Rehabilitation (penology)

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Rehabilitation is the re-integration into society of a convicted person and the main objective of modern penal policy, to counter habitual offending, also known as criminal recidivism.[1][2]

Alternatives to imprisonment also exist, such as community service, probation orders, and others entailing guidance and aftercare towards the offender.


A successful rehabilitation of a prisoner is also helped if convicted persons:

  • are not placed in health-threateningly bad conditions, enjoy access to medical care and are protected from other forms of serious ill-treatment,[2]
  • are able to maintain ties to the outside world,[2]
  • learn new skills to assist them with working life on the outside,[2]
  • enjoy clear and detailed statutory regulations clarifying the safeguards applicable and governing the use and disposal of any record of data relating to criminal matters.[2][1]

See also prisoners' rights.



The United States Code states that sentencing judges shall make imprisonment decisions "recognizing that imprisonment is not an appropriate means of promoting correction and rehabilitation".[3]

In 2015 a number of reformers, including Koch family foundations, the ACLU, the Center for American Progress, Families Against Mandatory Minimums, the Coalition for Public Safety, and the MacArthur Foundation, announced a bipartisan resolution to reform the criminal justice system in the United States. Their efforts were lauded by President Obama who noted these reforms will improve rehabilitation and workforce opportunities for those who have served their sentences.[4][5][4][6][7][8]


As established by the Council of Europe committee of ministers, «a crime policy aimed at crime prevention and the social reintegration of offenders should be pursued and developed».[1]

«The European Court of Human Rights, also, has stated in various judgments that, while punishment remains one of the aims of imprisonment, the emphasis in European penal policy is now on the rehabilitative aim of imprisonment, particularly towards the end of a long prison sentence.... A prospect of release is necessary, because human dignity requires that there must be a chance for a prisoner to atone for his offence and move towards rehabilitation. A review system is also needed because, over the course of a very long sentence, the balance between the grounds of detention (punishment, deterrence, public protection and rehabilitation) can shift to the point that detention can no longer be justified.»[2]


Per the German constitution, «Everyone has the right to life and to inviolability of his person. The freedom of the individual is inviolable. These rights may only be encroached upon pursuant to a law».


Per the Italian constitution, «Punishment cannot consist in treatment contrary to human dignity and must aim at rehabilitating the condemned».

Psychopathy and recidivism

Criminal recidivism is highly correlated with psychopathy.[9][10][11] The psychopath is defined by an uninhibited gratification in criminal, sexual, or aggressive impulses and the inability to learn from past mistakes.[9][10][11] Individuals with this disorder gain satisfaction through their antisocial behavior and lack remorse for their actions.[12]

Findings indicate psychopathic prisoners have a 2.5 time higher probability of being released from jail than undiagnosed ones, even though they are more likely to recidivate.[13]

It has been shown that punishment and behavior modification techniques do not improve the behavior of a psychopath. Psychopathic individuals have been regularly observed to become more cunning and better able to hide their behaviour. It has been suggested by them that traditional therapeutic approaches actually make psychopaths if not worse, then far more adept at manipulating others and concealing their behavior. They are generally considered to be not only incurable but also untreatable.[14]

Psychopaths also have a markedly distorted sense of the potential consequences of their actions, not only for others, but also for themselves. They do not, for example, deeply recognize the risk of being caught, disbelieved or injured as a result of their behaviour.[15]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rec(84)10E 21 June 1984 on the criminal record and rehabilitation of convicted persons.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Clare Ovey, Ensuring respect of the rights of prisoners under the European Convention on Human Rights as part of their reintegration process, Registry of the European Court of Human Rights.
  3. 18 U.S.C. § 3582(a)
  4. 4.0 4.1 Mak, Tim (Jan 13, 2015). "Koch Bros to Bankroll Prison Reform". The Daily Beast.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "Koch brothers join Obama in advocating US prison reform". Russian Today. Jul 17, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. Horwitz, Sari (Aug 15, 2015). "Unlikely Allies". Washington Post.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Gass Henry (Oct 20, 2015). "Congress's big, bipartisan success that might be just beginning". Christian Science Monitor.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Nelson, Colleen Mccain; Fields, Gary (Jul 16, 2015). "Obama, Koch Brothers in Unlikely Alliance to Overhaul Criminal Justice". Wall Street Journal.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 Jill S. Levenson, John W. Morin (2000) [Treating Nonoffending Parents in Child Sexual Abuse Cases] p. 7 SAGE, ISBN 0-7619-2192-3
  10. 10.0 10.1 Marvin Zuckerman (1991) Psychobiology of personality Cambridge University Press, p. 390. ISBN 0-521-35942-2
  11. 11.0 11.1 Glenn D. Walters (2006) Lifestyle theory p. 42 Nova Publishers, ISBN 1-60021-033-3
  12. Hare, Robert D, Psychopaths: New Trends in Research. The Harvard Mental Health Letter, September 1995
  13. Psychopaths' 'early release con'(9 February 2009)BBC News
  14. Harris, Grant; Rice, Marnie (2006), "Treatment of psychopathy: A review of empirical findings", in Patrick, Christopher (ed.), Handbook of Psychopathy, pp. 555–572<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. Attention to the eyes and fear-recognition deficits in child psychopathy - Dadds et al. 189 (3): 280 - The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition, 2000. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

External links