Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Research


Prepare a 1,050- to 1,400-word paper in which you describe the ethical issues related to the research process within the field of criminal justice.
Include the following:
?Explain the role and purpose of research in the field of criminal justice.
?Identify the various types of criminal justice research.
?Describe the role of ethics in conducting research.
?Provide examples of ethical and unethical types of research.
?Describe the impact of unethical research in the field of criminal justice.
?Provide examples of how to conduct ethically sound research.


Ethical Issues in Criminal Justice Research

Ethics is doing what is considered right legally and morally..Criminology is the study of crime, criminals and how the society reacts to them both. Criminal justice refers to government institutions and defines practices that are meant to maintain social stability, stopping and mitigating crime and enforcing rehabilitation and penalties to those who commit crime. Criminals have rights that protect them against manipulation of justice during investigations and prosecution.

In many cases, human beings are used experimentally in criminal justice research. These practices have raised a number of ethical concerns that are yet to be addressed. One concern is the fact that the civil rights of the victims is merely put in consideration. Researchers use their authority and knowledge to influence these human subjects into cooperation. This shows that human subjects are in most cases faced with dangerous situations as a result of poor research methods and the unethical manner in which these practices are conducted. Such practices show that there is limited guidance. Bloomberg and Wilkins (1977) urged the parties involved to use the right ethical code and corresponding sanctions that are acceptable in the criminal justice research studies about human subjects.  They recommended that researchers adopt and use standards that do not put the participants at risk. This is through the use of policies about informed consent and confidentiality in order to avoid government intervention. Such policies do not only protect the human subjects but also the researchers. (Viano, 1975)

Informed consent

In order to carry out the research properly, the researcher is supposed to obtain consent from the subject legitimately. Here, the researcher is expected to explain to the subject about the experimental process in detail. This should include details about any expected risk, discomfort, the benefits expected. In addition to this, information about other procedures and their advantages should be disclosed.  The researcher is also expected to questions that may arise in this procedure and let the subject decide whether to participate or not after considering the information. Informed consent is therefore the provision of this information to the participants so that they can consent to be part of the research at their own will without force or coercion.

Despite this, the code of ethics regarding informed consent and criminal justice research are different because punishment and treatment of participants is related. As a result, the research subjects are in most cases marked by the legal systems which may make them not understand or accept the benefits realized by these experiments. If this happens, it is likely that the participants refuse to disclose useful information. This happens a lot in juvenile justice research. Participants may also experience coercion which may hinder them from exercising their legal consent. In case participants fail to consent, this decision may affect their treatment by the authorities. Another setback to criminal justice research is the fact that subjects may provide misleading information in a bid to obtain favor from the authorities and change their image.


During criminal justice research, participants are required to provide information that is confidential. This information could be about details of their criminal activities. This information may still be unknown to the authorities. Therefore, researchers are supposed to uphold a high code of ethical conduct to safeguard this information. If this is not done, the information can be used against the participants if it gets in the hands of the authorities. If subject are not assured of confidentiality, the study might be biased since the subjects would not be willing to disclose important information. The success of a criminal justice research is highly dependent on the level of confidentiality the researcher shows. The American Sociological Association and American Society of Criminology require researchers to protect confidential information provided by the research subjects even if the information is not under any legal doctrine. However, researchers are allowed to breach confidentiality if the research subjects consent to that. In addition to this, this can happen if the information is known to the public and the if the benefits of disclosing the information outweigh the negatives. (Viano, 1975)

Explain the role and purpose of research in the field of criminal justice.

One important impact of research in criminal research justice is that it crucial in designing public policy. This means that criminology should have a place in the making of policies. These research outcomes are important in policy making policies regardless of intended purpose of the research. These researchers assess criminal activities and suggest a way to reduce the crime. Moreover, most states receive federal funding after an analysis of the criminal justice policies. Moreover, criminal justice influences decision making in the political circles. (Pepper et al, 2003)

Identify the various types of criminal justice research.

There are two types of criminal justice research. These are quantitative and qualitative research methods. Quantitative research methods measure the reality behind criminal justice. Here, abstract concepts are assigned numerical values. These concepts are the variables that are used to predict the outcome variable. The variables also provide information about causes, the impact, the patterns and variation of crime. On the other hand, qualitative research methods reflect the lives of the participants but do not put it in categories. This method involves answering research questions. This brings out the reasoning of the subjects and the opinion of the participants regarding their lives and their actions.

Describe the role of ethics in conducting research.

Criminal justice systems is founded on a code of ethics that influences the way the society defines and responds to criminal activities. One area where ethics play a big role is the police department. The relationship between the police and the public is a way to examine their moral conduct. If the police are ethical in their operations, the general public may be willing to help in countering crime. The second role is in the ethical behavior portrayed by attorneys. The ethical behavior of attorneys is in the way they represent their clients, not necessarily winning cases. Finally, individual conduct shows how people interact with criminal researchers this includes reporting criminal activities as well as participating in the research. (Vito et al, 2008)

Provide examples of ethical and unethical types of research

An example of ethical type of research is shown where a researcher is seeking informed consent from the participant before partaking a project. The researcher also uses the information provided for the right reasons and does not breach the confidentiality agreement. On his part, the participant is supposed to give the correct information without bias. Acting contrary to this, on the sides of the researcher and the participant makes the research unethical.

Describe the impact of unethical research in the field of criminal justice.

Unethical issues in criminal research justice are as result of coercion, lies and prejudice. Such issues affect the future of criminal research justice. A major impact is that it disrupts the enforcement of law and order. This also means that it is not possible to know the level of crime and its prevalence in the society. When ethics are not followed, the participants’ lives are put to risk.

Provide examples of how to conduct ethically sound research

There are several guidelines that should be put into consideration when conducting research. Interviews and data collection should be done in an ethical way. Participation should be voluntary and the participants should be informed about the nature and purpose of the research. The researchers should respond to the concerns of the participants to make sure they are comfortable in their role. The confidentiality of the participants should be maintained and their safety should be prioritized


Bloomberg, S. A., & Wilkins, L. T. (January 01, 1977). Ethics of research involving human subjects in criminal justice. Crime and Delinquency, 23, 4, 435-44.

Pepper, J., Petrie, C., National Research Council (U.S.)., & National Research Council (U.S.). (2003). Measurement problems in criminal justice research: Workshop summary. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.

Viano, E. (1975). Criminal justice research. Lexington, Mass: Lexington Books.

Vito, G., Kunselman, J., & Tewksbury, R. (2008). Introduction to Criminal Justice Research Methods: An Applied Approach. Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher, LTD.

Related: Utilization of Statistical Data in Criminal Justice Policy Making