Last Updated 25 Mar 2020

Punishment Versus Rehabilitation

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Punishment vs. Rehabilitation Brenda A. Dove AJS/502 Version I September 10, 2012 John V. Baiamonte, Jr. Ph. D. Punishment vs. Rehabilitation Punishment versus Rehabilitation, there has been many debates on the effectiveness of punishment compared to the effectiveness of rehabilitation of convicted offenders in prison and under community supervision. If an individual commits a crime serious enough to warrant incarceration, then the individual is sent to prison as a form of punishment.

While incarcerated the individual may have the opportunity to receive rehabilitation. Does it mean that the individual will be rehabilitated? One can only imagine. This is a debatable issue. Is punishment or rehabilitation more effective in combating crime? These findings will be discussed in this paper in more depth. According to DeLuca, Miller, and Wiedemann (1991), “Some prison facilities use punishment as the main approach, such as Texas. Massachusetts and Connecticut stress rehabilitation, and some facilities use punishment and rehabilitation, such as Michigan.

There is currently no prison facility that focuses on incarceration as a short period of punishment followed by a long period of community-based rehabilitation and strict supervision” (para. 6). Rehabilitation wants to educate individuals about the wrong choices that they have made and help encourage these individuals to make better choices in the future. Rehabilitation recognizes that offenders may be victims of social economic conditions, and wants to help offenders learn from their mistakes, with the intention of not committing crimes when they get released.

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According to Logan, and Gaes (1993), “Meta-analysis is the study of other studies, and in this case, the studies test the effectiveness of various programs of correctional treatment. Advocates of rehabilitation believe that meta-analysis can be used to supply deposits of prior research, to reveal hidden veins of effective treatment not necessarily revealed by individual studies” (para. 2). According to Logan, and Gaes (1993), “Each study is coded on a number of variables such as characteristics of the research design, characteristics of the subjects studied, and haracteristics of the treatment applied. In theory, by combining and reanalyzing studies, meta-analysis may be able to separate treatment effects from differences due to uncontrolled characteristics of the subjects, or other deficiencies of research design, even if those sources of error were not controlled adequately by any of the primary studies taken separately” (para. 3). According to Logan, and Gaes (1993), “It may not be worthwhile to debate whether meta-analysis or other research has identified "what works" by way of prisoner rehabilitation.

Engaging in such debate presupposes that effectiveness, or utility, is the crucial issue in discussing the value of rehabilitation in the criminal justice system generally and inside prisons in particular. Underlying the zeal with which meta-analysts claim to have proved scientifically that "something works after all" is the implicit argument that because rehabilitation can be made more scientific it is therefore both a viable and a desirable alternative to punishment” (para. 4).

According to Logan, and Gaes (1993), “The meta-analysts believe that we turned away from treatment and toward punishment because Martinson and others convinced everyone that nothing works; therefore, convincing people of the opposite should help to turn them back in the "proper" policy direction” (para. 5). According to Rhine, Smith, and Jackson (1991), [In 1974, Robert Martinson published “What Works–Questions and Answers about Prison Reform,” an article describing research on the effectiveness of correctional treatment.

Martinson made several key points about a massive review of research on correctional treatment. His first point was that the research showed that there was not much good news about rehabilitative programs. Some programs worked, but they were few and far between (para. 1). The second point, which was largely ignored, was that the quality of the program implementation and research was so poor that it was hard to draw many strong conclusions. The nuances of his findings were lost, and the research was presented as showing that correctional treatment programs did not work at rehabilitating criminal offenders.

The infamous sound bite that emerged from this was that “Nothing Works” when it comes to rehabilitation (para. 3). In fact, the actual results said no one approach works with everybody. Despite the fact that the sound bite was an exaggeration, the message carried great influence in legislative and public policy debates and actions. The Nothing Works message swept the political and public policy arenas and correctional programs and practice. Rehabilitation programs and services were greatly reduced from the correctional landscape (para. ). This belief indicated that if offenders could not be rehabilitated then they should be punished and it was time to get tough on crime. Within a relatively short time parole was attacked and the individual approach of indeterminate sentencing, or release by the authority of a parole board was abolished in 16 states (Rhine, Smith, and Jackson, 1991) and some form of determinate sentencing was adopted in all 50 states (Mackenzie, 2000)]. According to Department of Corrections, (n. d. ), [However, not all hope was lost.

A small number of vocal critics of the ‘nothing works’ doctrine actively challenged the assumptions and empirical evidence presented by Martinson and colleagues. Foremost in this debate were a number of North American researchers, including Ted Palmer, Paul Gendreau, Don Andrews and Robert Ross. At the same time as Martinson was announcing that very few things had any effect on recidivism, Palmer (1975) was reanalyzing the same data and finding that more things worked than the original analysis showed (this position was also supported by Thornton’s (1987) reanalysis of a selection of studies used by Lipton and co-workers in 1975).

Similarly, Gendreau and Ross (1979) and Ross and Gendreau (1980) were reporting on research that documented positive outcomes, directly countering the argument that nothing worked. Perhaps the most damaging blow to the ‘nothing works’ position was delivered by Robert Martinson himself. In 1979 he wrote a paper which acknowledged errors in the earlier reviews and reported on a number of new studies which demonstrated that some things did work. On the basis of substantial contradictory evidence, Martinson recanted the ‘nothing works’ statements made in his 1974 article] (para. ). Incarceration is for those offenders that have broken the law and as a result they have received imprisonment. It punishes offenders for what they have done wrong and acknowledges the victim by giving them justice for the wrong that has been committed against them by the offender. Incarceration allows the offender to be confined and take some form of initiative to seek help and learn how to change their behavior. If an offender wants to change their life around, they can seek the necessary resources to make those changes. Offenders have to want to change their lives around.

If offenders do it simply because they are made to do so then, they will eventually be back in prison. It is about changing the mindset and making a decision to turn away from wrongdoing and make the right decision to make positive choices. Punishment is more effective in combating crime. It helps offenders to understand what they have done wrong and accept accountability and responsibility for their behavior. Punishment is a constructive endeavor, not a destructive endeavor. Punishment is a positive good rather than a negative evil. It requires the right people with the right attitudes.

If prison officials are hostile, cruel, and inappropriate towards inmates, it defeats the purpose. Prison officials need to be professional and firm but respectful towards inmates. If inmates are not treated fairly in prison, they will find it hard to understand that it is fair for them to be incarcerated in the first place. In order for inmates to accept their punishment they must understand that it is just, not malicious. The duties and responsibilities of prisons are to manage and handle their facilities to the best of their ability.

In closing, it is not the responsibility of prisons to reform, rehabilitate, or reintegrate offenders into society. Each inmate needs to be responsible for their own wellbeing, social correction, and their future conduct. While it may not be an easy task for any inmate, they have to make the decision to change their life around. It has to be there decision; no one can do it for them. They must have the right mindset and be willing to make changes for the better. References Bureau of Justice Assistance. (n. d. ). “Nothing Works”, Retrieved on September 10, 2012, from, https://www. bja. gov/Publications/APPA_PSN. df Department of Corrections. (n. d. ). Historical Background: The “What Works? ” Debate, Retrieved on September 10, 2012, from, http://www. corrections. govt. nz/research/the-effectiveness-of-correctional-treatment/historical-background. html Federal Bureau of Prisons. (1993). Meta-Analysis Rehabilitation of Punishment, Retrieved on September 10, 2012, from, http://www. bop. gov/news/research_projects/published_reports/cond_envir/oreprlogangaes. pdf National Criminal Justice Reference Service. (1991). Punishment vs. Rehabilitation: A proposal for revising sentencing practices, Retrieved on September 10, 2012, from,

Punishment Versus Rehabilitation essay

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