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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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    Nov 1 2012: Very old argument - mad, bad and dangerous to know. Result is successful career in politics or business or crime. White collar crime investigated by social sciences particularly sociology back in 1970s and 1980s. Always rehabilitation but not rehab as in 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest', rehab after a thorough analysis of the unique person and their circumstances. Many fine minds in prisons just needing an alternative vocabulary and new experiences. Always advocate for market gardens in prisons, an outdoor space to learn to grow food and crops. Women nearly always in prison for wanting to support and protect others. Men often in prison for painful reasons too. Did you know 'death by police' just another form of suicide. Find it so hard not to use harsh words when trying to explain difficult and complex situations in limited word count. Always advocate for holistic approach. Problem tends to be rehab resource intensive. The punishment is the removal from 'normal life'. The punishment is the other inmates. The punishment is the institutionalisation. Don't want a revolving door criminal want opportunities to be different next time for them (not just a better thief or whatever BTW).

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