Author ORCID Identifier

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Kurt Stemhagen

Second Advisor

William Muth

Third Advisor

Gabriel Reich

Fourth Advisor

Dwayne Ray Cormier


Many events in recent history have demonstrated the need for addressing the training of law enforcement and other public servants commonly referred to as criminal justice professionals in the United States. Reckoning with the imperfect history of the criminal justice system, specifically the history of problematic relations with marginalized people, and developing a system that is better equipped to meet the needs of an equitable and just society is at the forefront of many discussions of criminal justice reform. Improving ethical decision-making training in criminal justice education is one avenue to addressing these needs for current and future professionals. Conceptually, ethical decision-making education could start with community and cultural knowledge of those being served, creating meaningful, authentic relationships based on care, in order to make a “more whole decision” when faced with situations, especially critical situations. The focus of this study was a foundational rethinking of the approach to ethical decision-making in criminal justice education by introducing sociocultural theories that emphasize an ethic of care, authenticity, and a focus on the cultural importance of relations and the relationship. Individual, semi-structured interviews of university educators in criminal justice education who teach ethical decision-making courses in order to understand, in greater depth, concepts that are emphasized in their coursework, what systems are taught, and how they are taught. Non-traditional systems were explored and examined concepts of authenticity, care, and relationships impact on the coursework that were perceived to impact coursework by the educators. Findings show that there is a presence of the concepts in ethical decision-making in criminal justice. What emerged is a need for a future focus on humanization and suggestions regarding curriculum design and teaching methods when thinking about teaching ethics.


Subject Categories (Main category is criminal justice) is only one category is approved. If all three categories are approved, please allow for the cross-discipline tagging.


© Robert B. Lehmann, Author

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VCU University Archives

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VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission