The criminal justice system comprises many distinct stages, including arrest, prosecution, trial, sentencing, and punishment, quite often in the form of imprisonment. As will become clear, it is in the last two of these many stages that the debate over rehabilitation and retribution is of special significance.
"Rehabilitation is the idea of curing' an offender of his or her criminal tendencies, of changing their habits, their outlook and possibly even personality, so as to make them less inclined to commit crimes in the future" (Punishment vs. Rehabilitation, n.d., 2005). It seeks to prevent a person from reoffending by taking away the desire to offend. This is very different from the idea of deterrence', which is the idea of making him/her afraid to offend, though he/she may still desire to. Incapacitation is the idea of taking away physical power to offend, though he/she may still desire to and be unafraid to. The retributive idea is that punishment should be determined chiefly (possibly even only) by the seriousness of the crime itself, and not by consequentialist factors, such as whether the punishment is enough to scare (i.e. deter) the rest of society. It is a very serious mistake to think that the retributive idea in the criminal justice system is about vengeance, retaliation or payback. Rather, it is an extremely sophisticated idea that often forms the basis of, and arguably is even the leading indication of, a developed sentencing system (Punishment vs. Rehabilitation, n.d., 2005). The debate between rehabilitation and retribution is one with many different sides and views. In this paper we will look deeper into some of these views and how they affect not only the offender but also their victims.
Deterrence of Crime
People will engage in criminal and deviant activities if they do not fear apprehension and punishment. Norms, laws, and enforcement are to be designed and implemented to produce and maintain the image that "negative" and disruptive behaviors will receive attention and punishment. Crime cannot be stopped completely though it could be controlled via punishments according to the level of offence done. Punishments are usually given as a consequence to some kind of violation of law or interference of someone's legal rights or such actions done with the element of criminal intentions to harm someone. Therefore, punishments are to make good the losses or to impose burden on a convicted offender. Basically, the motive behind punishments is to make the criminal or offender compensate the damages as well as to learn a lesson for not opting the same or any related criminal action in future. Nonetheless, punishments are only given persons who are found guilty for some crime (Crime and Punishment, 1998-2002).
Where incarceration is suppose to deter criminals from further crimes, sometimes it actually adds to them committing more crimes. It seems that due to incarceration, a person becomes an outcast from his family, friends as well as professional circle. Which in turn, leads them into committing more felonies and misdemeanors. So what ever the objective behind imprisonment is, it not only increases the crime rate but also marks a label on offenders who are not professional criminals as ex-prisoner, which will reduce their chances for employment. So, without rehabilitation, an offender will not learn how to be a productive member of the society; which might change an unprofessional delinquent into a professional criminal. Simply because they are more easily accepted to the community of criminals rather then the community in which they actually belonged too (Crime and Punishment, 1998-2002).
Impact on Victims and Victims' Families
In our society's criminal justice system, justice equals punishment. An eye for an eye. You do the crime, you do the time. You do the time, you've paid your debt to society and justice has been done. But justice for whom? Certainly not the...