Working to Reduce Crime - Punishment or Rehabilitation?

Updated on December 26, 2017
Jassel Toro profile image

Jassel is a Chemical Dependency Counselor Assistant (CDCA). Seeking a degree in Criminal Justice, Graduation 11/18


What is rehabilitation?

Rehabilitation is one of the goals of the correctional system. It is believed that offenders can be treated and returned to society, as a law-abiding citizen and live a life free of crime. Rehabilitation consists of:

  • Mental Health Programs
  • Substance Abuse Services
  • Education Services

Programs of rehabilitation were designed for:

  • Sex offenders
  • Parolees
  • Women

"We can't just rail against crime. We must speak of the root problems - devastating family breakup, an insidious culture of violence that cheapens human life, skyrocketing prisoner recidivism rates that rob our communities of husbands and fathers - and recognize that there is a societal role in rehabilitation and restoration."

— Frank Wolf

What is Punishment?

Based on the severity of the crime, a criminal offense may be disciplined in a variety of ways such as:

  • Death penalty
  • Incarceration in prison or jail
  • Probation
  • Fines
  • Restitution

Punishment of offenders is required at points in order to deter law violators from repeating the crime. Punishment for one individual may be considered an example of what could happen to other's in society, in hopes that they may think twice about committing the same crime.

Due to our eighth amendment, many of the historical punishments that were cruel and unusual, that were in place are no longer allowed. Some of the punishments that were historically used to punish offenders were:

  • Public humiliation
  • Workhouses
  • Exile

If an offender sentenced to incarceration more than one year generally they are sent to a state prison, if less than one year they are sent to a local jail. After a specific portion of an offender's sentence, they may become eligible for parole.

The Eighth Amendment

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted

Passed by Congress September, 25th 1789

Rehabilitation or Punishment ?

I believe that rehabilitation in most cases is best for the offender. The punishment I feel is best for the most severe crimes, such as murder. However, many murderers have been released from prison and given the chance to rebuild their lives. Criminals who conduct brutal crimes deserve punishment, and shall not be given the opportunity to return to society and live a normal life after they have taken one.

Rehabilitation should be considered upon the severity and circumstances of the crime, and the offender's background. Some violent offenders don’t deserve second chances, but some offenders do.

We already know how overcrowded our correctional facilities are, so incarcerating a non-violent offender just does not make much sense to me.

"I think one of the keys to any crime-prevention program that's got to be developed is to focus on punishment - to let people know that there is a sanction and a punishment for hurting others."

— Janet Reno

Are there Alternatives for incarceration?

Depending on the crime and the severity, there are plenty of alternatives. Two most common alternatives is probation and house arrest, in which, offenders would be given specific conditions to follow, and be supervised

I think that non-violent offenders, once again depending on the severity of the crime, shall be placed on an alternative form of incarceration. I think that it would greatly reduce the number of offenders that are currently in prison for non-violent crimes, and would be given the chance to obtain the help they need and rebuild their lives.

Learn More - Reducing Crime

What Works in Corrections: Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinquents (Cambridge Studies in Criminology)
What Works in Corrections: Reducing the Criminal Activities of Offenders and Delinquents (Cambridge Studies in Criminology)

This book was published in 2006 and contains so much valuable information regarding what works in corrections. We need to focus on how to reduce crime in society, and really find out what works best. It reviews different strategies and discusses thousands of studies. The book assesses the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs, management, treatment of drug-involved offenders, and punishment. It is a great educational reference. Check it out!


Less Than 15% Receive Treatment

Most criminal offenders have some form of mental health or substance abuse issue. These offenders need treatment. I feel that correctional facilities should be providing quality treatment to offenders. Yes, they have done wrong but they are facing their punishment. Just because one does wrong, does not give us the right to do wrong. Many offenders go without treatment, if they were to be released, they have a higher chance of re-offending. Rehabilitation and punishment, maybe it would be best actually combined for each offender. I know some prisons have many programs within, however, they are only limited to certain offenders. All offenders should be able to participate in rehabilitation programs.

What do you think?

Which method is more effective?

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    • bradmasterOCcal profile image

      bradmasterOCcal 2 months ago from Orange County California

      Neither punishment nor rehabilitation has helped as both of these have been tried. And yet there are over 2million people in US jails and prisons.

      Capital punishment has not stopped or slowed down deadly crimes. Look at Chicago.