Rehabilitation Vs Punishment: Why We Are Doing It Wrong

Rehabilitation creates citizens, punishment creates criminals.

First let’s look at the theory behind these systems.

In any criminal system there is a simple choice: reformative or punitive. In so far as we are dealing with criminals it is already implicit that we intend to enact force as the majority upon a norm breaking minority. Retain the status quo by forcing a criminal to reform or suffer. If given this choice, most clear minded ‘normal’ individuals would only see reform as the answer. But moving on.

In a reform system the goal is to take a criminal and help them move past the issue at hand. If someone is breaking the law it is often for a reason. This reason is what the reformative system is aimed at finding and rather prescriptively ‘curing’. I always think of Clockwork Orange here… but the fact remains. The majority punishes the criminal by means of force used to bring the criminal back into the social norm of the majority.

In a punitive system the goal is to take something from the criminal for which they will see that breaking the law is simply not worth it. Let me stress the juvenile nature of this… the punishment is simply put ‘if you do this, then I’ll do worse, and I’m bigger!’ It is so grade school playground, it is not funny. (I should have remained neutral, for that I’m sorry). In this system the person who was once a criminal comes out from their punishment as they started minus what was punished. This often means time lost and always money lost.

Now let’s add some more hypothetical situations (hopefully avoiding fallacies… but who cares I’m appealing to your emotions any how)

Case A is a thief that we shall call T. This man is charged with armed robbery. His story is that he had no other way to get the medication for his wife, and chose to try and save her even if it meant he would loose his freedom in doing so.

in Case Ap we will punish T. T is caught in the act, taken to jail and booked. 5-10 hours later he is available to be bonded and released. As his family already had no money, and his wife was bed ridden T has no one to bail him out. After seeing his judge on his far later court date T is released on a signature bond, and heads home after what must have felt like years of worrying that not only did he not get the medication, but that more bills are sure to be on the way. T now has the added stress of his court dates, and the continuing problem of his wife’s medication for which he arrived in the situation. Assume that T’s wife lives to see him incarcerated for armed robbery. He spends more time separated from his wife suffering through the time. Nothing is gained, only suffering is added into the equation. Sure society is rid of this criminal, but don’t forget that this case is aimed at being just another joe in a tight spot… driven by the best of virtues… love for another

so in Case Ar we will reform T. T is to be punished for a robbery and that it was done armed. We find that he was after money, more specifically money to buy medication, and specific to this instance he was after the actual medication. T used his own firearm, a point of desperation not premeditation. T is a busy man working 60 hours a week to make ends meet, and the new medication his wife needs to live, not suffer, until her death is the strain that broke T. To force T back into society we can either provide for his wife’s medication, while not interrupting his work (causing the loss of his job would only spiral him further into depravity). Or force him to realize that society as a whole is worth more then his wife and home life. I prefer to avoid the ‘brainwash’ ideas of forcing one to see other than they do…

So it may seem that to say reform is to reward… but it really is.

Take for instance Case B where we have a seriously mentally ill person, Mi.

In Case Bp we find Mi among general population in a privately run prison. Mi suffers from any number of psychological problems for which coping is extremely difficult at best. But, inside of a prison under the supervision of guards who deal with violent criminals… they find no help. Yes Mi is a multiple murder, or a simply violent to extreme measures, but Mi unlike 98% of the population is not of sound mind. He is plagued by a physical or chemical defect for which his violent out bursts arise. This is no fault of Mi’s and yet Mi is kept in prison to deal with it.

In Case Br we find Mi among similarly violent mentally ill criminals. Under the care of trained psychologists who both understand that Mi is extremely dangerous and that he is the victim as much as the criminal. In this controlled environment Mi is allowed to have time with other patients, has therapy seasons, and is controlled in taking his medication. (medication especially of the psychological order have strict instructions because they must be taken in that manner or risk being utterly useless as they are bellow the effective ranges.) Within months Mi is rehabilitated and for all intense and purposes is a completely different man. But, he has never been this man before. To release him is to doom him, he must be kept controlled to a point. Allowed to come and go in similar institutions for months years or indefinitely. This is because Mi has never joined society as ‘Tom’… he never had the ability to experience things and could easily miss his medication and fall back into Mi… support structures are needed to help transition.


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