

Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice

Chapter 2: Police Ethics: The Nature of Policing and Police Corruption
Ethics and Policing

The Nature of Policing

Police as an Institution

Police Culture

Police Discretion

Ethics and Codes of Ethics

Policing and Stress

Police “Militarization”

Police Corruption

Discrimination as a Corrupt Practice in Policing: Racial Bias, Racial Profiling, and Selective Law Enforcement

Chapter 3: Police Ethics: Use of Force, Investigations, Interrogations, and Lying

Police Use of Force

Policing, Mental Illness, and Crisis Intervention Teams (CITs)

Ethical Issues in Investigation, Interrogation, and Custody

Chapter 4: Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System
Ethical Background

Historical Context

Is There Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System?

Imprisonment Disparities

Hate Crimes

Explanations for Racial Discrimination in the Criminal Justice System

Chapter 5: Judges, Lawyers, and Ethics
Legal Ethics: Historical Context

The Nature of Professional Ethics

Defense Lawyers

The Prosecutor

Judicial Ethics

Chapter 6: The Purpose of Criminal Punishment
What Is Punishment?

Theoretical Approaches to Punishment

Why Punish? The Philosophical Approach

Restorative Justice

Why Punish? The Sociological Approach

Chapter 7: Ethics in Corrections: The Nature of Corrections
The Prison Explosion

Maximum Security

Medium Security and Minimum Security

Stateville Prison: The Changing State of Corrections

Corrections Subculture

Power and Authority in Prison: Controlling the Inmates

Private Prisons

Disenfranchising Inmates

Treating Opioid Abuse in Correctional Institutions

Chapter 8: Ethics in Corrections: Guarding Ethically
The Experience of Guarding

Guarding Ethically

Guarding With Discretion

Unethical Situations

Rape in Prison


Oversight of Prisons

Ethical Issues in Probation and Parole

Chapter 9: The Ethics of Criminal Justice Policy Making
The Ethics of Policy Making

Morality Policy

Penal Policies

Public Opinion About Punishment Policies

Mandatory Minimum Sentencing

The War on Drugs

Truth in Sentencing

Predators and Superpredators

Capital Punishment

The “Criminalization” of Immigration

Chapter 10: Ethics and the “War on Terrorism”
Defining Terrorism

Warfare or Crime Control?

Other Responses to Terrorism

The Morality of Targeted Killing

Chapter 11: Media Ethics and Criminal Justice
Media Constructions of Crime

Reporting the Truth

Avoiding Bias

Avoiding Harm

Serving the Public

Maintaining Trust


Chapter 12: Duty and Principle
Hypothetical and Categorical Imperatives

Conflicting Duties

Applying Deontological Theory

Chapter 13: Considering the Consequences
Pleasure and Happiness

Act Consequentialism

Rule Consequentialism

Public Policy and Utilitarianism

Arguments Criticizing Utilitarianism

Applying Utilitarian Theory

Chapter 14: The Importance of Character

Aristotle and Happiness

The Golden Mean

Practical Wisdom

What’s Wrong With Virtue?

Applying Virtue Theory

Chapter 15: Egoism, Pleasure, and Indifference


Ethical Egoism

Applying the Theory of Ethical Egoism

Chapter 16: A Sense of Justice
Application of the Principles

Justice as Fairness

Moral Development

Applying Rawlsian Theory

Chapter 17: Caring for Others
Kohlberg and Gilligan

A Theory of Moral Development

“In a Different Voice”: Carol Gilligan

Gender and the Ethic of Care

The Ethic of Care and Justice


Applying the Ethic of Care



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  • chapter-specific discussion questions that help launch classroom interaction by prompting students to engage with the material and by reinforcing important content; and
  • lively and stimulating chapter activities that can be used in class to reinforce active learning (the activities apply to individual or group projects).

Criminal Justice Ethics is a well-written and thorough book. I also think it is topical and up-to-date.”

Ross Allen
Rutgers University-Camden

Criminal Justice Ethics is an excellent text that provides the necessary tools for effective learning to the next generation of leaders.”

David Baker
Texas Southern University

Criminal Justice Ethics is the cleanest, clearest text on ethics for undergraduates in criminal justice. It is possible to deliver a complete undergrad ethical course using the text alone; chapter-by-chapter progress works nicely for students. Well-written, logical, and thoughtful, with solid web support for students.”

Nancy Dickinson
Georgia State University

“A thorough and easy read that provides an overview of ethical dilemmas in the criminal justice system.”

Mercedes Valadez
California State University, Sacramento

good primer for ethical considerations in CJ system. Very well balanced on all "sides" of various CJ issues. Caveat: although 5th ed, seemingly a lot of the study/data cited is dated, leading to an "older view" of some issues and lack of prominent newer issues confronting the CJS. Still, a wonderful tool for provoking discussion and steering students toward problem solving activities

Professor Robert Delony
Political Science, Abilene Christian University
October 26, 2023

Met all of my desired needs

Dr John Fisher
Criminology, Univ Of Texas-Permian Basin
May 13, 2021

This book had current examples that my students could relate to. Also the practicality and application of ethical theories and principles were a selling point.

Mrs Tamara McCollough
Criminology & Criminal Justice, Indiana State University
December 1, 2020

Ethics in law enforcement in this day and age is crucial. As a retired Police Chief, I found this text to be complete for my class. I would recommend this book to any ethics instructor.

Professor Matthew Cosby
Arts/Social Sciences Div, Univ Of New Mexico-Los Alamos
February 13, 2020
Key features


  • A new section exploring the controversial issue of the criminalization of immigration—“crimmigration”—illuminates the ethical implications of current policies and encourages classroom discussion and critical analysis of the changes in immigration policy and practice.
  • Updated sections on ethical issues in policing include political action on police use of force, police militarization, body cameras, stop and frisk, and the ethics of using informants.
  • Enhanced discussions of courts reflect the changing technological environment and feature new material on the use of social media for judges.
  • Updated sections on corrections feature current ethical issues, including correctional officer subculture, private probation and the poor, the right to privacy, the treatment of opioid abuse in correctional institutions, and more.
  • New policies are evaluated for ethical issues in relation to mass incarceration, such as the new “Jim Crow,” race and crime control policies, and internet sexual solicitation.
  • New case studies examine real-world ethical issues and illustrate ethical principles in action. Relevant discussions of critical topics include the prosecution of hate crimes against transgender individuals, private prisons, media responses to sexting, and more.
  • Greater overall textual coherence through cross references and subheadings offer more accessibility for students to better identify the focus of the content.
  • Updated statistics and data reflect new research and scholarly thinking in the field.


  • A unique focus on the interactions of ethics within the criminal justice system in Part I lays out the foundation for students’ understanding of ethical theories and perspectives presented in Part II.
  • Contemporary case studies throughout the book illustrate ethical issues and theories in applied terms.
  • A code of ethics for various roles in the criminal justice system (i.e. police, correctional officers, et al.) is presented to show students expected standards of behavior in various fields.

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