The Problem Area
Pros and Cons of Rehabilitation
A criminal justice system has three major elements, viz. the police force, the courts of law, and the correction department (De Bois, 2011). The system is sequential and it starts from the arrest of an offender, pressing charges, standing trial, sentencing, and the eventual punishment. The sentencing and imprisonment stages elicit debates particularly with regard to retributive justice and rehabilitation as approaches to penal justice. The rehabilitation approach aims at changing the behavior of an offender including his or her personality to make them less inclined to criminal activities (De Bois, 2011). It modifies the criminal behavior of offenders and transforms them into law-abiding citizens. Rehabilitation differs from deterrence and incapacitation for deterrence only deters offenders from committing a crime, but it does not eliminate criminal desire, while in incapacitation, the offenders physical ability to commit a crime is tamed often through incarceration.
The three approaches in turn differ from retribution, as the aim of retribution is not to prevent re-offending but rather it primarily considers the seriousness of the offense (Gray, 2010). Therefore, the retributive idea is not about deterring reoffending in society, retaliation, or vengeance, rather it aims to form a basis of a fair sentencing system. The debate about retributive justice and rehabilitation revolve around two issues; first, which of the two approaches ensures satisfactory punishment, and in practice, which approach can be used in the penal justice system? Based on the pros and cons of both approaches, rehabilitation should be used as a guide in the criminal justice system in the U.S.
The Problem Area
It is worth noting that much of the debate over this topic revolves around the frameworks of these two approaches. The differences in frameworks result in inconsistent valuing of retribution over rehabilitation and vice versa by various agents. According to Markel and Chad (2010), debaters should , meta-ethics, and epistemology to for such a perception would result in an informed approach when dealing with this issue.
Another problem relates to legislation as the mandate to legislate rests with the government. This aspect often results in valuing one of the approaches over the other without examining the framework. However, from a , citizens relinquish their rights to a central authority, which has the sole obligation to protect them through either retribution or rehabilitation (Markel & Chad, 2010). Therefore, the government can implement statutes to uphold either retribution or rehabilitation without consideration of their pros and cons.
Pros and Cons of Rehabilitation
Proponents of rehabilitation advance many affirmative arguments for the process. First, they contend that rehabilitation is a satisfactory penal approach to the offender. The aim of the criminal justice system is to convert an offender into a law-abiding citizen, and thus rehabilitation is the best approach in various ways. Firstly, it modifies the behavior of the offender by transforming him or her into a productive member of the community (Markel & Chad, 2010). Others hold that rehabilitation, unlike retribution, allows offenders to work towards integration into society. By contrast, retribution only hardens offenders through imprisonment. In addition, others contend that retribution is an unfair system and does little to deter crime.
Another advantage of rehabilitation over retribution relates to its benefits to the community. The rehabilitation approach treats offenders as members of the community. A study by Raynor and Gwen (2009) showed that retributive justice is less effective in preventing recidivism among offenders compared to restorative justice. One such rehabilitation program is the Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST), which has been quite successful in rehabilitating criminals and preventing reoffending. Therefore, rehabilitation adds more benefits to the community than retribution. Additionally, rehabilitation from an ethical standpoint conforms to just mechanisms of eliminating social ills compared to punishment.
Similarly, there have been negative arguments regarding rehabilitation. The opponents of rehabilitation favor retribution as the best approach for reducing crime and offending. One such argument is that retribution conveys the right messages to the offenders (Markel & Chad, 2010). In other words, by simply putting offenders under rehabilitation programs, they may not be remorseful of their acts. Moreover, a rehabilitative approach may send a wrong message to people who may believe that there is no punishment for offenses. This aspect may in turn lead to and crime, as offenders will not face consequences for their wrongdoing. Additionally, from a moral perspective, by not punishing offenders, unethical actions may become morally justifiable with time.