Rehabilitation Vs. Incarceration

Introduction (analysis is pro rehabilitation)

The debate regarding how to treat prisoners has been in existence since the establishment of the imprisonment concept. From the perspective of various schools of thought, law offenders and criminals ought to fester in cold cells as the primary measure for correction their behavior, that is, they should be incarcerated (Muffitt, 2013). However, some critics support the viewpoint that an ideal way of correction offenders is through rehabilitation, that is, using psychological rather than physical techniques to foster the necessary behavioral change that acts as the corrective measure required to ensure that offenders are fit to get back to the community. Regarding the justification behind the purpose of punishing law offenders, upholding the offender’s regard, as well as the determination for sentencing, rehabilitation stands out as the best correctional approach for law-breakers compared to incarceration.

Why Rehabilitation is Ideal

Regarding the aspect of giving a rational justification for punishments, rehabilitation features a sound ideological perspective. The reason for the above is that, unlike in incarceration, rehabilitation has a more humane foundation that promotes the belief that is possible to save and reclaim the mentality of the law offenders – rather than just punishing them. In light of the above, the rehabilitative concept challenges the state and the relevant authorities towards taking up the obligation to not only seek to apply punitive measures to law breakers but rather strive to establish a platform where their way of life is guaranteed substantial change once they are released back to the society (Benson, 2003). Unlike in incarceration, rehabilitation does not ignore the underlying connection between the victim and the community. Notably, it placed much concern on the above aspects through finding its basis upon trying to change the way of life of the offender in the pursuit of preventing or reducing his or her probability to offend again. The reduction of the predisposition to reoffending acts as a facilitator of the right of the society which in turn is the best way to protect individuals from crime-related victimization.

Another important aspect of criminal correction features the basis upon which sentencing is determined. Once again, rehabilitation stands out as the best measure for the above issue compared to incarceration. There is a relatively straightforward rationale upon which the above conclusion finds its basis. Ideally, judges and other stakeholders in the criminal justice system that play an integral role in the determination of sentencing of law offenders base their decisions on decisions raised upon the making of various considerations. Notably, the best way to feature sensible and flexible direction is by having the correctional goal as rehabilitation (Casper & Clark, 2004). When judges and other partakers in the sentencing decision process have rehabilitation as their primary guide, offenders who have apparently learned from their behaviors have the possibility to receive lighter sentences. More so, offenders who do not show any indication to reformation can receive various degrees of tougher penalties in the pursuit of sparking a genuine motivation to reformation. Incarceration, on the other hand, exhibits the “an eye for an eye” principle which not only stands out as utterly barbaric but also as a facilitator on vengeance in the society (Jung, 2015).

There is the necessity to apply the most workable correctional measure which raises the question of whether rehabilitation works (Samuels, 2011). Well, it is no doubt that finding a system that completely ‘cures’ law offenders is impossible. However, it is imperative to reckon that a system is still worthwhile even if it helps to reclaim a ratio of the criminals. In as much as rehabilitation and incarceration compare regarding the programs for producing better society products after their terms are over, rehabilitation produces way more reformed individuals. More so, rehabilitation helps in understanding the individuals who are ready to re-join the society and start indulging in productive activities as soon as they are free. In so doing, rehabilitation provides the best platform upon which to support the law offenders as soon as their terms in rehabilitation facilities are over. Ideally, rehabilitation features a great deal of psychological monitoring and follow through. In light of the above, both the law enforcers as well as the society has a better perspective with which to interact with the law offenders after their release. In incarceration, there are no such measures. Both the law enforcers as well as the society have no guarantee of surety of what to expect from the law offenders as after they finish their imprisonment terms and re-join the society (Casper & Clark, 2004).

What is the Criticism?

Although the criticism of the above arguments that favor rehabilitation in place of incarceration do not add up to such material proportions, it is worth noting that they have a significant point of view. For instance, in a counter argument to rehabilitation standing out as the best correction measure for law offenders compared to incarceration, the opponents of the above proposal argue the rehabilitation technically belittles the essence of censure and justice as stipulated under the provisions of law and criminal justice (Duff’s, 2005). Ideally, incarceration is a way to instill justice because the nature of criminal justice is providing a response to cases where individuals have violated some of the rules that govern the safety and the security of particular societies – especially when the offenders are members and are aware of the existence of such rules.

Others oppose the application of rehabilitation as the only correction measure for law-breakers citing the argument that unlike rehabilitation indirectly insinuates, crime is no way pathological – it does not result from coincidence or circumstances. Crime results from various choices made by the law-offenders. In light of the above, it is important for the law enforcers to ensure that they uphold the rule of law by making sure that those who violate the set rules upon which the society’s safety and security are founded are punished according to the stipulated provisions of the criminal law (Duff’s, 2005). The primary basis of the above argument is that rehabilitation tends to support the idea that criminals are a product of adverse actions, which undermines the idea of free will and the inherent ability of human beings to make autonomous choices.


In short, rehabilitation stands out far more practical than incarceration regarding the achievement of the most positive results regarding the application of various correction measures for law-offenders. Notably, rehabilitation not only not only helps in making sentence decisions but also in the process of carrying out the actual punishment for law offenders. Criminal justice is not limited to the pronunciation of sentences for criminals – it also has the responsibility of following up with what happens with the law-breakers during their time in confinement. From the fundamental structures of both rehabilitation and incarceration, it is evident that rehabilitation provides way much possibility of positive change for the offenders than incarceration does – which is an ideal objective of the criminal justice system.



Benson, E. (2003). Rehabilitate or Punish? American Psychological Association. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from

Casper, E. & Clark, D. (2004). Service Utilization, Incidents, and Hospitalizations among People with Mental Illnesses and Incarceration Histories in a Supportive Housing Program. Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal28(2), 181-184.

Duff’s, A. (2005). Punishment and Rehabilitation – or punishment as rehabilitation. Criminal Justice Matters60(1), 18-19.

Jung, H. (2015). The Long-Term Impact of Incarceration During the Teens and 20s on the Wages and Employment of Men. Journal of Offender Rehabilitation54(5), 317-337.

Muffitt, E. (2013). The old debate: punish prisoners, or rehabilitate them? The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from

Samuels, H. (2011). Prison vs. Rehab: What Really WorksThe Huffington Post. Retrieved 22 November 2016, from

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