Criminal Sentencing II: Rehabilitation

A Brief History of Rehabilitation

Rehabilitation, or treatment, is part of the utilitarianism punishment philosophy, which was introduced by Jeremy Bentham. Bentham argued that people do things for pleasure but they weigh the balance between pleasure and pain, and typically choose the more pleasurable route.

A Brief History of RehabilitationIn terms of crime, a rational person would consider the potential benefits and consequences of committing an illegal act; if the sentencing system is set up properly, the consequence would outweigh the benefit of crime and therefore, the potential offender would be deterred.

Unfortunately, the belief that people perform cost/benefit analyses in their heads prior to committing a crime is naïve. It is essential to acknowledge that not everyone does the “math” before every single action they take and therefore, there must be at least a few criminals who also fail to do so. Many lawbreakers commit offenses not because they are inherently evil and corrupt but due to mental deficiencies brought on by brain chemistry imbalances, drug and/or alcohol addictions, environmental and social problems, or a combination of these.

In other words, criminal behavior is not always an exhibition of free will, or at least, not truly free will; a number of diverse factors that are unrelated to rational thought play a part in a person’s behavior. Rehabilitation attempts to counter these deficiencies by “restoring a convicted offender to a constructive place in society through some form of vocational or educational training or therapy” (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2006: 67). Rehabilitation is the only philosophical approach that incorporates both physical incapacitation of offenders and deterrence from future offending.


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