What are the merits and demerits of a crime control strategy based on treatments and rehabilitation?

Essay by janeyangelladyA-, August 2005

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These days, with a high proportion of offenders returning to crime and prison almost immediately upon release, the prison gate is all too often seen as acting as a revolving door. (Browne, 2004) Typically, the priority of governments' policies has been to focus on incarceration and punishment as society 'demands justice', but recently a shift towards rehabilitation and treatment programmes has emerged, as rising, unsustainable prison numbers appear to indicate that in fact 'prison doesn't work'. Home Office policy now reflects a need to prevent recidivism as prisons reach crisis levels but are these programmes effective? Research has produced conflicting results and the debate still continues, with left and right politicians deliberating on 'what serves the public best', rehabilitation or incarceration? These conflicting ideologies reached a peak during the 1970's in the 'nothing works / what works' debate. (Martinson, 1974) Since then, many programmes of rehabilitation have been actioned and as results still appear to be inconclusive, should this approach be abandoned? With the changing public attitudes towards crime and punishment following high profile and highly emotionally charged cases, the public is now demanding longer and harsher sentences for offenders and rehabilitation is falling out of favour.

Moreover, although the treatment and rehabilitation of criminals is continuing to improve in many areas, many criminologists still believe that crime is natural and inevitable in society (Durkheim, 1996). So, is the shift towards treatment and rehabilitation a waste of valuable time and scant resources?

Two actions need to happen simultaneously for a crime to occur; an opportunity has to present itself, then the decision needs to be made by the potentional offender whether the gains outweighs the risk to commit that crime or not. Preventing crime is a debate open to much discussion. It is generally accepted that deterrents such as prison...