Eyeon Ethics: Moral Culpability in Social Work: The Free Will-Determinism Debate

Document Type


Department (Manual Entry)

School of Social Work


Having spent decades working with offenders, my experience tells me that, without a doubt, how social workers and others who work in the criminal justice system respond to offenders often is a direct function of these professionals' beliefs about the extent to which the offenders sitting before them are (or are not) morally culpable and responsible, in the free-will sense of the term, for their misconduct. Social workers, police, judges, parole and probation officers, and parole board members often react relatively compassionately or punitively, depending on their belief about the offenders' ability to exercise self-control and make free choices at the time they committed their offenses.