chapter  8
The Future of Rehabilitation: From Nothing Works to What Works (An Epilogue)
Pages 50

The history of American correctional policy is marked by long periods of continuity that are suddenly punctuated by times in which sharp change occurs. One of these moments arose

in the 1970s when offender therapy was attacked. Up until that time, the rehabilitative ideal

had guided correctional policy for much of the previous century. Academic and cultural elites, as well as much of the public, had increasingly advocated the view that the nation’s

march toward progress-toward a truly civilized society-entailed the rejection of vengeful,

barbaric punishments and the embrace of a system based on therapeutic principles rooted in the science of criminology. But the ideal’s unquestioned dominance was shattered when

not only conservatives but also liberals questioned its legitimacy. By 1982, when the first

edition of this book was published, correctional rehabilitation had fallen from grace. It was widely believed that “nothing works” to reform offenders, and that the discretion inherent

in individualized treatment had led to injustice and recidivism. Defenders of offender treat-

ment were in short supply. A correctional turning point had transpired. But if not rehabilitation, what should guide correctional policy and practice? In 1982,

which road American corrections might take was still in dispute. As discussed previously, two options existed. One road was to create a justice model whose main focus was ensuring

that sentencing and other correctional processes were based on a commitment to equal

justice, fair legal principles, and the judicious, if not sparing, use of imprisonment. A second road was what might be termed the “punishment model.” This paradigm had three core fea-

tures, all of which endorsed getting tough on crime. First, punishments should be harsher

to exact much-deserved retribution, to teach that crime does not pay, and to remove predators from the streets. Second, mass imprisonment was the key to crime control. The more

offenders who were in prison and serving lengthy sentences, the more retribution, deter-

rence, and incapacitation would be achieved. Third, rehabilitation programs and services that address the welfare of offenders are unimportant. They are costly and, more impor-

tantly, they increase crime by making the correctional experience less painful. The more

noxious the sanction-especially doing hard time for years in prison warehouses-the more likely it is that offenders will avoid recidivating so as to avoid the pains of imprisonment.