What is the difference between deontological and teleological ethical systems for the control of ethical practices in criminal justice?

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A deontological system (also called virtue ethics) focuses on whether an action is inherently good or bad. A teleological system (also called consequentialist ethics) focuses on whether it has a good or bad result. A common thought experiment which distinguishes between the two concerns a man who enjoys kicking dogs....

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A deontological system (also called virtue ethics) focuses on whether an action is inherently good or bad. A teleological system (also called consequentialist ethics) focuses on whether it has a good or bad result. A common thought experiment which distinguishes between the two concerns a man who enjoys kicking dogs. One day, he kicks a dog which is sleeping in the road. The dog howls and runs away. Moments later, a car comes speeding along the road so fast that it would certainly have killed the dog if it had still been lying there. From a deontological perspective, the man's action was bad, since it is cruel to kick dogs. From a teleological perspective, his action was good, since it saved the dog's life.

In the criminal justice system, a deontological approach would ensure that the punishment was proportionate and appropriate to the crime committed. A minor offense might be met with a fine, whereas a serious crime would merit time in prison, or even execution. A teleological approach would focus on the results of the punishment. In fact, the authorities in question would be likely to regard their action as being closer to medical treatment than traditional punishment, curing the offender of his/her criminal tendencies by the most effective means available, without reference to proportionality. While a deontological approach is easy to design and administer, since there is general agreement about which crimes are most serious, a teleological approach requires reliable data about recidivism in various different circumstances.

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Deontological ethics are concerned with absolute rules about what actions are acceptable, regardless of the consequences of an action or the specific context.

Teleological ethics are concerned with the result of actions, rather than absolute rules.

For example, it's a deotological perspective to say that attempted murder is wrong, even if no harm is caused. The choice is what matters, not the results. A strictly teleological perspective would view accidentally causing someone's death as worse than trying but failing to kill someone.

In thinking about criminal justice, a core question is whether a system is ultimately about punishment or about results. A deontological perspective might argue that it is proper to punish those who break the law and ignore the results of these punishments.

On the other hand, a teleological perspective might note that incarceration has generally been shown to only produce more violence and argue for the abolition of prisons.

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Deontology, derived from the Greek words "deon" (ought) + "logos" (account), is an ethical system that is usually traced back to the eighteenth century German philosopher, Immanuel Kant. Deontological ethics claim that the right action consists in following our duty, irrespective of the consequences. For example, consider that we have a duty to always tell the truth. In a famous essay, Kant argues that if a person were to come to the door with the intention to murder a friend, we ought to tell the potential murderer the location of our friend if we happened to know it. We would be prohibited from lying even if it would save the life of our friend because we have a duty to tell the truth. In the realm of criminal justice, this would mean that laws ought to be upheld irrespective of the consequences: if there is a law against harming others, even self-defense might not excuse its violation.

Teleology, also derived from Greek words—in this case "telos" (end) + "logos" (account)—can be traced back to as early as the pre-Socratic philosophers and, with certainty, to Aristotle. Under teleological ethics, the right action is the one that is performed for the right end. In other words, we might say that the ends justify the means. In the above example, we would lie to the potential murderer because the end of saving a friend's life justifies the means (lying) that it takes to get there. Similarly, in the criminal justice system, it might be permissible to violate laws if they were done, say, for the greater good or for upholding yet other laws.

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Deontology: In one sense, a deontology is simply theory of our duties, ... a deontological theory denies in some way that the good or what is of value, always takes priority over the right or duty.

A deontological ethical system focuses on duty over that which is good or has value. For example, it may be good to show mercy, but it is duty to deliver justice.

Teleological ethics is the opposite of this and asserts that duty does not exist except as the consequence, the end result of what is morally good and right.

Teleology: It means the doctrine that there is design, purpose, or finality in the world, that effects are in some manner intentional, and that no complete account of the universe is possible without reference to final causes.

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A teleological system of ethics states that the consequences of an action are a direct reflection of the goodness or badness of that action.

A deontological system of ethics states that the goodness or badness of an action is a reflection of whether that action conforms to some preestablished rule.

Therefore, the focus of the first system is on the result of action and the focus of the second system is the action itself.

Ethical practices in the criminal justice system depend on what component of the justice system we are looking at. Judges and others who act in court to decide the fate of a lawbreaker more often use a teleological system than a deonotological one (to a certain extent as laws must be conformed to). Whereas, in the field an actual police officer is expected to follow a deontological system of ethics by enforcing pre-established law.

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