The key role of prison systems has been the reformation of criminals and individuals whose behavior is considered dangerous to other individuals or society. It is worth noting that the prison systems have varied strategies, which they may use to induce the reformation of individuals. As much as prison is seen as an avenue of punishment, its modern nature has allowed for the incorporation of what may seem as more humane techniques of reforming offenders. This is what is envisaged as prisoner rehabilitation.
Prisoner rehabilitation, while being an abstract phrase, underlines a collection of plans that are aimed at inspiring a positive change in the duration within which an offender is confined in prison (Robinson & Crow, 2009). The key aim of prisoner rehabilitation programs remains to reform prisoners or offenders from continuing with their criminal lifestyle and helping them start living normal lives devoid of criminal activities. Therefore, it is no wonder that prisoner rehabilitation has been found as extremely helpful in lowering the number of repeat offenders returning to jail after being unable to have a normal life outside jails (Robinson & Crow, 2009).
Prisoner rehabilitation, while not as old as the concept of prisons, has been used for quite a while. Its origins can be traced to London in late stages of 18th century. The British Government in 1779 passed and enacted the Penitentiary Act, a legislation that made it relatively compulsory for all prisons in the country to rehabilitate criminals (Robinson & Crow, 2009). Soon, this function permeated into the United States and has subsequently been incorporated into almost every modern prison system in every state. As much as imprisonment has been a fundamental form of punishment in criminal justice systems, there has been a steady increase in the emphasis on rehabilitation or correction instead of punishment.
The effects of prisoner rehabilitation are felt by the individual offenders, as well as the society at large. The individual offenders stand to benefit the most from the rehabilitation programs. First, it is worth noting that most prisoners have the feeling that they are of lower class than other people in the society. This could result in low self esteem and confidence levels, which makes them unable to fit into the society (Robinson & Crow, 2009). Researchers note that most repeat offenders carry out their crimes simply because they do not feel accepted or comfortable in the outside world. They feel that it is only those people within the prison walls with whom they can associate (Robinson & Crow, 2009). Nevertheless, prisoner rehabilitation programs shores up their self confidence and esteem, thereby making it easier to readapt themselves into the society. On the same note, it prevents them from reverting to their old ways, which are not only destructive to the society but also the individual. These include drug abuse, alcoholism and other destructive habits. The society is also affected immensely by prisoner rehabilitation (Robinson & Crow, 2009). As noted earlier, prisoner rehabilitation is seen as effective in reducing crime levels especially with regard to repeat offenders. This means that not only is the society safer than before, but it also uses way less finances on maintaining criminals in the prisons (Robinson & Crow, 2009).
Nevertheless, prisoner rehabilitation is not perfect. Varied improvements can be made in prisoner rehabilitation. Prisoner rehabilitation must be customized or personalized to meet the individual needs of the prisoners. This is especially considering that they face different factors predisposing them to criminal activities (Robinson & Crow, 2009). Scholars opine that rehabilitation efforts should be focused on individual needs rather than the targets. It may also be imperative that technology is incorporated in the rehabilitation processes in the form of e-learning, which would allow for eliminating difficulties that come with relocation of prisoners.
Robinson, G., & Crow, I. (2009). Offender Rehabilitation: Theory, Research and Practice. London: Sage Publications.