Incorporating Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development into the Justice System

Incorporating Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development into the Justice System

Assignment 2: 

CRJ 220 Ethics and Leadership in Criminal Justice

The three levels of Kohlberg’s stages of Moral Development are: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional. In each level of Kohlberg’s stages, there are two stages of moral development. The first level of Kohlberg’s stages is preconventional, it takes place between the ages of 1-10 and controlled by an authority figure. Stage one is punishment and obedience orientation, it occurs between ages 1-5. The punishment and obedience orientation are the morals that are taught in early childhood. Authority figures use taught morals to apply rewards for good behaviors and consequences for bad behaviors. Stage two is instrumental orientation, it occurs between ages 5-10. Instrumental orientation is the personal gain of what benefits self (Williams). In the criminal justice field, there are not many cases where the offender is within the age of 1-10 that will require probation as a punishment. If probation is needed for an offender of this age group the outside resources like psychological testing, therapy, and/or medication will be needed to properly help the juvenile offender.

The second level of Kohlberg’s stages is conventional morality, it takes place between the ages of 10-16. Stage three is interpersonal expectations and conformity it applies between the ages of 10-16, where morality is tied to personal and societal relationships. Stage four is law and order orientation, it applies between the ages of 16-mid 20’s and continues throughout life. The second level of Kohlberg stages an age appropriate starting point for Juvenile Probation. By the age of 10 a juvenile knows right from wrong and they are old enough to understand that there are consequences for one’s action. Going through the process of probation may be the answer need to redirect the juvenile offender from becoming repeat or adult offender.

The third level of Kohlberg’s stages is postconventional, it starts during the mid-20’s and continues through life. At this stage people believe laws are unfair and the disobey the rules based on their own personal beliefs. The fifth stage is social contract orientation, where understanding of morality is demonstrated. The sixth stage is universal ethical principles, which might not be reach until the midlife age but not everyone is able to reach this level of morality. In relation to Juvenile Probation, it does not apply due to age. At this point, if a person of this age is to commit a crime they will be charged as an adult. If the offender has a criminal record dating back to juvenile delinquency, there is a chance that juvenile probation was tried but was not successful as intended.


Amidon, J., Monroe, A., & Ortwein, M. (n.d.). Education, Society, & the K-12 Learner. Retrieved from

Williams, C. R., & Arrigo, B. A. (2012). Ethics crime and criminal justice (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall / Pearson.

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