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The everlasting conflict between rehabilitation and punishment is one that is never ending. There are advocates of rehabilitation who claim “reforms” dealing with punishment are becoming sterner with criminals and, thus these advocates believe in reviving the ways of rehabilitation, because of the “changed overemphasis on punishment.” Although punishment may be sterner, rehabilitation is obviously a form of treatment that is much too lenient on criminal offenders. Accordingly, the U.S. Judicial system is much better off applying the practice of “stern” punishment on criminal offenders than using “lenient” rehabilitative treatment.

Today, many view punishment as a concept that needs not to be associated with social and political aspects and focused more on the cultural, moral and expressive values. The process of punishment as a social tool fails and people need to consider that punishment can be a significant part of culture. Punishment is important to culture in that punishment provides “meaning and merit in itself” (Logan and Gaes 1993, 7). There is a sense of an expression of cultural and moral values when we use punishment for criminals. In addition to, punishment allows us to understand the meaning of not only criminal punishment, but punishment also allows us to understand “power, authority, legitimacy, normality, morality, personhood, social relations and a host of other tangential matters” (Logan and Gaes 1993, 7). Those that impose authority and sanctions over people are exercising the practice of punishment.

If a criminal is found guilty, s/he must be held accountable for his/her actions in order to fulfill justice for those who fall victim(s) to the criminal. The only logical way of providing justice for the victim is for the government to punish the criminal for his/her actions. One can observe that punishment is productive when performed the right way, for there are those who can and will abuse their power. Whereas contempt for a prisoner is not right, so is not having mercy or compassion for him/her. This authority must be viewed as something that is impersonal, objective, and firm in order for the process of punishment to be carried out successfully.

To establish successful practices of punishment, agents of the government authority must realize that their power over criminals has its limitations; to ensure justice and fairness to the criminal is the primary goal, as well as abiding by the rules with regards to what is deemed too lenient and what is deemed too cruel. If inmates are treated worse in jail, then jail will suddenly seem hard to accept as a reasonable punishment for their actions. For justice to be served, the criminals must understand that jail is “principled, not malicious” (Logan and Gaes 1993, 7). The concept of the corrected officer following the rules when inspecting criminals is one that is devalued today, because of the revival of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation implies the idea that a correctional officer is incapable, inexperienced and inhumane to handle implementing the process of punishment when compared to those involved with rehabilitation. Whereas people have formed the false stereotype of punishment being cruel and inhumane, people have also formed the stereotype that rehabilitation is “benevolent and humane.” With this notion of rehabilitation being lenient on criminals, criminals are going not going to experience true punishment for their actions, because they are given treatment instead of punishment for their actions. So, rehabilitation in a way allows a criminal to get away with his/her crime and receive aid for committing crimes; thus, justice is devalued towards the criminal and the victim(s) of the criminal.

In addition to, punishment is an “affirmation of the autonomy, responsibility and dignity of the individual” (Logan and Gaes 1993, 8). This statement means that punishment is the assertion of truth to the existence of the individual as an independent moral agent. Punishment is also the assertion of truth to the individual, where s/he is in the position of being accountable to something. Lastly, this statement suggests that the individual must be serious and respectful in his or her behavior. Punishment promotes these three concepts in a thorough and successful procedure; for, punishment assumes the individual is capable of being independent from anyone or anything, punishment declares that the individual must be held responsible for his/her behavior, and punishment assumes the person must behave according to the law and be serious and respectful about this decision to behave right. Rehabilitation does not assume the individual is capable of being independent from anyone or anything, or else there would be no treatment to improve the life of the criminal. Although rehabilitation may declare that the individual must be held responsible for his/her behavior, there is still the notion of treatment for the criminal, rather than giving the criminal what s/he deserves. Finally, rehabilitation tries to help the criminal behave according to the law and be serious and respectful about this decision to behave right. So, rehabilitation does not only undermine the U.S Judicial authority, but rehabilitation also is a condescending and supportive service to criminals who deserve punishment.

There are those who believe rehabilitative efforts are way too compassionate and only hinder the government’s practice of trying to “maintain a system of just punishment” (Logan and Gaes 1993, 7). For, if criminals are not punished correctly and sent to rehabilitative centers where criminals are treated with the same respect as of hospital patients, then people are going to start believing that crime leads to aid. Also, another reason why rehabilitation is flawed is the fact that rehabilitation is individual based, so not everyone will be given the same treatment; some will receive more aid than others, thus an imbalance of fairness forms. Moreover, rehabilitative treatment becomes the focal point of authority within an institution and in turn takes on the role of being “paternalistic and authoritarian” (Logan and Gaes 1993, 8). Thus, this rehabilitative process results in skepticism and resistance among those the process was designed for.
Culturally, punishment is a powerful tool in disciplining criminals. Unlike rehabilitation, punishment places all criminals under the same position as each other so that no criminal seems to get off easier than any other criminal. When punishment is mixed up with the process of rehabilitation, authority and power over the criminals become devalued and weakened. Whereas punishment is stern with criminals, rehabilitation, in a prison system provides “personally beneficial services” for the criminals that are given rehabilitative treatment (Logan and Gaes 1993, 10). Simultaneously, rehabilitative treatment emasculates a criminal’s responsibility by treating him/her almost as if s/he were a child; someone who is incapable of taking care of himself/herself and thus placing responsibility of the criminal in the hands of society. So, in a way society has the burden of “baby-sitting,” when the hassle of rehabilitating the criminal could be avoided through the prison system’s implementation of punishment.

In the U.S Judicial system punishment is the only logical means of bringing justice into the courts. Rehabilitation provides an escape for criminals from the punishment that they deserve. Rehabilitation is a concept that devalues the prison system and all those affiliated with the prison system. With rehabilitation in place of punishment criminals are able to be criminals without having to be held responsible for his/her behavior. With punishment in place of rehabilitation, criminals are held responsible for his/her behavior and disciplined with the right amount of punishment. To say rehabilitation should be valued over punishment in the U.S Judicial system is to say that a criminal offender should receive treatment just as an insomniac or a drug addict receives treatment. The idea of rehabilitative treatment is unreliable and the U.S Judicial system should never consider rehabilitative treatment as a means of treating criminal offenders.

comments by dcorcoran:

In the second and fifth paragraphs, I would just say “In addition, …” and “Punishment also…”. Also, I typically see “he/she” rather than s/he”.

Perhaps you could give kind of a definition for the punishment that you advocate. Do you mean capital punishment? In addition, I would explain exactly what rehabilitation is (what it entails, and why it is too lenient). Why isn’t a mixture of the punishment and rehabilitation the best sometimes? I would think that rehabilitation should follow punishment.

Good luck! Thanks so much for your comments on my paper. I appreciate it.

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