Rehabilitationin the criminal justice context is broadly defined as anything thatprepares a prisoner for a productive life after release from prison.Another definition of rehabilitation is the ability to reinstatesomeone into constructive or healthy status in terms of behavior(Maguire & Okada, p. 303). Robinson and Crow (2009, p. 1) writethat rehabilitation is many things including: a type of punishmentor an alternative to punishment or something which mostappropriately follows punishment.” From the various definitions, itis clear there is no consensus on what rehabilitation or what itseeks to achieve.
Robinsonand Crow (2009) state that the history or rehabilitation goes back tothe late 19thcentury though Blakely (2005) places its origins in the 17thcentury. The approach flourished in the mid-twentieth century, thoughits application differed significantly depending on the understandingof the term rehabilitation. The use of the approach dissipated in the1970s but received a revival towards the end of the 20thcentury. Different governments around the world have adopteddifferent definitions of the term rehabilitation and thus the historyof the approach in the criminal justice systems various from countryto country.
Aterm closely related to rehabilitation is parole. Parole is definedas the act of being released from a penal system after serving partof a maximum sentence on the promise of remaining under the guidanceof the penal system and also maintaining good behavior (Thomas,2014). The decision to award parole is made by a Parole board afteran offender makes an application. On the other hand, mandatory paroleis the automatic release of an offender from the penal system priorto completion of their sentence. In the US, this period is set at sixmonths. When released, such offenders remain on probation.
Probationis defined as the arrangement between a penal system and an offenderwhereby the offender agrees to be under control, supervision andobservation of the penal system. The probation process differs fromother forms of sentencing because offender has a higher degree offreedom not available in other forms of sentences (Smith, n.d.). Itdiffers from parole in that under probation, the observation periodis prior to a sentencing (Robinson & Crow, 2009). Again, theapproach allows the Probation officers to observe and examine theconduct and behavior of offenders in real life situation.
Anotherform of punishment in the penal system is the community corrections.This approach involves monitoring and placing sanctions on offendersas an option to incarceration at the community or residential level.The sanctions are enforced by probation and parole agencies with theauthority of the courts. Monitoring options can be carried outthrough electronic tracking, cyber monitoring halfway houses andresidential treatment.
Allthese rehabilitation approaches have been criticized on variousgrounds. Incarceration, which has rehabilitation as one of the goalswith the others being punishment, deterrence, incapacitation, andrestitution, does not clearly articulate what rehabilitation is andthe specific goals it seeks to achieve or how to measure it. Thepenal system relies on probation and parole officers alongside otherappointed agencies such as communities in examining therehabilitation. However, there are no definite methods of examiningthe level of rehabilitation. Consequently, the board has often beenaccused of being biased on unfair in some cases. For instance,African Americans were more likely to be sentenced to prison and lesslikely to be sentenced to probation than whites. Again, AfricanAmericans were sentenced on average a year longer than whites inviolent crime cases (Hartney & Vuong, 2009).
Thereis need to address the current inequalities in the penal system.Current strategies and policies used in the system should seek toaddress the racial over-representation of African Americans in prisonand parole. The parole process that tends to deny African Americansparole contributes to a higher representation of African Americans inprisons. This program should be used as a strategy to encourage andmotivate good behavior among incarcerated offenders who are rewardedthrough a parole. At the moment, the parole systems is used as trapthat places offenders in the society in a ‘cage’ where they areclosely observed than other members of society hence predisposes themto more arrests.
Accordingto the strain theory, exposing individuals to conditions of strainleads them to disregard social conventions and the law in general(Thomas 2014). These conditions predisposes them deviant behavior andincreases the risk of recidivism. Therefore, the probation approachsets up individuals to break the law again because they are sociallystrained. In the end, they end up being accosted by law enforcementagencies. The best solution is thus to eliminate this idea ofsupervision and monitoring by probation officers. Supervision byprobation officers only increases risks of breaking the law ratherthan adhering to the law.
Communitycorrections are also affected by the strain theory and hence increasethe risk of breaking the law and being incarcerated. To makecommunity corrections effective in achieving their objective ofattaining a balance of control and treatment of offenders is toeliminate the aspect of control as it restrains them. The programsshould be reorganized to only aid in offender integration intosociety by assisting offenders settle down or even seek employment.
Hartney,C. & Vuong, L. (2009). Created equal. Racial and ethnicdisparities in the US
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Blakely,C. (2005). America`sprisons: The movement toward profit and privatization.New
Maguire,M. & Okada, D. (2010). Criticalissues in crime and justice: thought, policy, and
practice.New Yotk: Sage.
Robinson,B. & Crow, I. (2009). Offenderrehabilitation: Theory, research and practice.New
Smith,N. (n.d.). Encyclopediaof criminal justice.University of New Hampshire Department of
Philosophy.Retrieved from http://pubpages.unh.edu/~nicks/pdf/Rehabilitation.pdf
Thomas,A. (2014). Basicconcepts in criminology.New York: Trafford Publishing.