12 Aug 2022


Moral Values versus Probation Officer Ethics

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Academic level: College

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Probation officers interact with different types of people from court judges to the common citizen. This forces them to practice moral values which are not prescribed by the law. Even though ethics in law enforcement are mandatory for probation officers, they also need to exhibit personal moral values that guides their professional conduct. The probation officer serves victims, offenders, and the community at large and need not be motivated by personal gain. Most importantly, he must obey court directives and the law in general. He is a servant of the courts which makes him or her subject of the law for the effective administration of his or her duties. A probation officer is expected to show respect to other people irrespective of their race, religion, gender, or any other discriminatory consideration. He is tasked with the responsibility of protecting the rights of individuals including the right of the community to be safe. He should demonstrate a high standard of integrity to resolve issues. This means that the officer should not abuse his office because it is held in public trust. The abuse of office may include misuse of his office by taking advantage of an offender, engaging in political promotions, or getting gratuities because of his or her profession. He is, therefore, required to show commitment to his profession and carry out his duties with integrity (Thompson, 2017). The credo of ethics for should be one that will guide his or her morality in the performance of his or her duties. Their credo of ethics should be in line with the prescribed ethical standards. 

Probation officers ensure the safety of the community by supervising criminal offenders assigned to them. In situations of ethical dilemmas, they are required to act in a respectful manner so as not to interfere with the community's supervision system including that of their clients. Most of them are work on tight schedules prescribed by courts which can sometimes be overwhelming. This might include extensive travels to meet with parole or probation offenders. They must ensure that the rules and conditions imposed by the courts on offenders are adhered to. Other sections of the community supervision system require that probation officers to give updates on the status and progress of the offenders under their supervision. This calls for truthfulness on their part because any misrepresentation or falsification can greatly impact on the outcomes of several legal proceedings. Dilemmas also arise when probation officers are tasked with the collection of restitution fees and charges from offenders. They can have the temptation to gain from such monies by misrepresenting revenues received from offenders when making deposits. This not only has an impact on the safety of the community but also on the offender whose character can be damaged. It is important for such officers to be well compensated to reduce the temptation of succumbing to financial pressures which is unethical (Ward, 2019). Unethical behavior can be addressed by the formulation of effective administrative strategies that provide an effective overall supervision mechanism for probation officers. 

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The Utilitarian Approach 

The ethical credo that is related to professional ethical standards include the application of the utilitarian concept which lays emphasis on an ethical action whose positive outcome surpasses its negative outcome. This means that as a probation officer any action that you undertaken must provide the greatest good to your clients. It should also do the least harm. For example, a probation officer who misuses his office by abusing the rights of his clients does not benefit majority of his clients and other stakeholders but considerably harm his clients and the community in general. This approach deals with the outcomes of increasing the good and reducing harm. The moral values of a probation officer are structured in such a manner as to provide security to the community and serve this or her clients who include offenders and victims. It is unethical for a probation officer to misuse his office when faced with a dilemma of receiving gratuities from his client so as to favor them. This type of action completely undermines his professional standards which has an adverse effect on the community and his clients. When a probation officer is faced with the dilemma of remitting restitution monies due to financial temptation, his action might not only affect the community but also the offender as well. 

This action will have an adverse effect on the security of the community which should be protected by the probation officer. It will also have an effect on the victim of crime because he will be denied justice by not being compensated monies that are due to him because of the crime perpetrated against him or her. On the other hand, it will also have an effect on the offender whose character would further be put into question. This action is not ethically right and does not conform to any moral values. It violates the utilitarian theory by not providing the greatest good to the society instead it brings more harm to it. The best course of action would be to observe professional integrity by remitting the said monies to the authorities who will benefit all stakeholders including the offender, the victim, the society and the government (Mintz, 2018). In this scenario, there is a conflict of values between honesty and hurt feelings. The probation officer does not care about hurting the feelings of the offender and the victim because of his dishonesty. This scenario violates the Utilitarian approach. This has an impact on the social contract theory in that the community would fall into a state of insecurity because of the dishonesty of the probation officer. His behavior can lead to a lack of respect for laws and rules by offenders as well as by the victims of crime which can lead to disharmony in society. The right theory to use is the application of the rights concept which guards the rights of victims. By remitting the said monies, the probation officer would have helped to protect the rights of the victims of crime by ensuring that they receive their compensation. He will also protect the moral rights of the offender whose contributions are promptly paid protecting him from misplaced perceptions. 

The Rights Concept 

The rights concept provides that a moral approach which protects and respects the rights of victims is most desired. This approach is based on the notion that human beings are dignified and have the freedom to choose what they want to do without any limitations. They, therefore, have the right to be treated well with regards to respecting their rights to choose, to live well, not to be injured, and to receive some privacy and so on. The probation officer needs to respect the rights of his clients under his supervision by according them the necessary atmosphere to exercise their rights. However, a dilemma may arise in the case of incorrectly reporting the collection of various fines and fees due to temptations caused by financial pressures. In this regard, the probation officer does not respect and protect the moral rights of his clients because of his greed for personal monetary gain. His actions will infringe on the rights of the victim of crime and the offender. The victim's right to receive restitution monies will be violated by the dishonest acts of the probation officer. Additionally, he will also have violated the rights of the offender whose character will be in doubt from the authorities due to report falsification by the probation officer. 

The best course of action would have been the correct reporting of the said monies to the authorities so that it can improve the ratings of the offender and also compensate the victim. This course of action could adequately be addressed with the rights approach which could have helped to protect the rights of the clients by helping the victims get their compensation. This is an unethical act which is unprofessional and which not only affects the officer's clients but also the community in general. The professional standard of a probation officer does not encourage acts of dishonesty which is regarded as unethical. This act violates the rights approach in that it infringes on the moral rights of the officer's clients by denying the victim the right to restitution. The misuse of office by the probation officer infringes on the right of the community to receive adequate security and services. This action has an impact on the social contract theory in that it brings feelings a lack of culture which can act as a guideline for morality and ethical actions. It is a complete infringement of existing laws which brings in feelings of insecurity. There is a conflict of values where honesty is in conflict with personal gain. The officers need for personal gain supersedes the need for honesty and integrity. 

The Fairness or Justice Concept 

The fairness or justice concept provides that all humans are equal and should be treated fairly if not equally. A probation officer is required to treat his clients fairly and not undermine his dignity in any way. There arises a dilemma where the probation officer misuses his office due to family ties or friendship with an offender under his supervision. This type of situation creates conflicts with his professional role. Family members or friends will expect special treatment and favors from the officer at the expense of other offenders under his supervision. This can create a dilemma where the officer is tempted to give special preference to some clients at the expense of others. This is not morally right because it denies some clients their rights because of favoritism bestowed on others. This is not fair because the probation officer does not treat his clients equally but bases his actions on friendships and family ties. The officer's professional standards are compromised and this has an adverse effect on his clients whose rights and privileges are infringed upon. The officer's moral values are warped in that his actions are not in line with the ethical practices expected in his profession. The best course of action is for the officer to treat each client under his supervision equally (Pollock, 2012).By this he would have maintained professional standards and treated his clients equally. This can be addressed by the fairness approach which aims at treating all clients equally without any form of favoritism. However, there is a value conflict of loyalty versus integrity. The officer wants to remain loyal to his family and friends at the expense of his integrity at the workplace. This type of loyalty compromises his professional standards and moral values. This course of action has an impact on the social contract theory in that there still exists a gap created by a lack of enforcement of laws and rules by the probation officer (Elahi, 2005). This might lead to insecurity in the community where certain clients are left to operate without restrictions or supervision. This is a gross violation of justice approach where he treats his clients differently based on their relationship with him. 

The Common Good Concept 

The common good concept argues that life in a community set up is something that is positive which is made possible by our individual contributions. It lays emphasis on interrelationships among members of a community which brings about ethical reasoning that is a result of respect and compassion for others. These include positive aspects that realte to the wellbeing of the society such as healthcare, education, and, policing among others. The community supervision system by probation officers is also meant for everyone in the community. The professional standard of probation officers have a great effect on their clients and the community at large. Probation officers can affect the common good of the community and that of their clients by abusing their office through bribes or favoritism. In case where a probation officer is faced with the situation of receiving gratuities from offenders under their supervision it creates a bad outcome which is unethical and which has a huge effect on the security of the community. It also gives an offender leeway to engage in questionable activities under the full knowledge of the probation officer. This can have a negative effect on the community whose safety and security relies on the probation officer. 

By engaging in bribery and gratuities the probation officer undermines his professional standards which has negative effects on his clients. Bribes will make the community to lose trust in the office. This will affect the welfare of the community because the office will no longer be able to serve everyone equally. There is a value conflict of integrity versus honesty. The probation officer cannot maintain his integrity due to the desire for personal gain. This leads him to become dishonest. This affects the type of services that he offers his clients and the community at large. His actions violate the common good approach because he does not work for the good and welfare of the community but for his own personal gain. The best approach would be for the officer to observe professional standards of his profession which forbid any acts of dishonesty and taking of bribes. This impact on the social contract theory because it creates a situation of anarchy where rules and laws are violated to suit the needs of the officer. It creates a situation that is not governed by rules and thus insecure. 

The Virtue Concept 

This is an old concept which holds that moral actions need to be aligned with specific virtue ideals for the well-being of humanity. The application of this concept helps humanity to attain their maximum potential by using values such as courage, honesty, truth, compassion, love, fidelity, and integrity among others. A probation officer’s dilemma in trying to in making moral decisions with regards to his engagement with promotions based on political influences. According to his professional standards it is unethical for a probation officer to use undue political influence for career development. This is a misuse of public office that has been entrusted to him. His actions will be violating the virtue approach in that he will not display virtues such as honesty, integrity, tooth, or love. His main motive will be personal gain which will conflict with values such as honesty and integrity. This is an unethical practice that can have an impact on his clients. It would also have an impact on the social contract theory in that he would demonstrate his intention to circumvent the given laws which will endanger the community. The best course of action to take would b e to desist from engaging in political activity for personal benefits. He should instead strive to practice virtues that bring out the best characters in him which will enhance his professional standards. He can do this by employing the virtue approach which will help to serve his clients. He would be able to effectively deal with hides clients in a positive manner which will have an overall positive effect on the community. 


Elahi, M. (2005). What is Social Contract Theory? Sophia Omni. Retrieved from: http://www.sophia-project.org/uploads/1/3/9/5/13955288/elahi_socialcontract.pdf 

Mintz, S. (2018). Is Integrity a Moral Value? Ethics Sage. Retrieved from: https://www.ethicssage.com/2018/07/is-integrity-a-moral-value.html 

Pollock, J.(2012). Ethical Dilemmas and Decisions in Criminal Justice. Wadsworth Cengage Learning. 

Thompson, E. (2017). Unwritten Code of Ethics for a Probation Officer. Biz Fluent. Retrieved from: https://bizfluent.com/about-6738189-unwritten-code-ethics-probation-officer.html 

Ward, Tedd. (2019, August 1). Ethical Dilemmas Facing Probation Officers. legalbeagle.com. Retrieved from https://legalbeagle.com/6329356-ethical-dilemmas-facing-probation-officers.html 

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