TITLE>Chapter 8 Chapter 8

ETHICS AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE RESEARCH

Chapter Outline

I. Introduction

A. Ethical considerations represent a compromise in criminal justice research, somewhat subtle and less obvious, but nonetheless extremely important.
 

II. Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Research

A. In most dictionaries and in common usage, ethics is typically associated with morality, and both deal with matters of right and wrong.

1. But what is right and what is wrong?

2. What is the source of the distinction?

B. Webster's New World Dictionary defines ethical as "conforming to the standards of conduct of a given
profession or group."

    1. Although the idea may frustrate those in search of moral absolutes, what we regard as morality and ethics in day-to-day life is a matter of agreement among 
        members of a group. Not surprisingly, different groups have agreed on different codes of conduct. If you are going to do criminal justice research, you should 
        be aware of the general agreements shared by researchers about what's proper and improper in the conduct of scientific inquiry.

III. No Harm to Participants

A. Balancing the potential benefits from doing research against the possibility of harm to the people being studied -- or harm to others -- s a fundamental 
     ethical dilemma in all research.

B. Although the likelihood of physical harm may seem remote, it is worthwhile to consider possible ways this might occur. C. Some potential for psychological harm to subjects exists when interviews are used to collect information.

        1. Crime surveys that ask respondents about their experiences as victims of crime may remind them of a traumatic, or at least an unpleasant, experience.

        2. Although the fact often goes unrecognized, subjects can be harmed by the analysis and reporting of data.

D. By now, you should have realized that just about any research you might conduct runs some risk of injuring other people somehow.

        1. A researcher can never completely guard against all these possible injuries.

        2. Yet some study designs make such injuries more likely than others.

        3. As a general principle, possible harm to subjects may be justified if the potential benefits of the study
            outweigh the harm. Of course, this raises a further question of how you determine whether possible
            benefits offset possible harms.

IV. Voluntary Participation

A. Criminal justice research often, though not always, represents an intrusion into people's lives.

        Moreover, criminal justice research often requires that people reveal personal information about themselves--information that may be unknown to their friends
        and associates.

B. A major tenet of medical research ethics is that experimental participation must be voluntary.

        The same norm applies to research in criminal justice. No one should be forced to participate.

C. You should be clear that this norm of voluntary participation goes directly against a number of scientific concerns.

3. You should realize that the norm of voluntary participation is an important one, and you should also know that it is sometimes impossible to follow it.

V. Anonymity and Confidentiality

A. Anonymity A survey respondent or other person being studied may be considered anonymous when the researcher cannot identify a given piece of information 
    with a given person.

1. Anonymity takes care of many potential ethical difficulties

2. Studies that use field observation techniques are often able to ensure that research subjects cannot be identified

3. However, respondents in many surveys cannot be considered anonymous, since an interviewer collects the information from a person whose name and 
    address may be known.

4. However, assuring anonymity makes it difficult to keep track of correlated interviews with sampled respondents.
5. Despite this problem, there are some situations in which you may be advised to pay the necessary price.

B. Other situations that use data collected by other means may similarly make it impossible to guarantee anonymity for subjects.

C. Confidentiality Confidentiality means that a researcher is able to link information with a given person's identity but essentially promises not to do so publicly.

* In a survey of self-reported drug use, for example, the researcher would be in a position to make public the use of illegal drugs by a given 
   respondent,  but the respondent is assured that this will not be done.
D. You can use a number of techniques to ensure better performance on this guarantee. 1. As soon as possible, all names and addresses should be removed from data collection forms and replaced by identification numbers.

2. A master identification file should be created linking numbers to names to permit the later correction of missing or contradictory information.

3. This file should be kept under lock and key and should be available only for legitimate purposes.

4. Whenever a survey is confidential rather than anonymous, it is the researcher's responsibility to make that fact clear to the respondent.

5. In any event, subjects should be assured that information they provide will be used 6r research purposes only, and not be disclosed to third parties.

VI. Deceiving Subjects

    Handling your own identity as a researcher can be tricky also.

1. Sometimes it's useful and even necessary to identify yourself as a researcher to those you want to study.

2. Even when it's possible and important to conceal your research identity, there is an important ethical dimension to be considered.

3. Deceiving people is unethical, and within criminal justice research, deception needs to be justified by compelling scientific or administrative concerns.

VII. Analysis and Reporting

A. As a criminal justice researcher, then, you have a number of ethical obligations to your subjects of study.

B. At the same time, you have ethical obligations to your colleagues in the scientific community.
 

VIII. Legal Liability

Two types of ethical problems expose researchers to potential legal liability.
 

IX. Special Problems

A Certain types of criminal justice studies may present particular ethical problems in addition to those we have already mentioned.
 

B. Research Causes Crime Because criminal acts and their circumstances are complex and imperfectly understood, there is sometimes a potential for a research 
    project to produce crime, or influence its location or target. Needless to say, this represents a potentially serious ethical issue for researchers.

C. A different type of ethical problem is the possibility of crime displacement in studies of crime prevention programs.

D. Withholding Desirable Treatments Experimental designs in criminal justice research can-produce different kinds of ethical questions.
 

E. Random Assignment The use of random assignment in experimental studies raises similar questions.
 

F. Research in criminal justice, especially applied research, can pose a variety of ethical dilemmas, only some of which we have mentioned here.

X. Promoting Compliance with Ethical Principles

A. But if the professionals who design and conduct a research project may fail to consider ethical problems, how can such problems be avoided?
 

B. Professional codes of ethics for social scientists cannot, however, be expected to prevent unethical practices in criminal justice research any more than the 
    American Bar Association's Code of Professional Responsibility eliminates breaches of ethics by attorneys.

XI. Institutional Review Boards

A. Government agencies and non-government organizations (including universities) that conduct research involving human subjects must establish review
     committees, known as institutional review boards (IRB). These IRBs have two general purposes.
 

B. Informed Consent The norm of voluntary participation is usually satisfied by informing subjects about research procedures, then obtaining their consent to 
    participate.
 

C. Another potential problem with obtaining informed consent is ensuring that subjects have the capacity to understand your description of risks, benefits, 
     procedures, and so forth.
 

D. It is important that you understand how informed consent addresses a variety of ethical issues in conducting criminal justice research.
 

E. Special Populations Federal regulations on subjects include special provisions for certain types of subjects, two of which are particular important for criminal 
    justice research÷juveniles and prisoners.
 

XII. Institutional Review Board Requirements and Researcher Rights
  XIII. Two Ethical Controversies

XIV. Trouble in the Tearoom

XV. Simulating a Prison

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