Why should Rehabilitation be Valued above Punishment

Why should Rehabilitation be Valued above Punishment in the United States Criminal Justice System?

No matter how severe or minor their crimes are, the criminal justice system prioritizes punishing offenders over rehabilitating them. However, the criminal justice system should emphasize offenders’ Rehabilitation more than punishing them. Even though the subject is contentious, putting more emphasis on Rehabilitation than punishment has several advantages. Among these advantages are decreased crime and jail rates, which allow convicts to alter their future conduct and facilitate their easier reintegration into society. Therefore, Rehabilitation should be valued above punishment in the United States criminal justice system because it helps reform offenders before they return to society. In addition, rehabilitating criminals can help reduce crime and incarceration rates, help offenders alter their future conduct, help criminals reintegrate into society quickly, and aid in the recovery of those with a mental illnesses.

First, we will look at how committed Rehabilitation of criminals can help reduce crime and incarceration rates. In the United States, there were 398 violent crimes in 2020 and 1,958 property crimes. “The number of crimes in the United States is multiplying yearly, primarily due to recidivism. So how does recovery help people do that? If we focus more on rehabilitating criminals, their chances of committing these crimes will diminish once released” (Ganapathy par. 5). There is solid evidence to support this claim. Many small States have tried to do so. For example, the Scandinavian countries have reduced recidivism by paying more attention to recovery. “Specifically, Norway reported only 20% reconviction, while the United States had a reconviction rate of 63% (International Center for Serious Crimes Assessment), which more than doubled in 2020 alone” (Heffernan and Tony par. 7).

While there is credible evidence that Rehabilitation can reduce crime and incarceration rates, some can say that we bring criminals back to society without paying for the crime. While this is true, many criminals, with the help of Rehabilitation, have helped to halt the cycle of imprisonment and reconviction. Tucson, Arizona’s correctional and re-entry department has helped inmates end the cycle. One prisoner described how he had been held regularly for illicit drug possession and fought drug abuse. “This project taught me many things, I have to change my environment, and I have to leave for it. It is like many people will use it, but if you want to change, you have to avoid all that, and that is where this course helps me”(Graff par. 8).

I will then examine how Rehabilitation, as opposed to punishment, might assist offenders in altering their future conduct. Criminals now in jail or have previously served time generally share this mentality. They believe there is no use in attempting to alter their behavior or improve themselves since cultures cannot and would not accept them back into society. Those attempting to alter their trajectory sometimes struggle to gain even the most basic support without expert aid. We can modify this thinking through Rehabilitation, but we can also prevent crimes from occurring in the future.

The required actions to start the change have already been taken by the Arizona Ministry of Corrections and Rehabilitation. “Catherine Nisbet, head of intensive care at the Maricopa Re-entry Center argued that, ‘Our primary focus here is to help them recover’” (Zhang par. 4). The first thing we have to do is treat them like people. If prisoners are treated more like citizens than criminals, they will accept therapy and alter their way of life. “Using their names instead of their prisoner numbers or last names might be helpful. Because of the care they receive inside prisons and jails, and it is believed that 15 to 20% of convicts nowadays have serious mental illnesses” (Muhlhausen par. 3). Prisoners’ regular primary care may significantly influence whether or not they are imprisoned. We can aid in reducing recidivism and raising these convicts’ expectations for reintegration through Rehabilitation.

Finally, we will explore the most significant possible impact that may be possible about the Rehabilitation of offenders. Rehabilitation helps criminals to reintegrate into society quickly. Reintegration is one of the most severe challenges facing criminals after their release. They may lose their jobs, homes, and even children in prison, and a formally imprisoned criminal cannot receive assistance. Rehabilitation facilities can help criminals to solve this problem. Many people often start to wonder where to start. Rehabilitation facilities can assist offenders in obtaining the necessary resources to assist them in their release. During a prisoner’s incarceration, rehabilitation institutions also assist in helping to give training and knowledge to help smooth their simple reintegration.

Another obstacle that prisoners may face after their release is finding work. “Approximately 60% of prisoners in formal detention were unemployed, but about 33% remained unemployed for four years after their release” (Muhlhausen par. 4). This is primarily a result of firms not wanting to recruit individuals with criminal histories. They have assisted in removing this barrier for formerly incarcerated convicts through rehabilitation programs and facilities. Institutions and programs for Rehabilitation can also aid in the recovery of those who have a mental illness. Approximately 64% of convicts reported mental health issues on average. This could also be a factor that makes it harder for them to reintegrate and even find jobs after they are released. “If a former offender has anxiety, depression, mental illness, drug addiction or other mental health problems, finding a safe place to live, a stable job, and social integration can be impossible” (Heffernan and Tony par. 7). The Wyoming Trends article noted four significant challenges for newly released individuals.

Opponents argue that punishment should be aimed at bringing moral reform to offenders. Even if the criminal commits a crime, he will not stop being a man. In some cases, he may have committed a crime, which may never happen again. According to deterrence theory, “Sinners must not only be punished to prevent them from making mistakes again but also be used as a model for others inclined to commit crimes” (Robinson par. 5). “Punishment is before all things are deterred, and the main purpose of criminal law is to set an example for evil sinners and to issue a warning to those who are with him,” (Zhang par. 9). However, this is not true, especially in today’s society, because many who make mistakes do not care about the consequences of punishment. Rehabilitation is, therefore, the best way to deal with offenders.

In conclusion, putting more emphasis on Rehabilitation than punishment is not a position that is widely shared. However, it must be considered if we are to better society as a whole. From my point of view, placing a strong emphasis on Rehabilitation provides several advantages in addition to helping to improve how offenders are treated in jails and prisons: Reducing crime and re-imprisonment rates, providing opportunities for criminals to change their future behavior, and making it easier for them to reintegrate into society. As society advances, we should consider Rehabilitation as a way forward in our criminal justice systems. So rather than saying that if someone commits a crime, they must spend time, we should discuss how Rehabilitation could help stop this crime from happening again.


Works Cited

Ganapathy, Narayanan. “Rehabilitation, reintegration and recidivism: a theoretical and methodological reflection.” Asia Pacific Journal of Social Work and Development 28.3 (2018): 154-167.

Graff, Thomas. “Conversion and the Rehabilitation of the Penal System: A Theological Rereading of Criminal Justice.” Reviews in Religion & Theology, vol. 27, no. 3, July 2020, pp. 413–16. EBSCOhost.

Heffernan, Roxanne, and Tony Ward. “Dynamic risk factors, protective factors and value-laden practices.” Psychiatry, Psychology and Law 26.2 (2019): 312-328.

Muhlhausen, David B., and Hugh J. Hurwitz. “First Step Act: Best Practices for Academic and Vocational Education for Offenders.” National Institute of Justice 1, January 2019

Robinson, Gwen, and Iain D. Crow. Offender rehabilitation: Theory, research, and practice. Sage, 2009.

Zhang, Xiaoye. “Narrative rehabilitation: Manifestation of Chinese and Western reform ideals and practices.” International journal of offender therapy and comparative criminology 65.4 2021: 373–389.


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