A Step in The Same Direction
Crime is an everyday factor that will not be slowing down or coming to an end anytime
soon. How can we put all wrong-doing to an end when there is not a specific place to start to
bring change? Different tactics are used to target wrong doers but are not successful. Amongst
some of the methods to stop crime came rehabilitation. Rehabilitation has become an alternative
to prison where those who attend are provided with different resources and staff that are aiming
to make a change in an offenders’ behavior. Although rehabilitation is an alternative, it is not a
true beneficial element to put a dent in stopping crime because it is much like prison itself.
I placed an emphasis on rehabilitation because of the concepts provided in Thinking
About Crime by James Q. Wilson. Rehabilitation was introduced as a unsuccessful crime control
program. As the text states, “With few and isolated exceptions, the rehabilitative efforts that have
been reported so far have had no effect on recidivism” (150). The initial goal was to utilize
rehabilitation as a way to reduce offences and control the rates of crime but it is contradictive.
The text implies that it is an alternative to give offenders another chance to better themselves all
while intending to keep them from repeating any more offences but relapsing is common. You
learn this when Wilson says, “It did not seem to matter what form of treatment in the correctional
system was attempted…produced an increase in the rate of recidivism” (150). Meaning that
those whom were convicted eventually returned to their old ways after completion of rehab. If
rehab has full intentions to improve the lives of offenders, why is it that they return to their old
ways? It is contradictive because it almost follows the principles of a prison, limited contact to
the outside world along with a set of rules and regulations. Isolation is also a factor, if you are
aiming to better someone, why hold them in a facility where the only interactions come from a
team who think they have your life figured out and know exactly how to “cure” you? The way
the concept of rehabilitation and crime do not correlate, rehab has good intentions, but it is not
best suited to be used in a manner of preventing crime.
Howard Zehr is another author who makes claims that are thought worthy. When
deciding crime, it is often not fair because the system is set to manipulate the scenario that way
someone is found guilty and punished. Zehr aimed to get his audience to change the ways they
view criminal justice and justice in general because of the lasting effects they have on people of
both parties. Maybe a change of lens in how we depict a person should be judged by a crime is
necessary. Rehabilitation was thought of as a method to stop crime but you have to think about
the true purposes of rehab. If someone has an addiction, they may attend rehab with hopes of
them having the will power to say no to their temptations. Crime is not an addiction, therefore to
assign rehab to an offender should not cross anyone’s mind. Much like what Zehr states when
saying, “the reason for such failure…lies in our choice of lens” (20). Our ways of viewing
scenarios of others is often cloudy based off of the fact that we have our own opinions. Zehr also
describes in the text that judges decide what sentence or punishment they will place on an
offender based on how they perceive the situation, leading them to assign what they think is
compatible to the wrong doing. There are a lot of loopholes and dead ends in our criminal justice
system and nowhere where we can distinctly start to make a change.
There are different elements of the criminal justice system that intertwine in a way. Each
proposal has the common goals to either control crime rates or convict wrong doers and have
them pay for what they have done. H. L. Mencken provides another perspective in which he
trolls the death penalty mocking those who are for it. Mencken in The Penalty of Death takes on
the side of being for the death penalty, but there was another hidden message within the text.
Mencken questions why offenders have to wait so long to be executed instead of it being right
after them being sentenced to it. Why be tortured for the remainder of your days or years when it
could be done and over with? Mencken also mentions that the reasons executions are not
performed instantly because it gives the offender time to get right with God. Where is the talk of
rehab in replacement of the death penalty? Rehabilitation is not a factor in certain cases because
no one would send a murderer to rehab and expect them to be new and improved.
Rehabilitation failed in all and is used less than it began with and it is utilized more for
those who have addictions. Furthermore, rehab is basically another attempt to control the
uncontrollable that follows the principle “the more things change the more they remain the
same” as stated in Howard Zehrs’ article. No matter the advance in the criminal justice world,
the outcome will result in failure.