Punishment VS Rehabilitation In The Criminal Justice System

Punishment VS Rehabilitation In The Criminal Justice System Pros & Cons

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Punishment VS Rehabilitation In The Criminal Justice System Pros & Cons

It is not a good time to be in prison in the United States. The purpose of prison is to make the offender realize that they have done something wrong due to which they are being punished. But what is the result of this? The main goal behind punishment is to curb crime by punishing the offenders so that they refrain from doing the crime in the future, but has this goal been achieved? Let’s see.

The psychologists are of the opinion that the current situation of the prisons has increased the number of offenders coming to the prisoners because of nature and practices that are being adopted in the jails.

In the late ’70s, the prisons’ prime focus was on the rehabilitation of the offenders, and it was part of the US prison policy. The offenders were allowed to learn some skills and work on their mental health through proper consultation with the psychologists so that they can be reintegrated into society.

Since then, rehabilitation has taken a back seat, and the “get tough on crimes” has been adopted, which means that the offenders will be punished rather than rehabilitated. The statistics show that this policy of getting tough on crimes has been counterproductive. The number of offenders in prisons has increased, and the crime rate is also growing constantly.

So, this brings us to the point of how is punishment different from rehabilitation? And what are the pros and cons of both these practices? If you have similar questions in your mind, stick to the article because we have exciting material for you to read.

Rehabilitation Versus Incarceration

Rehabilitation is a process in which an offender is given a chance to realize his/her offense and learn how he/she can change the mindset to prevent crime in the future. In other words, rehabilitation is the criminal mind’s soft processing to reintegrate it back to society.

On the other hand, Punishment (Incarceration) puts the offender behind the bars of the cell so that he can think of his offense. The process is a harsh way of making criminals realize their mistakes, but punishments can often become counterproductive.

This table will give a balanced comparison of Rehabilitation vs. Punishment.

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This Table will give a balance comparison of Punishment Or Rehabilitation

Through rehabilitation, the re-entry of the offender into the society is easierPunishments do not offer any help to the offenders and they are on their own in the cell of a prison
Mostly, rehabilitation is not being used on the adult offenders rather its being given to the Juvenile offendersPunishments are mostly used for adult offenders 1
Rehabilitation has different programs such as drug addict rehab program, violent behavior rehab program and so on.Punishments are not usually followed by a set program. The offenders are on their own to work on their problem and the ability to reintegrate into the society strictly depends upon the individuals efforts
The rehabilitation programs are less costly and more effectiveThe punishments are more costly. The amount of money spent on one prisoner per year can be up to $70,000.


This brings us to the point that rehabilitation is a much better option than punishment because it would help an offender become a peaceful citizen and live a normal life. Secondly, as a society, it is everyone’s responsibility to fix a broken person. One might think that until and unless it is not harmful to me, I shall stay away from it, but that’s not the case.

One day or another, the criminal mindset in the society will become harmful for you; therefore, it is the responsibility of every citizen to support rehabilitation programs so that they society can have more peace and fewer crimes.

Through the rehabilitation programs, it can be ensured that the majority of the segment of society is law abiding rather than few people abiding by the law.

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Punishment VS Rehabilitation In The Criminal Justice System Pros & Cons

We have discussed the benefits of rehabilitation for society and individuals. We must examine punishment vs. rehabilitation pros and cons so that you are in a better position to understand both the practices that are followed in the prisons.

Severity And Context Of Punishment

The ideas of punishment and rehabilitation are somewhat similar if we see both these terminologies in the context of Child punishment. We often punish the kids in our homes for off-limits behavior, but our goal is not just to punish them but also to realize that such behavior will result in punishment.

Similar is the case with the prisons; the end goal is to reduce the crime rate through punishments and rehabilitation.

Researches published by WJ and Henry S. Einstadter, in “Criminological Theories: An Analysis of its Underlying Assumption,” debates that punishments are the right way of curbing the crime. Still, they must be followed by some reinforcement so that the results are being achieved. So what does this comply with? In simple words, this means that Punishments must be accompanied by some rehabilitation process so that offenders are reintegrated into society.

Secondly, the research argues that punishments must be moderate because harsh punishments can lead to aggression, evasion, and alienation. For example, if a criminal is being given severe punishment for the first time he committed the crime, fear of prison will fade away from his mind, and he will start committing a crime more often.

So, the takeaway from these arguments is that there are pros of moderate punishment followed by some reinforcement; on the other hand, there are cons for harsh punishments.

Words And Reality

According to the official prison policy, the prisons are made for rehabilitating the offenders, but in reality, the harsh prison conditions generate more aggressive behavior. The prisons are overcrowded and poorly managed due to which aggression is taking birth in the minds of offenders.

Secondly, the jail staff’s rude behavior and guards with the prisoners and poor management and disrespectful behavior of the team is associated with retributive punishment rather than coercive punishment. 

The idea that punishments are retributive rather than coercive gives birth to the concept of punishment vs. rehabilitation. Whereas in coercive punishments, the offenders are being rehabilitated through the education, skills, and improvement in mental health through proper consultations with the psychologist.

So, the behavior of the jail staff, bureaucracy, and guards with the offenders is becoming the real cons for the term punishment. On the other hand, if coercive punishments are adopted, many offenders can be reintegrated into society as peaceful citizens.

Making The Example

It is a widespread perception that crime can be reduced by setting an example. The idea behind this perception is that once you give punishment to the offender, it would set an example for himself and other people; hence they will refrain from violating the law.

The researches do not have to provide an argument in favor of this perception. Instead, they argued that if a youngster who has committed a crime will be exposed to other professional criminals in the prisons, there are high chances that he will become one of them

So, the perception of making an example is wrong, and young criminals should be put in rehabilitation facilities where they are exposed to professional psychologists. The latter can work on their mental health.

Worsening The Problem

The retributive punishments are producing more criminals; therefore, the crime rate in society will increase. For example, when an offender is released after completing the punishment, he/she will not return as an average law-abiding citizen; instead, he/she will have a more criminal mindset.

Due to retributive punishments, prisons act as nurseries of criminals and crimes; therefore, the policy of punishments needs to be changed to have more law abiding citizens.

Juvenile Rehabilitation Vs Punishment 

The USA was the first country in the world to introduce the system of rehabilitation and punishments for the Juveniles. The only goal was to rehabilitate the children with a criminal mindset. Approximately 300,000 children are serving in the Juvenile court, but the question is, do we need prisons for Juvenile?

Since we all know that children are the best learners, they can adapt and learn anything we want them, so what is the purpose of punishing them?

There has been a long debate over this subject, and both sides have their arguments. The people who are in favor of punishments come up the logic that since they have violated the law willingly and knowingly, they must be given their due punishments

 While the other side argues that more emphasis shall be made on rehabilitating the infants rather than punishing them. Since they are young and not habitual, it will be easier to work on them.

Whatever the case is, the United States is the turning point in terms of Juvenile rehabilitation vs. punishment. In the upcoming years, the United States supreme courts’ decision and other courts will decide whether the country continues to practice retributive punishments for the juveniles or comes back to ideal rehabilitation practices.

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What Is The Purpose Of Rehabilitation For Prisoners

Rehabilitation is a process through which the prisoners are reintegrated into society to become law-abiding citizens. Through rehabilitation, it is ensured that the number of offenders in society is being reduced.

There are two primary purposes of rehabilitation. The first one is that the people who are addicted to a crime can be normalized so that they can have a normal life, and the second purpose is that the crime rate of the society can be reduced.

The process of rehabilitation revolves around these essential elements.

· Educational Courses in prisons

· Teaching Job Skills to the offenders so they can have a respectable source of income

· Counselling through psychologists and social workers.

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