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Ethics and Priosn Guard Decisions

You are a prison guard supervising a tier. One of the inmates comes to you and asks a favor. Because he is a troublemaker., his mail privileges have been taken away. He wants you to mail a letter for him. You figure it's not such a big deal; besides, you know he could make your job easier by keeping the other inmates on the tier in line. What would you tell him?

Explain what you would do in this case. Identify the major ethical system to which your answer most closely relates.

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Interesting scenario! Let's consider two ethical positions that you could take and the ethical theories that can best explain these positions.


Have you given some though to what you would do in this situation? Ethics is about doing what is right. However, different ethical theories can be used to justify certain behaviors and draw conclusions based on the theory that is was the right thing to do (Kantian, Utilitarianism, etc.), while another theory (Ethical Egoism) might argue the exact opposite.

(1) You might decide that you would tell him "no," because his mail privileges have been taken away, and when they are reinstated, then you would be happy to mail his letter for him.

Kantian ethics can explain this response. As a corrections worker, it is your duty to uphold the law and promote justice. Therefore, the right thing to do would be to follow the rule and encourage the inmate to do the same. Since his mail privileges have been taken away, you cannot mail a letter for him until his privileges have been given back, at which time, he will be able to mail the letter himself. Being fair, the ...

Solution Summary

Employing an ethical system, this solution analyzes the presented ethical dilemma to decide what the best action is for the the prison guard.