Effective: Late Fall 8-Week, 2018/2019

MSCJ 510: Legal & Ethical Issues in CJ

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  Course Description

Examination of topics in the areas of law, legal controls, and ethical issues in the criminal justice field.  Areas such as corruption, misconduct, and related issues are discussed.

Prerequisite: None

Proctored Exams: None


As part of TruitionSM, students will receive their course materials automatically as described below.


  •  Souryal, Sam. S.. (2014). Ethics in Criminal Justice: In Search of the Truth (6th). Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson Publishing Company.  eText

Bookstore Information

Visit https://www.ccis.edu/bookstore.aspx for details.

eText Information

If a course uses an eText, (see Textbook information above) the book will be available directly in Desire2Learn (D2L) and through the VitalSource eText reader the Friday before the session begins, if registered for courses prior to that date.  Students will have a VitalSource account created for them using their CougarMail email address. Upon first login to VitalSource, students may need to verify their account and update their VitalSource password.  More information about how to use the VitalSource platform, including offline access to eTexts, can be found in D2L.  Students that would like to order an optional print-on-demand copy of eligible eTexts can do so through the VitalSource bookshelf at an additional cost.  Once orders are placed, it can take approximately five to seven business days for students to receive their print-on-demand books.

Physical Course Materials Information

Students enrolled in courses that require physical materials will receive these materials automatically at the address on file with Columbia College.  Delivery date of physical materials is dependent on registration date and shipping location.  Please refer to confirmation emails sent from Ed Map for more details on shipping status.

Returns: Students who drop a course with physical course materials will be responsible for returning those items to Ed Map within 30 days of receipt of the order.  More specific information on how to do so will be included in the package received from Ed Map.  See here for Ed Map's return policy. Failure to return physical items from a dropped course will result in a charge to the student account for all unreturned items.

Note: Students who opt-out of having their books provided as part of TruitionSM are responsible for purchasing their own course materials.

  Course Overview

This course explores legal and ethical issues confronted by criminal justice practitioners in the field.  It establishes an understanding of the legal and ethical theories that provide a basis for ethical analysis, and actively engages the student in the analysis of legal and ethical issues using real life scenarios and case law.

  Technology Requirements

Participation in this course will require the basic technology for all online classes at Columbia College:
  • A computer with reliable Internet access
  • A web browser
  • Acrobat Reader
  • Microsoft Office or another word processor such as Open Office

You can find more details about standard technical requirements for our courses on our site.

  Course Learning Outcomes

  1. Describe the common legal and ethical issues encountered by professionals in the criminal justice system.
  2. Articulate the moral foundations of criminal guilt.
  3. Explain the framework for analyzing important legal and ethical issues.
  4. Describe the differences between legal and ethical issues.
  5. Articulate the important ethical and legal values and theories related to the criminal justice system.


Grading Scale

Grade Points Percent
A 1202-1335 90-100%
B 1068-1201 80-89%
C 934-1067 70-79%
F 0-933 0-69%

Grade Weights

Assignment Category Points Percent
Discussions (8) 160 12%
Papers (6) 750 56%
Midterm Exam 200 15%
Final Exam 225 17%
Total 1335 100%

  Schedule of Due Dates

Week 1

Assignment Points Due
Introduction Discussion -- Wednesday/Sunday
Discussion 1 20
Paper 1 100 Sunday

Week 2

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 2 20 Wednesday/Sunday
Paper 2 150 Sunday

Week 3

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 3 20 Wednesday/Sunday
Paper 3 100 Sunday

Week 4

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 4 20 Wednesday/Sunday
Midterm Exam 200 Sunday

Week 5

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 5 20 Wednesday/Sunday
Paper 4 100 Sunday

Week 6

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 6 20 Wednesday/Sunday
Paper 5 100 Sunday

Week 7

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 7 20 Wednesday/Sunday
Paper 6 200 Sunday

Week 8

Assignment Points Due
Discussion 8 20 Wednesday/Saturday
Final Exam 225 Saturday
Total Points: 1335

  Assignment Overview


There will be an introduction discussion, which is not graded, and it is due Sunday in Week 1. There are eight graded discussions during the course, worth 20 points each.

Initial posts should be complete by 11:59 pm Central Time (CT) Wednesday, with at least two responses to classmates’ posts by 11:59 pm CT Sunday of each assigned week (with the exception of Week 8, when responses are due by 11:59 pm CT Saturday).

The posts must be several paragraphs and must include authoritative references to support the student’s opinion or analysis. A student must revisit his/her initial post, read and respond to comments made and questions asked.


There will be six papers in the course in weeks 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 7. Each paper carries various point values as identified in the Schedule of Due Dates. The papers must be double spaced, 1” margins, and 12-point font. The papers vary in length.  Specific length is mentioned in the paper descriptions and instructions. You must write the papers in the APA style.


There are two (2) exams in the course, a midterm exam in week 4 and a final exam in week 8. The midterm covers Weeks 1-4 and the final is cumulative covering weeks 1-8. The midterm exam is worth 200 points and it comprises three (3) essay questions. It will be released Monday of Week 4 at 12:01 am CT, and is due Sunday at 11:59 pm CT of Week 4.  It is an open book exam.  There will be no retakes or proctor.

The Final Exam, worth 225 points is comprised of four (4) essay questions. It will be released on Monday of Week 8 at 12:01 am CT, and is due Saturday at 11:59 pm CT of Week 8.  It is an open book exam.  There will be no retakes or proctor. There is no time limit for the exams; the quality of the essays should reflect the extra time given.

  Course Outline

Click on each week to view details about the activities scheduled for that week.

  • Souryal, Chapter 2:  Familiarizing Yourself With Ethics
  • Souryal, Chapter 3:  Understanding Criminal Justice Ethics
Introduction Discussion
Introduce yourself in the "Introductions" topic of our class discussion. Please give us more than your name. Include your profession, hobbies, and any other information that can help us get to know each other better.  Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.
Discussion 1
Define deontological and teleological theories of ethics and provide an original scenario to illustrate each. Should criminal justice professionals be more concerned with the former or the latter, and why?   Does your response to this question differ depending on the area of criminal justice in which the professional works (e.g. police, probation, corrections, etc)?  Explain and support your position. Your initial post is due by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday, with your responses to three classmates' posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.
Paper 1

The concept of Ethical Discretion is introduced in your readings of this week and is a topic that will appear frequently as we move through this course. Essentially, ethical discretion requires the criminal justice practitioner to measure, or balance, complying with the rule of law versus the ramifications of noncompliance or, in many cases, “bending” the rule of law to fit a particular scenario.  In exercising such discretion, the practitioner must also balance the impact on the state or agency should the rule be thwarted or ignored.

In this Paper, you must first take the position that ethical discretion is a necessary tool for the criminal justice practitioner.  In addition to making a strong “pro” argument, include at least one original scenario as an example to support your position.  Be sure to discuss the impact on the state or agency resulting from the exercise of ethical discretion in your scenario.

After making your “pro” argument, take the opposite position and present a compelling argument that supports strict adherence to the rule of law versus the exercise of ethical discretion.  Create an original scenario in which you apply the rule of law rather than exercising ethical discretion, and discuss the impact on the public that might result from this decision.

Conclude with a statement of your personal position as to whether the exercise of ethical discretion is a necessary component of the job of a criminal justice professional.

This paper should be 2-4 pages in length.

Your paper must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

Souryal, Chapter 4:  Meeting the Masters:  Ethical Theories, Concepts and Issues 
Discussion 2

Utilitarianism is an ethical system that holds that the greatest good stems from actions that result in the greatest happiness for the greatest number of individuals.  Jeremy Bentham was a major proponent of this ethical system.  For purposes of this discussion, we will focus on the counter-terrorism actions undertaken by the US government and by the US law enforcement agencies in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attack.

In your initial post, identify a crime control action or policy undertaken in the US in the wake of 9-11 that you believe could be morally questionable; this can be legislation passed, local policies enacted, or even the police handling of a particularly high-profile case.  Provide a brief overview of this act or policy.  Describe how this morally questionable act or policy was justified to the public using utilitarianism reasoning. Do you believe that this is an example of faulty ethical justification in the name of crime control?  Provide support for your reasoning.

In your peer replies, please propose an alternative or revision to the crime control action or policy discussed by your peer.   State which ethical system your proposal is based upon and explain why you feel this is a preferable approach than the utilitarianism approach.

Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

Paper 2
Paper 2 deals with the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.  As part of this paper, you will describe what occurred.  Then you will need to make a pro/con argument by first arguing that the actions of the US prison guards were ethically justified by applying the ethical theories covered during this week, and then providing the counter argument and argue that the actions of the US prison guards were unethical by applying a different theory of ethics.  Conclude your paper with your own personal assessment of whether the actions of the US prison guards, can be morally or ethically justified.  This paper should be 4-6 pages in length. Your paper must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.
  • The Moral Foundations of Criminal Liability (located in the Content Area)
  • An Eye for an Eye?  The Morality of Punishment (located in the Content Area)
  • The Morality of The Criminal Law: Rights of the Accused (located in the Content Area)
Discussion 3

Do you believe that criminality and morality are indubitably linked?  In your readings this week, you learned that the theory behind criminalizing certain acts is to maintain the common morality of a society.  Does it, therefore, follow that only acts regarded as immoral by the dominant community should be made criminal? Conversely, should no act be made criminal unless it is immoral? 

As you ponder these questions and prepare your original response, try to present “real life examples” to support the position you are advocating.  Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

Paper 3

Bazelon raises the question of whether unjust or oppressive social conditions should serve to reduce criminal responsibility.  He refers to “the imperative of linking criminal justice with social justice.”  Take a pro or con position on the question of whether unjust or oppressive social conditions should serve to reduce criminal responsibility.  If we as a society link criminal justice with social justice, would crime increase or decrease?

In a succinct, well-drafted essay that is 2-4 pages, argue your position utilizing authoritative data and examples to make your case. Your paper must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Souryal, Chapter 5: The Ambivalent Reality: Major Unethical Themes in Criminal Justice Management
  • Souryal, Chapter 6: Lying and Deception in Criminal Justice
Discussion 4
Research and discuss a case in which a public official or criminal justice professional was involved in something that was not illegal but perhaps was unethical or immoral. Provide a brief summary of the case.  Then consider the impact of this case on the public perception of justice and discuss whether you believe public officials and members of the criminal justice profession should be held to different standards than ordinary citizens. Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.
Midterm Exam

The Midterm Exam covers Weeks 1-4 and is worth 200 points. It is comprised of three essay questions. It will be available Monday of Week 4 at 12:01 am CT.  It is an open book exam.  There will be no retakes or proctor. There is no time limit for the exam; however, the quality of the essays should reflect the extra time given.

Your Midterm Exam must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Souryal, Chapter 7:  Racial Prejudice and Racial Discrimination
Discussion 5

Read the two Supreme Court opinions involving a reverse discrimination claim by the petitioner inFisher v. University of Texas.  Then, focus on the 2016 opinion, in which the Court upheld the University of Texas’s affirmative action program to admit minorities over similarly or more qualified white applicants. 

  • If your last name begins with A-G, summarize and critique the majority opinion.
  • If your last name begins with H-O summarize and critique Justice Alito’s dissenting opinion.
  • If your last name begins with P-Z, summarize and critique Justice Thomas’s dissenting opinion.

In your critique, please address these questions:

  • Did the Court, by virtue of this decision, legalize reverse discrimination?
  • How can the Court’s decision be reconciled with the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment?
  • Ethically, is reverse discrimination acceptable if its practice thereby diffuses social unrest?
  • Is reverse discrimination an ethically acceptable practice if its effect is to curb existing discrimination?

Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

Paper 4

Provide an example of a situation within the criminal justice system where “justifiable inequality” exists.  Explain the legal and ethical basis for supporting that inequality. Justify your position with an ethical argument as well as by citing credible sources.This paper should be 2-4 pages in length.

Submit your paper to the appropriate Dropbox folder by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Souryal, Chapter 8:  Egoism and the Abuse of Authority
  • Souryal, Chapter 11:  Ethics and Police
Discussion 6

Select a case in the last five year of an officer involved shooting of a civilian.  Provide a synopsis of what occurred in that case.  Then assess whether the officer’s actions were ethical and legal under those facts.  Address the following in your response:

  • What effect do you believe police subculture had on the officer’s actions?  
  • Is this an example of a profession “going rogue” or is the public just more aware of civilian involved police shootings due to the prevalence of cell phone cameras and social media? 
  • Would requiring officers to wear body cameras increase the level of professionalism and ethics demonstrated by officers on the street?
Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.
Paper 5

Is Noble Cause Corruption in policing ethically justifiable? 

Watch the video in the content tab titled Acquainting Yourself with Ethics

Provide an overview of the concept of Noble Cause Corruption in criminal justice. Develop an argument in support of noble cause corruption, arguing that such actions are ethical. Use original examples to make your case. Then take the opposite stance and present an argument opposing noble cause corruption as unethical. Again, provide original examples to make your case. Conclude with your personal position statement as to whether you believe noble cause corruption is or is not ethical.

Your paper must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Souryal, Chapter 12: Ethics and Corrections (Prisons)
Discussion 7

In your reading, Souryal discusses the four generally recognized justifications for prisons.  List and analyze each of the four justifications. From your perspective, are any of these justifications ethically flawed, illogical or simply controversial? Explain why.

Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.
Paper 6

Read the article in the Content tab titled "Ethical Dilemmas in Prison and Jail Healthcare.Do some research and identify a scandal that occurred in the field of corrections in the United States within the last ten years.  Explain what occurred.  Analyze the legal and ethical violations committed by the corrections personnel in the case you have selected. You must discuss at least two, and preferably more, of such violations

Does the concept of egoism, discussed by Souryal, explain or justify the actions of the corrections officials? What role, if any, does the subculture of corrections officers play in the actions of the guards, who are at fault in this case?  

This paper should be 4-6 pages in length.

Your paper must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Sunday.

  • Souryal, Chapter 13: Ethics of Probation and Parole
Discussion 8
Do you feel that valid ethical concerns exist regarding the use of electronic monitoring? State your position and provide a primary or secondary external source to support your position.  Please make your initial post by 11:59 pm CT on Wednesday and make your response posts by 11:59 pm CT on Saturday.
Final Exam

The Final Exam, worth 225 points will be comprised of four essay questions. It will be available on Monday of Week 8 at 12:01 am CT, and is due Saturday at 11:59 pm CT of Week 8.  It is an open book exam.  There will be no retakes or proctor. There is no time limit for the exam; however, the quality of the essays should reflect the extra time given.

Your Final Exam must be submitted by 11:59 pm CT on Saturday.

  Course Policies

Student Conduct

All Columbia College students, whether enrolled in a land-based or online course, are responsible for behaving in a manner consistent with Columbia College's Student Conduct Code and Acceptable Use Policy. Students violating these policies will be referred to the office of Student Affairs and/or the office of Academic Affairs for possible disciplinary action. The Student Code of Conduct and the Computer Use Policy for students can be found in the Columbia College Student Handbook. The Handbook is available online; you can also obtain a copy by calling the Student Affairs office (Campus Life) at 573-875-7400. The teacher maintains the right to manage a positive learning environment, and all students must adhere to the conventions of online etiquette.

Plagiarism and Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is a cumulative process that begins with the first college learning opportunity. Students are responsible for knowing the Academic Integrity policy and procedures and may not use ignorance of either as an excuse for academic misconduct. Columbia College recognizes that the vast majority of students at Columbia College maintain high ethical academic standards; however, failure to abide by the prohibitions listed herein is considered academic misconduct and may result in disciplinary action, a failing grade on the assignment, and/or a grade of "F" for the course.

Additionally, all required papers may be submitted for textual similarity review to Turnitin.com for the detection of plagiarism. All submitted papers may be included in the Turnitin.com reference database for the purpose of detecting plagiarism. This service is subject to the Terms and Conditions of Use posted on the Turnitin.com site.


There will be no discrimination on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, sexual orientation, religion, ideology, political affiliation, veteran status, age, physical handicap, or marital status.

Student Accessibility Resources

Columbia College is committed to creating a learning environment that meets the needs of its diverse student body. If you anticipate or experience any barriers to learning, communicate your concerns with the instructor. In addition to speaking with the instructor, the following resources are available to ensure an opportunity to learn in an inclusive environment that values mutual respect.

  • For students with disabilities/conditions who are experiencing barriers to learning or assessment, contact the Student Accessibility Resources office at (573) 875-7626 or sar@ccis.edu to discuss a range of options to removing barriers in the course, including accommodations.
  • For students who are experiencing conflict which is impacting their educational environment, contact the Office of Student Conduct at studentconduct@ccis.edu or (573) 875-7877.
  • For students who have concerns related to discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, pregnancy or parental status, please contact the Title IX Office at titleixcoordinator@ccis.edu. More information can be found at http://www.ccis.edu/policies/notice-of-non-discrimination-and-equal-opportunity.aspx

Online Participation

You are expected to read the assigned texts and participate in the discussions and other course activities each week. Assignments should be posted by the due dates stated on the grading schedule in your syllabus. If an emergency arises that prevents you from participating in class, please let your instructor know as soon as possible.

Attendance Policy

Attendance for a week will be counted as having submitted any assigned activity for which points are earned. Attendance for the week is based upon the date work is submitted. A class week is defined as the period of time between Monday and Sunday (except for week 8, when the work and the course will end on Saturday at midnight.) The course and system deadlines are based on the Central Time Zone.

Cougar Email

All students are provided a CougarMail account when they enroll in classes at Columbia College. You are responsible for monitoring email from that account for important messages from the College and from your instructor. You may forward your Cougar email account to another account; however, the College cannot be held responsible for breaches in security or service interruptions with other email providers.

Students should use email for private messages to the instructor and other students. The class discussions are for public messages so the class members can each see what others have to say about any given topic and respond.

Late Assignment Policy

An online class requires regular participation and a commitment to your instructor and your classmates to regularly engage in the reading, discussion and writing assignments. Although most of the online communication for this course is asynchronous, you must be able to commit to the schedule of work for the class for the next eight weeks. You must keep up with the schedule of reading and writing to successfully complete the class.

Any written assignment submitted late will result in the assignment grade being reduced.  You have only one week to submit late written assignments. After one week, you will receive no credit.

Discussion Topic assignments may not be made up.  The only way to conduct a proactive discussion online is to respond promptly.  If you do not post your responses to the Discussion Topics by the Sunday deadline, you will receive a “zero” for that particular discussion question(s). 

Course Evaluation

You will have an opportunity to evaluate the course near the end of the session. A link will be sent to your CougarMail that will allow you to access the evaluation. Be assured that the evaluations are anonymous and that your instructor will not be able to see them until after final grades are submitted.

  Additional Resources

Orientation for New Students

This course is offered online, using course management software provided by Desire2Learn and Columbia College. The course user guide provides details about taking an online course at Columbia College. You may also want to visit the course demonstration to view a sample course before this one opens.

Technical Support

If you have problems accessing the course or posting your assignments, contact your instructor, the Columbia College Technology Solutions Center, or the D2L Helpdesk for assistance. If you have technical problems with the VitalSource eText reader, please contact VitalSource. Contact information is also available within the online course environment.

Online Tutoring

Smarthinking is a free online tutoring service available to all Columbia College students. Smarthinking provides real-time online tutoring and homework help for Math, English, and Writing. Smarthinking also provides access to live tutorials in writing and math, as well as a full range of study resources, including writing manuals, sample problems, and study skills manuals. You can access the service from wherever you have a connection to the Internet. I encourage you to take advantage of this free service provided by the college.

Access Smarthinking through CougarTrack under Students -> Academics -> Academic Resources.