ouf103 Position Paper
Rehabilitating Our Future
As the crime rate in America is soaring, many people believe that our current system of dealing with criminal offenders is becoming obsolete. Rehabilitation is a treatment meant to change law offenders in order to prevent future criminal behaviors. The amount of crime is a major issue within this country, one in which the government is actively attempting to lessen. In order to lower crimes rates within the United States, the government is turning to rehabilitation to help rather than punish criminals.
Rehabilitation seeks to prevent crime by providing offenders with the education and treatment necessary to eliminate criminal tendencies, as well as the skills to become productive members of society. The main focus of this treatment is to work out the disturbed individual’s problems, in order for them to become sociably functional. The fact that those offenders could be integrated back into our society and become valuable citizens should make the U.S. Judicial system value rehabilitation over mere punishment.
The US has a correctional system in which strict retributive justice is used. Retributive justice is based on the theory that considers criminal offenders an imbalance in society, and offenders must, therefore, face harsh punishments for their illegal actions. This theory usually offers a punishment proportional to the crime the offense committed. In some cases the justice system will choose to severely punish some offenders for a minor crime in order to deter other people from committing the same crime. This theory is based on the belief that punishment serves as a deterrent, preventing people from breaking the law again in the future. This system relies on the belief that offenders cannot change, and, therefore, the government must enforce increasingly severe punishments. This system will lead our society to a dark future. The current system to punish offenders in the United States does nothing more than spawn a system of recidivism which relies on prisons that are, in reality, schools for crime—not rehabilitation. On the contrary, instating rehabilitation seems like a wiser solution because it will be able to prevent the criminal from offending again in the future.
Throughout the last century, several perspectives on rehabilitation have surfaced and greatly influenced people’s opinions and perspectives on the subject. The majority of society believes that offenders probably went through some sort of dramatic event that led to their criminal behavior. Many of these dramatic experiences, such as child abuse, family problems, social deprivation, and other problems are thought to have occurred during a criminal’s childhood. The negative effects these traumatic events had on the children were repressed, causing them lifelong problems that lead them to criminal offenses. By teaching these emotionally, mentally, and physically abused individuals a better way to live their lives, the government can lessen crime and provide more upstanding citizens.
Transcendental Mediation is proven to be the most successful and cost effective mean of rehabilitation. In this type of treatment patients are taught how to control their anger through talking with counselors and participating in other programs such as group discussions. Research done at various maximum security prisons in the United States has shown that Transcendental Meditation reduces hostility on a long-term range. This was indicated by the lower recidivism rates for parolee practitioners of the transcendental meditation technique, and lower relapse rates for drug addicts (Hawkins 2003, 50).
One of the major critics of rehabilitation is Robert Martinson, a sociologist who has published several articles on rehabilitation. He was the first person to suggest the idea that it is impossible to rehabilitate prison inmates or even reform criminals in general. In his article “What Works?” he claims that it is impossible to rehabilitate any criminals (Martinson 1974). His presence in the debate over correctional rehabilitation gave legitimacy to the movement that argued against the use of rehabilitation as the dominant correctional approach toward criminals. The opponents of rehabilitation use Martinson’s opinion that no criminals can be rehabilitated, as a fact indicating that science has shown that offender treatment is useless.
The potential benefits of rehabilitation are far too important to be ignored. Rehabilitation should neither be valued because it will reinforce our moral standards nor because it will benefit society when criminals return and contribute to the working world. The beneficial aspect that we should first consider is the influence rehabilitation will have on the government’s spending of tax money. Rehabilitation will lead to less crime and fewer crime victims. Therefore, the government will need less tax money to maintain the criminal justice system. The lesser demand for funds for the justice system will allow a reduction in taxes, saving taxpayer’s money. Second, we must consider how rehabilitation will create a safer society. Crime will be reduced due to the fact that criminals will be less likely to become second offenders. The comfort of a safer society will lead to better quality of life throughout the nation.
Rehabilitation should be the main goal of the correctional criminal justice enterprise, but the public makes two incorrect assumptions that are preventing rehabilitation from being used. First of all, people assume that rehabilitation and punishment cannot be used in unison. As Van Voorhis mentions, our only chance for reducing recidivism is to make rehabilitation a required program within the United State’s prisons (Voorhis 1987). There must be a therapeutic aspect in our criminal justice system, or recidivism will be the outcome. This approach will not only improve the offender’s situation, but also the public’s safety. Rehabilitation has the potential to reduce recidivism, thus preventing the victimization of citizens.
Second, and just as important, the American public is punitive and will not support the rehabilitation of offenders. Although polls do show that the public is punitive, there are also surveys which prove that Americans will opt not to have a correctional system that will inflict “penal harm” or warehouse offenders. Citizens will prefer a correctional system that will both punish and at the same time try to rehabilitate. A survey done by Applegate, Cullen, and Fisher (1997) on Ohio residents showed that more than 80% of them agreed that rehabilitation was an “important” or “very important” goal of imprisonment. This level of support of the American public would grow even more if society was able to see a combination of rehabilitation and punishment in action.
With the soaring crime rates in America, it is clear that the current means of punishing criminal offenders is outdated and no longer useful. Therefore, it is time that the American justice department alters their current system of dealing with criminals. Rehabilitation is the most economical and potentially successful way of correcting this problem. By helping criminals get past problems they may have had in the past and teaching them sociably acceptable behaviors, crime rates will not only be lessened, but society will benefit from having these rehabilitated citizens. It is clear that rehabilitation, combined with the right amount of retributive justice, is what the government needs to solve their crime problems.
Farabee, David. "Rethinking Rehab: Why can't we reform our criminals?" American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research: May 2005.
Hawkins, Mark A. “Effectiveness of the Transcendental Meditation Program in Criminal Rehabilitation and Substance Abuse Recovery: A Review of the Research.”
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 36. 2003: 47 – 65.
Judah, Eleanor and Bryant, Michael. "Criminal justice: Retribution vs. Restoration.”
Haworth Social Work and Practice Press: Jun 2004.
Martinson, Robert. “What Works?” The Public Interest, 1974: 7-13.
McGuire, James. "Offender Rehabilitation and Treatment: Effective Programs and
Policies to Reduce Re-offending." John Willey & Sons, Inc: Dec 2002.
Skancke, Jennifer. "Alternatives to Prisons." Gale Group: Jan 2005.
Voorhis, Van P. "Correctional Effectiveness: The High Cost of Ignoring Success,"
Federal Probation, 51. 1987: 56-62.
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