There are several approaches on how ethical decisions in criminal justice can be approached philosophically, two of this are: the retributive approach and utilitarian approach. These approaches are used to try and explain the reason behind punishment of criminals. The utilitarian approach is based on the belief that an action’s worth can only be determined by how well it maximizes utility and minimizes on the negative utility. Hence according to the approach, the morality of an action is solely dependent on its outcome. This approach is used to make judicial decisions that are aimed to deter the future occurrence of a crime (Promedion, 2010).
The retributive approach is used with the belief that offenders are punished to bestow a moral blame for their consequences. This approach also indicates that the punishment meted to offenders should be proportionate to the offences they have committed. It is however important to note that the severity of a particular crime may differ with culture, geography, race or religion. However depending on the legal officer administering the retribution, the severity of the offence may be derived from the resultant moral imbalance, unfair advantage, and harm caused so as to ensure the good of the society prevails (‘The Special Court’, 2004).
The two approaches are similar in that they try to come up with a reason as to why criminals should be punished. It should be noted that the approaches also aim at preventing future occurrence of the offence that is being punished for. Both approaches are also focused on upholding morality in the community through legal ways (Alexander, 2003). The approaches however differ in that the utilitarian approach has an allowance for some actions considered as offences to be accepted as correct as long as their outcome was beneficial.
The criminal justice professional should find a way of integrating the two approaches though I believe more emphasis should be on the utilitarian one as the other approach does not allow for mitigation.
Northwestern University Journal of International Human Rights [N.U.J.I.H.R] (2004). The
Special Court for Sierra Leone and the Juvenile Soldier Dilemma. Retrieved from
Alexander, S. (2003). Without Guilt and Justice. New York: Dell Publishing.
Promedion (Producer) (2010). The history of world criminal justice. Professional Media and
Education. Retrieved from http://www.promedionproductions.com/History.html