' Imagine the feeling in the heart of a person who just lost a loved one in the hands of a brutal heartless murderer. The sadness and tragedy is painful and hard to even think about. Now imagine this same person's attitude if he or she knew that this murderer has already been punished by the U.S. judicial system for a similar crime once before. I can imagine that this particular person is bitter and not understanding about how justice was not served here. The sad thing here is that there is only one way that it can be guaranteed that this type of thing can be prevented, and that way is to lock up that person in jail for the rest of their lives or the death penalty.
' I believe that rehabilitation should be valued over punishment in certain cases, but a serious crime should never go unpunished. For instance, cases in which there are people who break the driving under the influence law. An offender of this law should be punished with jail time, especially if someone was killed with his or her recklessness. However, in most cases of repeat offenders with these type cases have served time in prison but have never attended some kind of drug and alcohol abuse rehabilitation program. As long as rehabilitation is used to convince the criminal that he or she needs change instead of trying to show the criminal new ways of living, it will be successful. The criminal should not avoid repeating a crime because of fear of jail but because it is the best thing for them in the long run. The only way that can happen is if he or she is convinced what they are doing is wrong.
' One case I can particularly relate to is with a great friend of mine back in my home town. This particular young man, we'll call him Jimmy, had a progressive, illegal problem. He sold and used almost any drug you can think of. He hurt many people including one person killed by his partner in a bad drug deal. The murder was linked to him as an accomplice, and he was thrown in jail. About three years later he was put into a Christian based rehabilitation center called Teen Challenge. This problem taught him basic morals and the right way to live. Patients are in no way forced to follow the religious influences of the program, and they are not lead to believe that a religious life is the only life they could lead to get over their problems. Jimmy was able to learn how what he was doing with his life was hurting people around him and most importantly, himself. However, the Teen Challenge program also does follow ups. They make sure their graduates stay clean. That is one way in which I would take rehabilitation over punishment.
' The advantage of punishment over rehabilitation is that as much as it is not morally sound, criminals are not inclined to repeat their crime if they are scared that they will be punished again. Though many people may not look upon the justice and approve of this, I do think that it is effective in keeping people out of jail for a second time in many cases. For many criminals, I think that a minimum security prison is an escape for people that live lives worse than most prisoners lead. In that sense it is not necessarily punishment but if it improves society it is successful. We may be spending our tax dollars as Americans to put criminals where they actually want to be, but it is still better than having people break laws out there for the sole reason of a “vacation” to the jailhouse.
' Rehabilitation is not successful when the criminal looks at the rehab as an escape rather than help for his or her life as well. Many criminals want to be put in a rehabilitation center because they are avoiding the brutality of a maximum security prison. They see rehabilitation as an escape and a way to act their way out of trouble. All they have to do is see to it that the workers of that particular rehab program thinks they are making strides and his or plan is successful. The insanity pleas in many criminal cases were disregarded about 72 percent of the time in the nineties because the judge understood that rehabilitation was the criminal’s desired ruling. However, for those criminals that do win the battle for the insanity plea, prison is avoided and they are back on the streets doing as they please just as they were before they were ever in trouble.
' The problem with putting someone in rehab rather than prison, is that someone else has to decide if the offender has a real problem, and if that problem is the source of his or her criminal behavior. Sometimes a criminal can have a problem detected scientifically by the observance of brain activity to see if there is an abnormality. Other cases have to be judged by the “educated guess” of a judge or jury. If the criminal lives a lifestyle that is not possibly a life lead by a normal functioning human being, that criminal will likely be sent to a rehabilitation program rather than a prison. What it all comes down to is whether or not someone can see the real problem with a criminal. That is where this system falters. A person’s life should not be decided by a judge’s “educated guess.”
' A problem brought to surface as a lapse in the punishment system is the fact that a person who has committed a crime can serve his or her time in jail and get back out into the world and do it again. A reason why many criminals are repeat offenders is that they do not serve the amount of time that they should. Criminals sentenced to life in prison for a murder only serve on average 5.9 years in prison. That should not be something a cold blooded murder should be able to get away with. A criminal is more likely to commit a crime again if the time in prison was not unbearable. Though the percentage for repeat murder cases, less that one percent, is very low, it still means that there are people out there losing their lives in the hands of people that have already once been punished by the justice system for a similar crime. That is not acceptable.
' In conclusion, I believe there is no completely justifiable answer to the question of whether rehabilitation should be valued over punishment. No one can truly know the character of criminals except for the criminals themselves. The justice system just has to decide what is best for the safety of the American people. If that means that a criminal should never be let back out into the real world again without supervision, then so be it. The problem with that is who gets to decide the destiny of another human being. There may never be a way to decide what is really best for the criminals of America and the people of society. However, we do have good results from both rehabilitation and punishment so things are not as bad as they could be.
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