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Ethics & Employee Self-Check Tools
Inappropriate relationships between offenders and employees of juvenile correction organizations have emerged as a serious issue.
Among the most dangerous and destructive of these inappropriate relationships is sexual misconduct. The very nature of juvenile corrections, with semi-autonomous employees, the increasing focus on a rehabilitative rather than punitive model, the increase of offenders assigned to these programs, and actual allegations of sexual misconduct have raised the awareness of administrators, state and federal legislators, and the public of a need for action.  The bottom line:  Sexual misconduct jeopardizes the safety of the public.
Employees who compromise their professional ethics and responsibilities by engaging in inappropriate and illegal behavior undermine the justice system, further victimize vulnerable individuals, put the safety of themselves and their peers in jeopardy, and erode public and legislative support for the mission of their agency.

“Ethics is a code of values which guides our choices and actions and determines the purpose and course of our lives.”
Michael Josephson
The purpose of a code of ethics is to acknowledge a profession's acceptance of the responsibility and trust conferred upon it by society and to recognize the internal obligations inherent in that trust.
There are two aspects to ethics:
  • Discernment - knowing right from wrong;
  • Discipline - having the moral willpower to do what is right.
Question: If everyone were to do what I am contemplating doing, would the world be a better or worse place to live?
Ethics Self-Check:
  • Is it Legal?  Does my decision violate any codes, policies, procedures, rules or laws?
  • Is it Balanced?  Is my decision fair to all, both in the short and long term?
  • How will I feel about myself?  Does this feel right and ethical?  Can I stand by these actions at a later date?
  • Perception by others?  Will my actions be viewed as right or wrong?  Do my actions represent the agency in a positive light?  Will I be able to openly explain my actions so that others will understand and agree with my choice?

Red Flag Behavior
The National Institute of Corrections has conducted training for several years on the topic of staff sexual misconduct. During the training, participants are asked to list those behaviors they see as RED FLAGS -- events, actions or activities that should have tipped them off sooner to the possibility of staff sexual misconduct.

Here are samples of participants’ comments.

Red Flags
  • Horseplay, overly familiar interaction between employee and offender
  • Unusual caseload activity (transfers to or from the caseload, early terminations, unlikely violations of conditions)
  • Ignoring violations or being blind to a particular offender’s actions
  • Unusual amount of office visits by an offender
  • Unusual amount of field visits to a particular offender
  • Employee isolation from other employees
  • Over-identifying with an offender
  • Employee in personal crisis (financial, divorce, ill health, death in family)
  • Granting special favors or requests for an offender
  • Employee consistently working more overtime than anyone else
  • Employee being overly concerned about a particular offender
  • Employee cannot account for their time
  • Employee always volunteering for extra work or overtime
  • Employee intervening or helping with offender’s personal life, legal affairs, etc.
  • Conversations between an employee and offender or between employees that are sexualized in nature or refer to physical attributes or appearance
  • Employee discussing personal information with offender
  • Drastic behavior change on the part of an offender or employee
  • Rumors about a particular offender or employee
  • Frequent absences or illnesses of a particular employee
  • Employee accessing files, computer data banks, logbooks, or other records when not related to their own cases, or an excessive amount of this kind of activity
  • Frequent problems with particular employee concerning off-duty activities
  • Employee having more than the necessary knowledge of an offender’s personal life
  • Employee being involved with offender’s family

Self-Help Questions
12-self-help questions to identify possible inappropriate behaviors by staff  
  1. Do you find yourself looking forward to seeing a particular offender/client?
  2. When it comes to a particular offender, are you reluctant to close a case or transfer supervision to another officer?
  3. If you run into an offender at a local restaurant or bar, do you think it is acceptable to sit down and share a meal or drink?
  4. Have you ever spoken to a peer and tried to convince that person to give a certain offender on their caseload “a break” because you know the offender personally?
  5. Have you ever failed to report, or even considered not reporting, a violation of supervision because of your relationship with a client?
  6. Have you done anything with someone you supervise that you would not want your family or supervisor to know about?
  7. Have you discussed your personal life with or sought personal advice from someone you supervise?
  8. Do you have thoughts or fantasies of being with a particular offender or client?
  9. Have you ever done a “favor” for an offender, such as loaning them money or intervening with the offender’s employer; or have you asked them to do a favor for you?
  10. Have you told an offender/client sexual jokes, or allowed them to tell you sexual jokes?
  11. Have you become particularly friendly with a member of an offender’s family? Do you plan field visits for times when they will be home, or without any official need to see them?
  12. Do you find that if you knew an offender before they were placed on supervision, such as attending the same school or same church, you are more friendly with them?

OYA's Professional Standards Office

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