Punishment or Rehabilitation?
University of Phoenix - Online
Survey of Justice and Security
Mark McCoy, Ed. D
Nov 18, 2006
The debate between punishment and rehabilitation for criminal offenders has been an ongoing issue for many years. What is the true focus of our criminal justice system today? Some argue that it is to punish those that choose to disobey the laws of the land and indulge in criminal behavior, while others argue that its primary focus should be to rehabilitate these offenders and help them reintegrate into society while helping them become productive, law-abiding citizens; helping them leave that criminal activity in the past. Despite the debate, the issue still remains on which model is most effective in reducing criminal activity. Punishment or Rehabilitation?
When examining these two methods of eliminating criminal activity and dealing with the offender, all sides of the equation must add up. The method of punishment is one of the oldest and widely used models stemming back thousand of years when the prison systems were first introduced into society. The theory of punishment and its application were developed by analytical thinkers more than half a century ago and its use was not meant to be a justifiable means, but as a means of maintaining social order by the mere threat of it and the consequences behind it. In addition, punishment is also utilized as a means of “reforming” the offender and deterring them from criminal behavior in an effort to protect society as Hugo Adam Bedau, a world renowned philosopher, reflects in his journal on Punishment in the Stanford Encyclopedia. The idea of punishing an offender tends to be the majority opinion because many of us simply want to know that justice was served overall for the victim and/or their family. The punishment model includes; incarceration, physical labor, death (capital punishment), and imprisonment. In some countries, punishments can be cruel treatment and exceed the severity of the crime committed. In the United Stats, however, Amendment 8 of the constitution protects criminals in that fashion since it “forbids the use of cruel and unusual punishments”. The rehabilitation method is a more modern approach to dealing with criminal offenders. This models focuses more on helping an offender “alter their ways” and help them reintegrate into society in a more productive manner. Research shows that approximately 80 percent of both male and female petty and hard-core criminals return back to prison within a year of their release (Bedau, p. 23). Many of these offenders are not given the option of rehabilitation, but are simply thrust back onto the streets and are instructed to simply “start obeying the law” Not so simple for a career criminal who may lack social skills and morals. Many argue that had there been some form of rehabilitative methods offered to these individuals, than these stats would greatly reduce. Rehabilitation methods are demonstrated in various forms: Drug and Substance abuse programs, probation and parole options, and job skills and training methods as well. The controversies surrounding these topics are its effectiveness. Should one be punished for their crime or should an attempt be made at reforming the individual? Could rehabilitation prevent repeated criminal activity? Or is the punishment model more effective? These are constant questions that arise when one speaks of social reform and retribution and several areas must be addressed: deterrence of crime, impact upon victims and victims' families, impact upon the offender, social impact upon society, and fiscal impact upon society
Deterrence of Crime:
The theory of deterrence “is that people will refrain from engaging in criminal activity because of the consequences associated with detection.”( Adler, F., Mueller, G., Laufer, p 19) As we are all aware of, the...