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Ethics in Criminal Justice Investigations

The term “ethical” means the principles of behavior corresponding to the moral standards of a particular group. Ethics results from a general agreement between people engaged in the same activity and may differ from group to group.

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The importance of voluntary consent lies in the essence of the actions taken. Criminal justice investigations often intrude into people’s lives and force them to reveal personal secrets. Since it is unethical to obtain such information secretly, voluntary consent is necessary.

The difference between anonymity and confidentiality is contained in identity secrecy. In the first case, the available data cannot be traced back to its owner. In the second case, the researcher can determine the information’s origin but promises not to reveal it and keep it secret.

The need to openly declare the existing negative results and shortcomings is formed from ethical obligations to the research society. Hiding such data will only lead to misrepresentation among colleagues, which can negatively affect future research.

A feature of criminal justice studies is that the researcher may directly encounter crime in the process of work. Ongoing investigation can uncover misbehavior by staff, prevent the treatment of people, and influence the commission of a crime by causing or redirecting it.

The Belmont Report, published in 1979, is a concise set of mandatory ethical principles designed to protect the rights of research subjects. The fundamental points of this list are respect for individuals, the need to establish justice, and beneficence.

The Institutional Review Board is an organization that oversees the conduct of research in terms of risks, acceptability, and well-being of the subjects. One of the essential concepts is informed consent, which consists of the need for the subject to understand the meaning of the study and the factors associated with it.

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To receive approval for a study from the Institutional Review Board, it is necessary to respect the ethical rights of the subjects. Examples of approval criteria would be the availability of informed consent for all participants and maintaining the confidentiality of their data.

The Stanford Prison Experiment was conducted to test the hypothesis that prison environments create harsh conditions regardless of inhabitants. A model prison was created, populated by 24 psychologically healthy volunteers. The experiment was prematurely terminated after six days, as despite all precautions, the guards began to show signs of aggression, and many subjects showed signs of acute stress.


Maxfield, M. G., & Babbie, E. R. (2018). Research methods for criminal justice and criminology (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.

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