Rehab vs Punishment

Since both Republicans and Democrats are now making efforts to reform the criminal justice system, it isn’t surprising that several American correctional officers spent five days visiting prisons in Germany and were more than amazed with the differences. One of them, Maurice Chammah wrote daily articles for the Marshall project ( a non-partisan news organization addressing the criminal justice system and for Vice news site ( . European prisons in general and German prisons in particular do emphasize rehabilitation. To them a good correctional system leads to public safety. The U.S. tends to see incarceration as a means of public safety. In German prisons, solitary confinement is rarely used and if so sparingly and that only for those we call the worst of the worst. Juveniles are never mixed in with the adult population. They are considered juveniles until the age of 21, and this may be extended to the age of 24. The philosophy is that they did not know how to handle their emotions and participate in the society and they are given a second chance. Prisons are not as austere as those in the U.S., include surroundings that are not drab, of course sports and recreation but also lots of therapy and re-education. Part of the therapeutic involvement is the interaction with guards. They are taught—after a rigorous entrance competition and a 2-year training program—how to talk to inmates so as to make them feel their life is worth saving, using techniques such as addressing them by their name as Mister.
The Marshall Project is planning a report in the near future to see if lessons from visiting German prisons are being used to improve those in the U.S. Meanwhile, it all ought to make us rethink, or at least think about, basing our correctional system on punishment instead of rehabilitation.

3 thoughts on “Rehab vs Punishment”

  1. Yes, have read of German “rehab oriented” prisons. It’s time we used
    their approach.

  2. Our system of incarceration is simply a money making operation, being run by for profit corporations. It is notorious for turning out worse criminals than when they went in. No wonder neighborhoods protest the establishment of half-way houses in their midst. Let’s hope government officials will see the wisdom in rehabilitating society’s offenders both for our safety and cost savings to society.

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