Probation Officer Case Study
Ethical behavior demands that individuals do the right thing based on the moral codes applicable in society. Such behavior ignores issues of friendship and relations when it comes to doing the right thing. People should be impartial and not let emotions or personal feelings cloud their judgment when making an ethical decision. Consequently, a police officer would be expected to arrest his mother without prejudice, if she was caught breaking the law.
Ethics of care introduce a new perspective by suggesting that ethical behavior and decisions should take into consideration the relationships between those making the decisions, and those affected by the decision. Ethics of care deviate from the traditional viewpoint that all ethical decisions emanate from universal standards and posit that people should make decisions on what works out best for all stakeholders (Held, 2005).
Using the same example of the police officer, not arresting his mother would ensure that bad blood does not develop in the family; he could still reprimand her in private and discourage her from engaging in acts of lawlessness. With regard to the probation officer, he is obligated to report the probationer for violating his probation and handling illegal firearms. The director’s position on violation of probation terms is very clear; he has zero tolerance. Hard work and due diligence has put the probation officer on the fast track for promotion.
His work ethics have endeared him to other people in the force and he appears to be a role model for other officers. The dilemma facing him is that he has witnessed one of his charges violate the terms of probation. Normative ethics would require him to report the probationer to his superiors, which will lead to revocation of the probation. The probationer would be committed to criminal jail for a period of six months. However, the probation officer options are limited because of the anonymous clause that covers the buy back program.
The clause stipulates that the identity of all people handing in the guns will remain secret. If the probation officer reports the probationer, he will have to provide his superiors with details of where and when the violation took place. Since the incident took place at a police station participating in the buy back program, the superiors will find it difficult to act on the violation. Any sanction applied on the probationer will threaten the success of the buy-back program, as other people with illegal firearms will fear arrest for handing in guns.
The ethical thing for the probation officer to do is to meet the probationer and advise him not to get involved in guns, as it will lead to a jail term. In this way, the officer does not compromise the program by revealing he witnessed the probationer handing in the gun. Secondly it places some fear in the probationer, as the advise will come so soon after he handed in the gun. Ethics of care would applaud such actions and consider them right even though the premise behind the actions was not care, but compliance with institutional rules and procedures.
The incident allows the probation officer to maintain his work ethics and ensure due diligence from a normative ethical point of view. He has not compromised his standards by deciding issues on the basis of ethical care theories, and he has been able to caution his charge without intimating that he witnessed a violation of the probation. Ethical care theories place a lot of emphasis on relationships that exist between individuals (Noddings, 1984). Before one makes a decision, all the consequences need to be evaluated to ensure that the welfare of all those who have some attachment to one another are not affected adversely.
In the above scenario, ethical care theorists will not consider justice having been served by the jailing of the probationer for handing in the gun under the buy back program. Mr. Barnes has a girlfriend and two children who depend on him for their welfare. He is a loving father and strives to fend for his dependants by working a regular job. He intends to use the $ 50 he will get from the buy back program to purchase essential things for his family.
In his absence, they will suffer deprivation and loss; not reporting his violation of the probation terms will prevent him from being incarcerated and permit him to continue providing for his family. The intent of his violation was informed of the need to satisfy the basic requirements of his family; he did not go out of his way to commit a crime and benefit from the proceeds, rather he worked the system to gain an advantage. The probation officer needs to evaluate if reporting Mr. Barnes to his superiors will benefit anybody.
The children will be the first to suffer as the breadwinner will not be there to attend to their needs. Without a father, they may be forced to live in the slums and grow up living a very deprived life. The chances of these children turning out to be delinquents under such deplorable circumstances are very high. Owing to his long absence, the girlfriend may take up another man friend and abandon the relationship with Mr. Barnes. This may complicate the issue of parental rights, and on release from prison, Mr. Barnes may have to institute legal proceedings to gain custody of the children.
The trauma that the offspring will go through may affect their social and physical development, as well as stunting their academic performance. After reviewing these issues, all indications are that reporting Mr. Barnes for violating his probation will not serve the good of the community or his dependants. The probation officer will be best advised to turn a blind eye to the incident and focus on ensuring that Barnes does not commit any other misdemeanor. A meeting should be scheduled between the probation officer and Mr. Barnes, so that the officer can elucidate the consequences of violating parole.
After the meeting, the probationer should emerge more committed to ensuring he avoids incarceration. In the two scenarios, the probation officer’s decision is to let the probationer off with a warning. Under the normative ethical theory scenario, the probation officer is prevented from reporting Mr. Barnes because the buy –back program is an anonymous exercise and nobody should be victimized for handing in the guns. Despite the officer’s strong sense of right and wrong, he would jeopardize the operation of the program if people learnt that Mr.
Barnes was incarcerated for handing in a gun. The buy-back program has reduced inter gang wars and all but eliminated guns from schools. Jeopardizing such a program just to punish one person, goes against the utilitarian ethical theory that posits an action is just when the greatest number benefit. Thus from a normative ethical point of view, the probation officer should not report Mr. Barnes. Analyzing the second scenario from an ethical care viewpoint, the probation officer empathizes with the probationer and decides to let him off with a stern warning.
After considering the potential harm that could come to Mr. Barnes’ family, the probation officer feels that justice would be better served if the probationer was cautioned rather than incarcerated. This decision will avail an opportunity for Mr. Barnes to take care of his family and provide them with all their needs. In conclusion, normative ethical decisions can be harsh as they do not take into consideration the unique circumstances facing individuals and the potential ramifications of such decisions.
Moral codes prescribe punishments for violations, but fail to make exceptions where there are justifiable cases. Ethical care theories fill the void created by normative ethics and introduce a caring aspect that provides welcome relief for those who deserve some respite (Noddings, 1984). An element of sacrifice is evident in ethical care, as that those who prescribe to this theory give up or compromise on universal standards so as to achieve a balance in human relations.
If the buy-back program was not anonymous, the probation officer would have reported Mr. Barnes and had his probation revoked. The probationer would be languishing in jail and his family would be struggling to survive. There is every possibility that the probationer may become a hardened criminal while in jail. On release from prison, he will contribute to rising crime statistics rather than contributing positively to society. His incarceration would thus be more injurious to the country than ignoring the violation of his probation.
The officer has a deontological duty to society to see that his actions enhance the welfare of all those in the community (Singer, 1993). He must support initiatives aimed at improving the quality of life for everyone. In this respect, the buy-back program, which has led to a reduction in crime, takes precedence over all other things including, violation of probation terms. The buy back program is likely to collapse if Mr. Barnes was to be jailed for his handing in of a gun. People would perceive those in charge of the program as dishonest, and thus fear to hand in guns.
Resurgence in gang warfare and school shooting could occur following the collapse of the program. It is thus in the interest of all stakeholders, that Mr. Barnes be left off scot free for his violation, either from an ethical care perspective or a utilitarian one. References Held, V. (2005). The Ethics of Care. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Noddings, N. (1984) Caring: A Feminine Approach to Ethics and Moral Education. Berkeley: University of California Press. Singer, P. (1993) Practical Ethics. (2nd edition) Cambridge: Cambridge University PressSample Essay of StudyFaq.com