chapter  7
Reaffirming Rehabilitation
Pages 34

In their introduction to von Hirsch’s Doing Justice, Willard Gaylin and David Rothman

thus embrace the concept of just deserts but then continue on to admit that “still we are not happy. Our solution is one of despair, not hope.” It would have been preferable to

have saved offenders in a merciful way, but “under the rehabilitative model we have been

able to abuse our charges, the prisoners, without disturbing our consciences. Beneath this cloak of benevolence, hypocrisy has flourished, and each new exploitation of the prisoner

has inevitably been introduced as an act of grace.” Despite being “trained in humanistic tra-

ditions,” they have thus found it necessary to reject rehabilitation and to explore a path that holds out not the fragile and perhaps illusory promise of doing good but the real prospect

of doing less harm:

In short, proponents of the justice model now contend, in the words of Ira Glasser, that

the “principle of least harm” should guide liberal reform objectives: “Every program designed to help the dependent ought to be evaluated, not on the basis of the good it might do, but

rather on the basis of the harm it might do.”3 Yet if the “principle of least harm” is to be the

criterion used to assess the relative merits of competing reform agendas, our analysis has furnished little confidence that the justice model is a wise path to follow. While its suppor-

ters, like Gaylin and Rothman, intend the justice alternative to “generate less disastrous con-

sequences than the programs we now administer,” the opposite appears the more certain outcome-more injustice, not less, more inhumanity not less. When the dreary pragmatics of

what the institution of the justice model would entail are thus considered, it is clear that

liberal despair would only become more profound should this “reform” be pursued in earnest. Indeed, there is every reason to surmise that we are better off with the criminal justice

system, however inadequate, that we now have.