In the modern justice system, a great emphasis has been placed on rehabilitating offenders so that they become productive members of society. Legal experts and society at large have largely recognized that punishment alone is not beneficial either for offenders or the broader public. Simply locking up criminals in prison without resources to eventually rejoin society often leads to high rates of recidivism, which hurts both the offenders themselves as well as entire societies. Furthermore, rehabilitation programs have proven to be much more cost effective than incarceration, allowing governments to more effectively distribute limited resources. Below is a look at three rehabilitation programs that have helped criminal offenders reenter society.
Parole is commonly used in justice systems around the world as a way to help reintegrate offenders into society. During parole the offender is released before his or her sentence is completed in exchange for fulfilling certain conditions, such as gaining employment, refraining from drug and alcohol use, and refraining from contacting the parolee's victims (if any). Parolees are also often required to regularly check in with a parole officer who ensures that the parolee is adhering to his or her conditions for release. By offering early release in exchange for good behavior, parole is meant to make the transition from incarceration to freedom easier.
Some crimes, particularly drug crimes, are the result of an individual's own addiction problems. While incarceration was previously used as a "tough on crime" punishment against people convicted of drug crimes, legal experts are increasingly recognizing that incarceration does little to address the underlying causes of addiction. As a result, in many jurisdictions judges are given the discretion to sentence offenders to mandatory substance abuse programs in lieu of prison, particularly if it is the offender's first offense. Such treatment programs are designed to help people overcome their addiction problems, thus allowing them to become fully functioning members of society.
In-Prison Rehabilitation Programs
Rehabilitation does not have to begin once an offender is released from prison. Most prisons now offer at least some programs that are designed to help inmates more easily adjust to conditions outside of prison once they are released. These programs are often aimed at helping offenders acquire job skills, overcome substance abuse problems, or learn how to deal with common challenges they may face upon release. Some in-prison programs include adult education courses, religious services, mental and physical health programs, language courses, and job skills workshops. Many of these programs also allow inmates to maintain contact with individuals, businesses, or organizations that exist beyond the confines of the prison's walls, which also helps make reintegration easier once release happens.
While punishment is certainly one aspect of the criminal justice system, it cannot be the only one. Laws, courts, and prisons throughout the country are increasingly recognizing the value of offering prisoners resources to help them reenter society more effectively upon release. Rehabilitation programs are not only a humane response to criminal justice, they also help reduce recidivism and lower incarceration costs, thus benefiting offenders themselves and society as a whole.