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Should criminal sentencing be oriented towards punishment or rehabilitation?

There are basically two lines of thought on what the goal of criminal sentencing (this means after guilt has been proven) should be: justice for the victim, which is usually used to mean punishment for the perpetrator, and rehabilitation for the perpetrator, which means working to make him a functioning member of society. Examples of policies favoring justice for the victim would include the death penalty, as it precludes the possibility of rehabilitation, and life sentences without the possibility of parole, for the same reason. Examples of policies favoring rehabilitation for the perpetrator include in-prison education for inmates, because the aim is to prepare them to find a job on the outside, reducing their dependence on crime and hopefully make them functioning members of society, and parole systems, because they allow for the possibility that if a convict can reform his ways, and has the possibility of functioning well on the outside, he should be released. There are of course, various compromises within those philosophies. One such mixture of philosophies can be seen in the minimum time requirements for parole; which state that inmates granted the possibility of parole must first serve a set number of years out of their sentence before they can be considered for parole. The idea of these minimum time requirements are to provide a deterrent while still allowing for rehabilitation. However critics say that there can be no compromise between these ideas, because if there is any immutable punishment, that contradicts the idea that if the convict is rehabilitated he is released, favoring a deterrent, which has nothing to do with the individual's possibility. So: do you think that these two concepts can exist symbiotically? If so, how? If not, which do you think we should abide by? As a side-note, all my examples are from U.S. law. I would be very interested to hear examples of these concepts from wherever you live.


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    Oct 25 2012: The book "Reform through community" is a study of criminal reform through the Kibbutz system in Israel. The Kibbutzim are are a community that focus on "hard work, egalitarianism, interdependence, support, and acceptance yielded involvement, commitment, and higher self-esteem". The overriding message is that when you intervene in somebody's life and make them feel valid, recognise them as human and accept that there problems are normal, the success rates are staggering.

    Notions of right and wrong, good and evil are religious notions.They are deeply ingrained in western societies and are the basis of our legal system.But they are only beliefs,devoid of any peer reviewed data to suggest they are relevant and plenty to suggest they do not work.In reality good and evil in Law are arbitrary absolutes for something totally subjective. For example if you are a hard line Christian your interpretation of right and wrong is likely to be very different to that of a Budhist monk, or a white supremist, or a doctor.

    In the face of ever changing moral values, our legal system is static, delivering "justice" for actions that in reality should not be considered crimes at all.Defining acts as crimes formed of free will & choice is an archaic Biblical view,which takes no account of psychology, genetics, neuroscience and social science. The legal system basically absolves society at large of any real responsibility towards the aberrant people it creates.The irony is there is no true justice.A murder cannot be undone and no amount of punishment changes that.

    We know that environment is the overriding factor that determines our path in life.We can paper over cracks, attempting to merge rehabilitation with punishment,whilst facing a barrage of pseudo-religious ideological bullshit from the self appointed guardians of justice, but until our society realises that the more unequal we become the worse things are for everyone, and changes, murders will still happen

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