The following is an ethical scenario. You are going to read the scenario and answer the questions presented based on your knowledge of ethics and various theories of reasoning, morals and ethical decision-making.

You are an experienced correctional officer and are well respected by your peers, supervisors, and administration. You have held virtually every position in the maximum security prison where you work, including death row. You have been a sergeant for the past three years and have recently been promoted to lieutenant. Things are going well for you and you see no reason why you should not be promoted to captain and then to the Head of Custody Services.
The Warden of your institution has instituted a management rotation system for all mid-managers. In this system, each mid-manager spends a minimum of six months in each department within the prison structure. The Warden feels that each mid-manager should be intimately familiar with all facets of prison management and you feel that his is an excellent (and quite progressive) management style. Your most recent assignment has been to supervise and coordinate the “Death Watch” team. This team has the responsibility for the supervision of the condemned prisoner for the 48 hours prior to execution and for the execution itself. This elite team is well-trained and professional in its duties. You are assigned to take an active part in the team’s preparation for and the administration of the death sentence.

However, you are opposed (both morally and religiously) to the death penalty. You feel that the death penalty is wrong. You also know that if you fail to complete this assignment, you will no doubt remain a lieutenant for the remainder of your career. If you participate in the forthcoming execution, this portion of your management training will be completed and you will no doubt progress professionally as planned.

1 . May a moral duty every override a legal duty? If so, under what conditions?
2 . What would you do?
3 . Balance the benefit of standing by one’s convictions versus the potential effect on one’s career.
4 . Compare and contrast the actions of this officer and those of a police officer using deadly force.

Scenario taken from: Close, D. & Meier, N. (2003) Morality in Criminal Justice: An Introduction to Ethics. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thompson Learning. (P.481)

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