Ethical Dilemma Worksheet
What is the ethical issue or problem? Identify the issue succinctly. The moral agent is the probation officer. Because he knows that incapacitation in a jail cell may unduly and unconstitutionally render cruel and unusual punishment due to the husband’s military experience and PTSD, the probation officer must decide which punishment to recommend. Since this contrasts the usual 90 days minimum, therein lays the dilemma.
What are the most important facts? Which facts have the most bearing on the ethical decision presented? Include any important potential economic, social, or political pressures, and exclude inconsequential facts. Ethically, the probation officer must serve the needs of the people for justice. The proba-tion officer is subject to politics and the politics of power. Therefore, suggesting distributive justice and alternate sentence to the minimum 90 day one might prove politically and/or socially unpopular. While the expenses of such recommendations might be lesser than time in jail, the societal costs could be greater if the husband suffers another PTSD episode and/or drunk driving episode. It the moral agent does nothing, then long-term harm to the offender and society could result.
Identify each claimant (key actor) who has an interest in the outcome of this ethical issue. From the perspective of the moral agent—the individual contemplating an ethical course of action—what obligation is owed to the claimant? Why?
Obligation (owed to the claimant)
Perspective (What does the claimant hope will happen?)
The husband hopes the probation officer will consider his military service and POW experience, as well as the PTSD. Accordingly, the husband hopes the probation officer recommends treatment and probation or some form of community corrections.
Non-injury, beneficence and justice
The wife would prefer the moral agent make the appropri-ate alternate sentence/treatment recommendations.
The judges would prefer the probation officer disclose the husband’s mitigating circumstances. Failure to do so could result in appeals or even suits charging due process viola-tions. The Prosecutors would like the probation officer to recom-mend a punishment the People would accept. As it stands, the probation officer’s findings actually suggest the hus-band might not be guilty because of mental defect. Given these contentions, the prosecutor would prefer an alternate sentencing suggestion.
Police officers would prefer the moral agent made alternate sentencing arrangements. After all, this substantiates they performed their duty, protected the public and maintained law and order. They would not want the moral agent to express his con-cerns about sentencing in such a way that endangers the criminal proceedings and/or limits the husband’s ability to stand trial or the jury’s ability to render a guilty verdict.
Other Probation Officers
Failure to provide alternate recommendations would result in nonfeasance. Because of their responsibility in the cor-rections system, probation officers would prefer the moral agent acted accordingly. Otherwise, it could make it espe-cially hard for any of them to make alternate recommenda-tions. Some probation officers might want the moral agent to do nothing since alternate sentencing complicates their jobs and increases their responsibilities without extra compensation.
Military officers and veterans would rather the moral agent suggested alternate sentencing based upon the husband’s past experience as a POW.
Beneficence, non-injury, justice
Society would prefer the husband is punished. However, society would also want the probation officer’s recommen-dations for alternate sentencing to reflect “due process” and the...
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