Criminal Justice in Ethics Class

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CriminalJustice in Ethics Class

Bydefinition, all ethical decisions affect others. As Aristotle clearlyelucidates, ethical decision making is realized only through constantpractice. Consistent with Aristotle’s words, a virtuous individualis someone that has ideal character traits in many differentsituations because that is the individual’s character and notbecause she wants to maximize utility or gain special treatment. AsMelnick (2014) notes, Aristotle’s central issue is the question ofpersonality or character and how it affects happiness (eudaimonism)in human life by living well. Eudaimonismpivots virtue ethics on human flourishing, equated with an individualperforming her distinctive functions well for goods.In the case of humans, the author perceptively states that Aristotleenvisages the search for the goodas basically a search for the highestgood.From this point of perspective, no human being tries to live well forthe sake of some further goals rather, eudaimonismis the highest human goal.

EmployingAristotle’s virtue ethics outline of seeking real goods via themoral virtues, I can assertively label the enactment of Maine’s lawconcerning cigarette butts as morally impermissible. As statedearlier, ethical decisions affect others. If passed, this lawrequiring a 5 cents surcharge on cigarette butts will occasion anincrease in the price of a packet of cigarettes by one dollar. Iconsider this stunt morally impermissible because as a smoker, I willbe forced to spend more money on one packet of cigarettes. The rippleeffect is that smokers in the state of Maine will be compelled intobuying cigarettes in other states negatively affecting the businessactivities of cigarette manufacturers and vendors within the state.In this scenario, the state’s decision is unethical because it willbe enacting the law to capitalize on the possibility of increasingits revenue by 50 million dollars through charging a 5 cent depositfee on cigarette butts.

Throughthe lens of Aristotle’s virtue ethics model, the state of Maine isworking towards some “further” goals rather than propagatinghuman happiness (eudaimonism)as the highest human goal (Melnick, 2014). The state’s decision isnot vouching for real goods which explains why as a smoker, I willconsider the enactment of this law as morally intolerable. Thegovernment, in this instance, is not acting as a “virtuous agent.”However, my argument will be different if I were a nonsmoker. Bearingin mind that the cigarette price increment will not affect my budgetas a nonsmoker, I will aggressively vouch for the enactment of theproposed cigarette butts law for the reason that it will discouragethe habit of smoking. That way, the state will be disseminatingeudaimonismbyeliminating immoral behaviors and encouraging the development ofvirtuous inclinations. Also, the state of Maine will pull togethersupplementary revenue that can be channeled to other areas ofdevelopment which can warranty the realization of eudaimonism.

Thesecond question I have chosen is whether it is morally acceptable topunish offenders for any future crimes that they are found to be athigh risk of committing. As controversial as this New York State lawis, I think it is morally acceptable to break away from thetraditional criminal procedure where a crime needs to be committedfor someone to be held legally responsible and punished. It is anundeniable fact that we have seen and heard of numerous cases ofsexual offenders who have been in-and-out of prisons for the samesexual crimes. Contemporary mental health professionals can screenincarcerated sexual offenders and discern whether they arepredisposed to committing more sexual offenses once they are releasedfrom prison (Calkins, 2014).

Tosustain the happiness (eudaimonism)of the residents of Maine, it is morally permissible to confine orplace under strict surveillance prison inmates who are found likelyto re-offend after screening by mental health professionals. Thisethical decision will be contributing to the highergoodof the people of the state of Maine. Nevertheless, this will not be ablanket law because there are some sexual offenders that gettransformed after years of incarceration. Such persons, though sexualoffenders, are less likely to re-offend hence pass mental healthscreening. It will be morally unacceptable to confine a convertedsexual offender. Alternatively, it would be morally unethical torelease a hardcore sexual offender with high odds of re-offending.Therefore, I think it is morally permissible to punish offenders forfuture crimes that they are found to be at high risk of committingon condition that they are found to have higher odds of re-offending.


Calkins,M. (2014). Aristotle’s Virtue Ethics. Issuesin Business Ethics Developing a Virtue-Imbued Casuistry for BusinessEthics,73-105. Doi: 10.1007/978-94-017-8724-6_8

Melnick,A. (2014). Happiness, Morality, and Freedom. Doi:10.1163/9789004283213

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