Strict rehabilitation, as opposed to strictly punishment or a blend of the two, has routinely failed as an option. The idea being that if you can ensure that a particular person will never again commit whatever crime they were convicted of there is no need to incarcerate them at all. This is a flawed approach for many reasons.
1. There is no way to ensure that a person will not commit their original, or another crime, again.
2. If the cost of committing a crime is simply a quick ‘rehabilitation’ program there is hardly any incentive not to commit crimes in the first place.
3. Many crimes are either crimes of passion or a cost/benefit type of thought process that cannot be ‘habilitated’ out of people.
Taking the last point to heart imagine you wish to make some quick money and settle upon burglary as the way to do it. You would begin by finding a house that is secluded or whose residents are away. Than come the following questions:
1.Is there an alarm?
2. Do they have dogs?
3. Is this house likely to contain items whose value makes the whole thing worth it?
4. Can I possibly sell those items?
5. What defense do I have if I get caught or can I escape?
6. What would my sentence be if caught and convicted?
Standard cost/benefit analysis. How would you rehabilitate that out of someone? We all do it every day, just talking a matter of degree.
After all, who wouldn’t speed if their was no punishment involved? Many people speed up when they reach a section of interstate where there are no turnarounds for coppers to hide in. The risk of being caught declines quite a bit.
Furthermore if it was a crime of passion, such as a husband or wife killing their spouse after catching them naked with the pool boy, what danger are they to others? Are they very likely to go crazy at the post office the next day?
Premeditated murder such as planning to kill your cheating spouse makes you equally unlikely to go crazy at the local mailing center.
In some countries premeditated murder is treated less harshly that the kind that happens when someone goes crazy over their coffee being burned and starts shooting up a random mail boxes etc.
Rehabilitation works, but not for everyone and for most crimes it just isn’t a reasonable option. There isn’t anything to rehabilitate. Penalties serve as a deterrent and while they don’t and can’t deter everyone they go a long ways to keeping problems down.
The credit for inspiring this post goes to Michael Hawkins over at For the Sake of Science, a blog with much better writing than what I can muster. While we differ in opinion almost 103% of the time he has quite a different insight and the value of opposing ideas cannot be underestimated.