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Punishment or Rehabilitation

Punishment or Rehabilitation


For many centuries, the issue of prison system punishment has been associated with a great number of controversies. Moreover, numerous debates have arisen in regard to the comparison of punishment and rehabilitation effectiveness. Many people think that the real aim of the prison is to punish people who have committed certain wrongs. However, others tend to believe that prisons perform a secondary function considering the peculiarities of this type of institution. Nevertheless, the essential role of every prison should consist in the rehabilitation of inmates for them to be able to reintegrate into the society.

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Rehabilitation effects

The positive impact of rehabilitation on prisoners mental health

Rehabilitation is supposed to be one of the most efficacious methods to fight against crime. Moreover, it was a key constituent part of the prison policy in different countries, in particular the US, until the second half of the twentieth century. Traditionally, it was used by prisoners either to acquire and develop their occupational skills or conquer various psychological problems including abuse and aggression, which usually were the main obstacles to their successful integration into the society. Besides, prisoners were believed to make progress after overcoming the aforementioned psychological problems. Nevertheless, despite the positive effects of rehabilitation, it has been replaced by punishment in order to completely avoid crime (Benson 46). Consequently, many mentally ill inmates were taken from hospitals to prisons despite the seriousness of their illnesses. In addition, nowadays, a significant percent of prisoners still suffer from mental illnesses, which punishment is unable to deal with.

Rehabilitation as an opportunity to identify the root of the problem

According to the nature of its application, rehabilitation has more beneficial sides than the process of punishment. The most important fact in regard to rehabilitation is that it allows understanding the root of the problem, which punishment, on the contrary, tends to ignore. Consequently, when fighting against crime, the causes of the problem must be primarily considered. Rehabilitation is a process that helps find the root of the problem and solve it. Moreover, rehabilitation helps prisoners to revive their dignity and provides them with essential skills and knowledge necessary for the future integration into the society. Besides, it foresees the fact that by being educated and appropriately trained, criminals would be able not only to take control over their lives but also be useful to the society. In addition, by contributing to the society, they might feel a need in someone close by. In other words, applying rehabilitation in a right way may turn criminals from being dangerous to society to becoming its assets.

Rehabilitation therapies and programs

In contrast to punishment, applying a right rehabilitation strategy can help identify a true cause of the problem. As a rule, such causes have deep roots and are connected with various psychological problems of the criminals (Benson 46). The main purpose of rehabilitation is to provide prison inmates with a necessary mental health care but not punishment as the most important function. Various services provided by psychologists and psychiatrists help prisoners successfully undergo the therapy and, consequently, identify which factors made them commit certain wrongs (Gilligan). Moreover, such rehabilitative services and programs can be provided not only to mentally ill prisoners but also to others. For example, different types of programs can be elaborated to teach inmates to overcome the feeling of anger and turn it into some positive feeling. However, the number of mental health professionals must be reconsidered so that each prison has a sufficient number of them to be able to provide appropriate rehabilitation. Besides, despite the fact that most of criminal justice systems are oriented on punishment, effective rehabilitation services have to be also provided to solve the problem considering its primary cause.

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Again, speaking about the benefits of the rehabilitation system, it proves that prison inmates should be treated as humans. Moreover, numerous studies show that such treatment actually works. If one treats others appropriately, the other people will behave accordingly. The same law works in regard to the rehabilitation process. For example, Norwegian prisons are the most famous prions worldwide due to their unique and extraordinary system of punishment. Inmates there are given one more chance for recovery. They are provided with appropriate living conditions and needed care. Moreover, it is believed that after leaving the prison, inmates tend to rethink their role in society. Such phenomenon can be explained considering the fact that in Norwegian prisons inmates are treated in a humane way taking into account their right to have their own beliefs, interests, and hobbies. Moreover, psychologists help them realize that being imprisoned is not the end of life but, on the contrary, a chance to start everything from the beginning (Dreisinger). Consequently, the rehabilitation process, which allows them to understand their purpose in life, raises their social awareness.

Communication and coping with negative events and life conditions are also some of the important aspects of the rehabilitation process. Various communication exercises encourage prisoners to face the real life. They are taught not to withdraw from challenges, which other people usually face. Moreover, negative influences caused by these challenges are also considered. For example, when a prisoner returns home, he/she faces old patterns of his/her past life, which can lead to imprisonment again. While punishment only emphasizes some wrong deeds in ones life, rehabilitation is intended to help prisoners learn not only the consequences of wrong doings but also the effects of righteous behavior. Consequently, the inmate is able to identify social and antisocial characteristics so as to become more resistant to harmful influences. In addition, in the course of rehabilitation, prisoners learn various aspects of human life. Such factor induces them to be responsible for their previous misdeeds but not perpetuate them.

Education and vocational training as important advantages of the rehabilitation process

Rehabilitation considers one of the most important aspects of human development, education. Through education, prisoners can be given a chance for a better life. Moreover, the most important purpose of the education is to develop habits and skills, which will ensure ones future well-being. Obviously, when a person is imprisoned, educational and learning processes should continue. Consequently, prisons must focus on the fact that it is essential not to punish the prisoner but to educate him/her in order to help prisoners reintegrate into the society. In addition, considering the rehabilitation education in prisons, it greatly influences the recidivism rate. Nevertheless, the majority of inmates are under-educated compared to the general population. The majority of them are not good at reading, writing or mathematics. Besides, it is believed that people with low intellectual level are prone to committing some wrongs. As a result, education is an important part of rehabilitation, which helps prisoners overcome the boundaries of cultural and intellectual unconsciousness making them aware of those wrongs they have committed. Moreover, after release from prison inmates may use the knowledge gained during rehabilitation for further studies.

Rehabilitation considers one more aspect of education. Thus, it is related to job opportunities. As a rule, after leaving the prison, inmates face various problems. One of such problems, which do not allow them to successfully integrate into society, is various licensure bans and employment denial. Obviously, without the opportunity to make for living, former prisoners can turn to committing crimes such as robbery again. Rehabilitation is aimed to provide inmates with free vocational services and job education for them to be able to acquire some knowledge and practical skills in the chosen occupation. Consequently, those who were participants of such educational programs receive a chance to be post-release employed. Besides, when prisoners are provided with practical work skills and knowledge, they can be transferred to other jobs after prison, which would also greatly decrease the recidivism rate (G?mez et al 43). Such vocational programs usually include construction, various food services, auto mechanics, barbering, custodial maintenance or cosmetology. However, the list is not limited to the aforementioned occupations and can be more extensive considering the opportunities after imprisonment. As a result, rehabilitation gives prisoners a second chance to rethink their behavior and become useful for the society.

Punishment contra argumentation

Punishment as a main way of combating crime

Despite numerous positive effects of rehabilitation, many people tend to believe that punishment is a more appropriate way to deal with the prisoner. Nowadays, punishment is a preferred way of combating crime as it is supposed to be more effective. Strict laws prevent people from committing any wrongs because they know that they will definitely be punished for a certain crime (Prison: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (HBO).). Consequently, punishment reduces the crime rate making people aware of what is wrong to do. For example, Singaporean government uses strict laws and measures in order to control crime rate. Obviously, after the active application of such laws, the crime rate has declined. It is needless to say that strict punishment is effective thus being primarily aimed at preventing crime and punishing prisoners without differentiating the crime causes. Rehabilitation, on the contrary, applies education based on morality.

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Consequences of punishment for prisoners

Another issue that should be considered while comparing the effectiveness of rehabilitation and punishment is the fact that the latter does not give prisoners any second chance as its main aim is to punish. However, rehabilitation identifies the reason for the crime and determines the way inmate should be punished. It is obviously impossible to let prisoners do without any punishment as they have committed a crime and they must be punished for that. Thus, rehabilitation helps to consider the seriousness of the committed crime and assign the punishment accordingly. In other words, it differentiates the case when a criminal committed a crime of his/her own free will and a situation, in which he/she had to succumb or was forced to participate in the criminal activity. Punishment does not leave any alternatives in such cases, while rehabilitation presupposes more human and rational attitude to them. It provides them with the opportunity to be cured psychologically helping them to become better. Consequently, the nature of the crime should be taken into account first so as to determine an appropriate punishment.

Negative effects of the punishment process

Considering the aforementioned factors, punishment is usually less effective than rehabilitation. Moreover, as a rule, punishments such as solitary confinement not only prove unable to combat crime but can also cause serious and harmful effects making criminals more aggressive or desperate. For example, a psychologist Craig Haney claimed that isolating inmates can cause various mental illnesses even in those who did not suffer from them before being imprisoned. Moreover, such prisoners undergo social death being deprived of any communication or contacts with other humans (Zimbardo Stanford Prison Experiment 1 1.). Besides, they have to struggle every day so as not to lose at least the remains of their sanity. In addition to this, being in isolation for a long time, many prisoners try to get rid of any human emotions so as not to feel the inner emptiness so deeply (Goode). Obviously, after release from the prison, such inmates can become more socially harmful and vulnerable. Rehabilitation, on the contrary, helps to avoid such crucial results. Traditionally, it either gives the opportunity for inmates to understand the seriousness of their actions or lets them change their outlook and attitude regarding the committed crime.


Despite numerous contradictions regarding punishment and rehabilitation effects, the latter is considered to be more positive and efficacious. Besides, rehabilitation gives prisoners a chance to get some education, job training, and an opportunity to interact with others. While punishment aims only to punish criminals, rehabilitation considers various reform programs helping inmates make a positive contribution to the community after the release. In any case, the main purpose of the justice system should be primarily based on the reformation and rehabilitation and only after that, focus on punishment.

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