U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Addressing the Dual Relationship Problem in Forensic and Correctional Practice

NCJ Number
Aggression and Violent Behavior Volume: 18 Issue: 1 Dated: January/February 2013 Pages: 92-100
Tony Ward
Date Published
February 2013
9 pages
After describing the conflict that creates a "dual relationship" problem in forensic and correctional practice, this article describes contemporary ways of resolving this problem.
The "dual relationship" problem is defined as a conflict between two sets of ethical norms. One norm gives top priority to community protection and the administering of justice, which involves the identification and punishment of persons who break the law. The other ethical norm gives priority to the fair, humane, and beneficial treatment of defendants/offenders. The problem occurs due to the different professional backgrounds of correctional practitioners and those concerned with enforcement and administration of laws intended to protect the public from criminal behavior. Corrections practitioners typically have their professional roots in mental health or allied disciplines, and they often have difficulty intellectually and emotionally in providing beneficial mental health services within a system that focuses on apprehending, prosecuting, and sentencing those who fail to comply with the law. Thus, the conflict exists at the core of professional practice that involves conflicting ethical allegiances. The author proposes a six-step approach for addressing this ethical conflict. First, define the practice tasks clearly and identify any ethical issues or problems. Second, identify the relevant group of individuals who should be participants in the discussion. Third, construct a narrative of all involved individuals' unique situations and perspectives. Fourth, look for shared moral beliefs across the participants in the discussion. Fifth, once any common norms have been detected, tailor them to the case at hand, using techniques such as specification and balancing. Sixth, if participants are satisfied that the proposed plan can be justified within the differing ethical codes/norms, implement the plan and assess its subsequent effectiveness from both ethical and prudential perspectives. 23 references