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While all sorts of crime are unforgiveable especially for the victims and their families, not all cases are treated the same way and the severity of punishment depends on the circumstances of the crime committed. Sometimes, it also depends on the condition of the perpetrator including their mental health or psychological condition. Meaning, not all people who commit crimes are perfectly sane and not all crimes are planned or manipulated. They are sometimes caused by impulsiveness and are committed by mentally disturbed people. Hence, as an alternative to punishment, these people undergo rehabilitation in hopes of getting treated and changing themselves. Though others express their sympathy to mentally-ill perpetrators, some also question the effectiveness of rehabilitation and seek justice through punishment.
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In this paper, both rehabilitation and punishment will be tackled in a profound, comprehensive way. The process of rehabilitation will be clearly discussed as well as the conditions where a criminal may undergo this process instead of spending time in jail. Both the advantages and disadvantages of rehabilitation and punishment will be taken into consideration. Most importantly, the researcher will state his preference and opinion on this matter and explicate why one is better or more justifiable than the other.
There has been a long debate on which the better option is among rehabilitation and punishment. Basically, people who often undergo rehabilitation are drug addicts, sex offenders and people with mental illness. Some believe that rehabilitation is the key to treat these people and prevent them from committing the same crimes when they get out of prison. On the other hand, there are people who doubt the rehabilitation’s effectiveness and prefer to punish such perpetrators regardless of their condition. For them, punishment is the only way to teach criminals their lesson and even after the rehabilitation, there is still a high probability that these people will repeat their crimes. Society’s grudge against criminals grows as the number of crimes in different parts of the world increases. Nonetheless, different nations have different perspectives on crime and justice and they have different ways of treating prisons. In the United States, though, prisoners are punished more that they are rehabilitated. The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world as most Americans believe that criminals will always be criminals.
The concepts involved in crime punishment are massive and punishment has different purposes. For one, crime punishment is applied for retribution which is satisfying the instinct of vengeance. Retributive justice is imposed from the impression that the perpetrator deserves the punishment. Another purpose of crime punishment is deterrence which is preventing the criminal from repeating his offense and also to make him a good example to people with tendencies of committing crime. Likewise, prevention aims to stop the criminal from doing the same crime but this time, they have to disable him from doing so. Lastly, reformative aims to improve or change the criminal by providing him with training and education that he can use after his release. These efforts intend to help criminals become better persons and prepare them to face the outside world without breaking the law.
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Rehabilitation is part of reformative justice where the prisons are given the chance to change and improve their lives once they get out of prison. They are also taught and trained to do some tasks that they can use outside. Because they will be ex-convicts at that time, they are not likely to get a job in companies and various industries so they are taught to make crafts inside the prison and other useful things so they can still earn money once released.
Substance Abuse Rehabilitation. There are many types of treatment in criminal justice and rehabilitation can be applied based on different circumstances. The common type of criminal rehabilitation is substance abuse rehabilitation. The offenders who can undergo this type of rehabilitation are those who committed drug-related crimes or committed crimes as a result of drug addiction. In this type of rehabilitation, prisons will undergo different therapies such as private counselling with a psychologist and group therapy with others who suffer from substance addiction. The treatment can start in prison and be continued in a transitional facility which is also called work release centre. This place is a therapeutic community where prisoners are encouraged to change their negative behaviours and patterns of thinking and also help others achieve this goal.
Another type of rehabilitation treatment for prisoners is mental care treatment. Significantly, not all offenders with mental illness suffer from drug addiction; some of them have serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and affective disorder. Criminals with serious mental problems can be dangerous so they cannot be mixed with regular prisoners. Also, they need to get treated so they will have the chance to improve their behaviour and stop thinking about committing crimes again. Psychiatric units are necessary for inmates with mental health illnesses so their mental condition and emotional problems can be evaluated by mental health care professionals.
Though this type of rehabilitation is not applied in many prisons; it is still an option for inmates with sex offenses. Sex offender treatment is a serious process and it is done to stop a person’s abusive sexual behaviour. During the treatment, sex offenders learn that they are accountable for the crime they have done and they should take responsibility. Therapists analyse the sexual behaviours of the inmates and also provide counselling to help them improve their behaviour and pattern of thinking.
Adults are not the only ones capable of committing crimes. Unfortunately, children can now be criminals and there are some children who are susceptible to this for various reasons. Because they are too young to understand the severity of their crime and perhaps, their consequences; minors who commit crime cannot go to adult prison. Nonetheless, they are still eligible to receive rehabilitation. Minor prisoners undergo a program where they receive psychotherapy and education. They are handled with strict discipline to learn about it and help them apply it in the future.
Regular prisons, on the one hand, are provided with educational counselling where they are given basic education they need to get a job. Because not all prisons are well-educated, some of them have to attain at least vocational education or a G.E.D. certificate. Inmates also receive spiritual counselling from priests or pastors; helping them repent for their sins particularly the crimes they committed. Educational and spiritual counselling both help inmates become better members of society in the future.
Apart from educational counselling, the government also provides inmates with life skills training particularly basic tasks that they can use to acquire a job including writing resume, making budgets and paying bills. Often, the prisons are classified depending on their individual needs and they get the education and training required to satisfy their individual needs and achieve self-improvement.
The increase in crime rate in the United States makes the country become even more punitive. Being a democratic country, people are free to do what they want and some of them think that they can easily get away with their crimes. Because of this, the American government have been really strict when it comes to punishing law offenders. In 1990s, legislatures throughout the country allowed the prosecution of youths and prison sentence. Even today, many states still apply this law for child offenders who are 13 or 14 years of age. Whether the crimes are violent or not, they still follow this rule to punish the child offenders and also to prevent other children from doing crimes at an early age (Neke, 2011). On the other hand, adult criminals are treated more harshly especially those who committed serious crimes such as rape and murder.
A lot of people in the United States apparently agree to the application of retributive justice considering the number of crimes being committed each year. Regardless of the age, health and medical condition of the perpetrators, some people find it difficult to sympathize with these people. For them, crimes are crimes and criminals are criminals. Hence, the only way to achieve justice is to punish these criminals. It is easy to believe that criminals are not worthy of the cost and effort of rehabilitation because they broke the law and hurt or deceive weak and innocent people. Essentially, the main benefit of criminal punishment is ensuring people safety as these criminals will no longer be out to commit more crimes. It is also beneficial to the families of the victims as the incarceration of the offenders will give them peace, thinking they attained justice for the victims.
Serious crime offenders can be sent to correctional facilities as a punitive response but it can be more expensive than sending to rehabilitation facilities with community settings. Significantly, rehabilitation is less expensive than juvenile crime punishment. The opinion of the public about rehabilitation and punishment may vary but such opinion may alter if the people will be informed about the cost and effectiveness of both policies. In line with this, Piquero & Steinberg (2007) conducted a study about the public’s willingness to pay for specific policies. They asked people if they were willing to pay additional taxes for rehabilitation of prisons and found out that more people favour rehabilitation over punishment in spite of the increase in tax. They were willing to pay more for prisons’ rehabilitation without additional incarceration.
While some people want additional incarceration for offenders of serious crimes and believe that rehabilitation will only lead to more crimes and even worse ones in the future, a lot of ex-convicts also proved that rehabilitation is beneficial as it helped them turn their lives around after their release. One of the rehabilitation programs that became successful was the life skills program conducted in 2013 at Iowa Correctional Institution for Women. One of the ex-inmates, Heaven Griffin, said that the program changed her outlook in life. She learned a lot of skills from her class such as applying for jobs and even computer skills. More inmates from the facility also said that learning life skills in the facility has changed them and they were positive that they would live a better life when they get released. The life skills that they learned from the program helped them develop their self-esteem and eventually changed their behaviour and outlook in life (Mehaffey, 2013).
Another successful and inspiring story of rehabilitation is the story of Yusef Wiley, an ex-inmate who formed a non-profit organization to provide prisons with rehabilitation services. Because he was also a prison before, he knew the situation of the inmates and the different behavioural problems they had. Though the budget for rehabilitation in California increased at this time, Wiley thought that rehabilitation programs provided by the government still lacked courses needed for a meaningful change. This was why he established his own organization called Timelist. In his four-week rehabilitation program, prisons were asked to write their families a letter stating their behaviour when they committed their crime. This program focuses not only on life skills but also on gang recovery, anger management and drug and alcohol treatment. They used cognitive therapy to help inmates improve their behaviour and pattern of thinking (Hellmann, 2016). Luckily, all of the inmates enrolled in this program did not return to prison after their release.
In a nutshell, people’s opinion on the effectiveness of punishment and rehabilitation vary. Some believe that prisons deserve long time incarceration while others argue that prisons are also worthy of rehabilitation. Though all crimes are unforgiveable, criminals have different situations and conditions that may affect their incarceration or their sentence. Apparently, criminal who are mentally incompetent need rehabilitation as well as those who are suffering from drug abuse. No matter how serious their crimes are and no matter how much people want to punish them, the fact that they are not perfectly sane cannot be changed. As for the children who commit serious crimes, they also deserve rehabilitation to teach them discipline and instil to their young minds that their actions were unlawful and that they have serious consequences.
Nonetheless, not only children and people with mental illnesses deserve rehabilitation. All healthy adults who are in prisons should be given the chance to change and repent for their crimes. Not only will rehabilitation help them become better persons when they go out of prison but it will also ensure safety inside the prison considering the changes in prisons’ behaviour. If their behaviour and pattern of thinking improve, they will be able to control their emotions such as anger, depression and disappointment. This will also prevent them from creating trouble inside the prison and hurting others.
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