The Instigator
Pro (for)
11 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
6 Points

Rehabilitation is more effective than punishment.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 11/26/2011 Category: Society
Updated: 6 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 24,185 times Debate No: 19489
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (3)




This is for Socialpinko's ELO Tournament.

Outline of the Debate:

No semantics, and by that, standard debating rules/ethics will apply, with 72 hours of argumentation where the maximum character limit is 8K, also each debater has 3 rounds to argue then we proceed to voting, where the RFD voting style will take effect and voting lasting 1 week.

R1- Acceptance of Debate/Terms/Definitions

R2- Openings

R3- Clash

R4- Final Rebuttals/Summaries


- Rehabilitation {1} –To restore to useful life, as through therapy and education or to restore to good condition, operation, or capacity.

- Effective {2} - actually in operation of in force, functioning.

- Punishment {3} – The authoritative imposition of something negative or unpleasant on a person or animal in response to behavior deemed wrong by an individual or group. (For punishment purposes, it should be noted that we are referring to plain incarceration and imprisonment.






I’m not exactly sure about my wordings here, but if CON wants to add a definition, suggests a change or has a question, I suggest that he please post it on comments to avoid semantics or unfairness.



Here are some alternate definitions. Just say whichever definitions you want to use in you next arguments, and those are what we'll use. The definition of punishment is good.

useful [1] - being of use or service; serving some purpose;advantageous, helpful, or of good effect

effective [1] - adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intendedor expected result

[1] -

Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks BH for your acceptance and hope to have an enjoyable debate with you.

My opponent and I have decided that we’ll be debating on what’s more effective, in circumstances of usefulness. Is it sending criminals to rehabilitation or just sending them to prison?

Opening Arguments:

These are my arguments for the opening round. Please note that I may introduce new arguments/rebuttals as the debate proceeds further.

P1: Upside of Rehabilitation:

  • C1: Rehab is more humane.

Rehab is an important kind of punishment, as it treats people to become good. The rehabilitating process tries its very best to change the offender’s ways, to prevent him from reoffending and to help reduce crime. It promotes a humanizing idea that law-breakers can be saved from their negative aspects. If we just incarcerate people for punishment’s sake, it gives a bad name in society, if we really want to achieve justice, the best way is to help and treat them, not leave them to rot in prison.

  • C2: Rehabilitation reduces recidivism.

Kimberly Irish-Tarbox, a criminal justice expert, in an article she wrote, states that the justice system focusing on rehabilitation is important, as it also impacts law enforcement, court procedures, correctional facilities and community services in a high level. She stated that those who complete rehab are less likely to reoffend. Law enforcement can focus on current offenders. Those in rehabilitation programs or who have completed rehabilitation are less likely to increase the case load in the courts{1}.

According to a study conducted by Canadian psychologists, they found out the rehabilitation, in general, reduces recidivism rates. They’ve analyzed effective rehabilitation based on meta-analyses. They compared a few rehabilitation programs, and the successful rehab centers, which had lower recidivism rates were the ones that use cognitive-behavioral treatment, the ones that focus treatment on high-risk offenders, the ones that employ well-trained staff and ones who provide patients with aftercare after treatment {2}.

  • C3: Rehabilitation has economical advantages.

Putting offenders to community center facilities and rehabilitative facilities for treatment and service are cheaper than being put to prison and rot. I’ll compare costs in the UK and in the US.

Incarcerating adults in the UK costs about £37.5K, while sending juveniles to juvie prison costs £42K whereas sending people to rehab or community service costs less. For instance, in the UK, a year of Community Rehabilitation costs £3K. A year of Community Punishment costs £2K. A year of Community Punishment/Rehab cost £4K. A year of Drug Treatment/Testing Order cost £8K.

A former UK Prison Chief Inspector stated that if we lessen people serving in prison for low crimes (instead of serving in rehab), we would save up to £690 million. And for that money, we could implement 400 new complete schools and atleast 3 hospitals {3}.

In the US (North Carolina, to be exact), the average prison cost per inmate per year is $27K, whereas yearly costs per inmate in rehab/community centers range from $350 to $5K {4}.

So far, I’ve proven that rehab is not only more useful, helpful and effective, but also saves money.

In addition, if we’re talking about rehabilitating youth offenders, we could rehabilitate 5 times as many juvies as we can incarcerate with the same amount of money, and people are more willing to pay for it.

Elizabeth S. Scott & Laurence Steinberg, in a piece they wrote entitled, Adolescent Development and the Regulation of Youth Crime, they stated in 2006, they conducted a “contingent valuation survey,” finding out on how much 1,500 Pennsylvanians were willing to pay (from their tax dollars) for either an additional year of incarceration or a rehabilitation program, they found out that the people were willing to pay more for rehabilitation than for punishment. “Of course, this kind of survey is somewhat artificial, since the willingness-to-pay question is hypothetical.” They said, but they stated that these findings may affect lawmakers and that “a year of juvenile incarceration actually costs five times as much as a yearlong rehabilitation program.” {5}.

P2: Downside of Prison:

  • C1: Imprisonment increases recidivism.

Furthermore, in addition to rehabilitation reducing recidivism rates, its counterpart, imprisonment, does the opposite. Now only that it deters crime, but people who go out of prison end up going back after some time. The Guardian, who published an article concerning reoffending/recidivism rates, wrote that reoffending is higher among criminals who were imprisoned, with 74% of former prisoners at one prison convicted again within a year. They also state that there was a 2010 statistic conducted by the Ministry of Justice in Great Britain that found reconviction rates are above 70% in England & Wales {6}.

I’d also like to introduce the Bureau of Justice Statistics report on the rearrest/reconviction/reincarceration rates of of ex-inmates. These people represent 2/3 of the ex-inmates released in the US {7}. It showed that the criminals released with the highest rearrest rates were robbers (70%), burglars (74%), larcenists (75%), carjackers (79%), people in possession of stolen property (77%), people in possession or ones using/selling illegal weapons (70%). Also, it showed that in 3 years, 2.5% of rapists were rearrested raping again, and 1.2% of homicide prisoners were rearrested for homicide. The statistics are from 1994, and the 272K prisoners released that year had received 4.1 million arrest charges before they were rearrested and reincarcerated, plus another 744K charges within 3 years of another prison release.

  • C2: Imprisonment doesn’t deter.

Obviously, if imprisonment increases recidivism rates, it surely disproves the argument that send criminals to prison deters crime. We hear crime reports everyday, the US has the highest incarceration rate in the world {8}, this just shows crime is not getting any lower in the US. Since I’ve shown more than one statistic on recidivism, it’s safe to assume deterrence fails. I’ll finish this contention by citing a news article from USA Today where they stated that most states are failing to deter crime, where states’ recidivism rates rose by 30% {9}.

  • C3: Prisons are prone to abuse: may lead to suicide.

Imprisonment (esp. to juvenile offenders) is quite dangerous, it undermines the criminal justice system, it gives the “protecting people’s safety” bit a bad name.

Juveniles in adult facilities are more likely to be abused by inmates and staff.

The US DoJ with experts who have a PhD degree made an assessment entitled, “Juveniles in Adult Prisons Jails: A National Assessment.”

It was reported that juveniles are more likely to be victimized in adult prisons, especially violated/raped. 47% of juveniles in 1988 suffered violent victimization. Some were being violated by prison staff. Sexual assaults (plus rape) were 5 times more likely in prison. Beatings were 2 times as likely and weapon attacks were 50% more common in adult prison {10}.

The severe violence in these prisons is serious, and assuming an offender does know these kinds of things are happening, we can assume that they would rather die instead of rotting in a hellhole.

Prisons can also make a person more psychotic and insane, which is a bad thing. I’ll explain this further if contested since I’m running out of characters {11}.


Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve proven above that rehab better, cheaper helpful, effective, useful and desirable. I now await my opponent’s response. I may expand these contentions further. Thank you and good luck!















Opening Round Arguments

Upside of Punishment
Punishment can be much more beneficial to society, and there for more effective at fixing the problem, than rehabilitation. Punishment can take many forms. Some of which are prison, community service, and death. I will start with death.

There is an obvious increase in effectiveness from rehab to death. In rehab, there is no guarantee that the criminal will change. They can easily fake their way through and pretend to get better, but go back to killing or whatever it was they did to land them in rehab as soon as they get out. If killed, there is no threat of a repeat offense. Therefore, killing the criminal guarantees that the problem is solved effectively.
*Death would obviously only be a punishment for extreme crimes*

Another form of punishment is jail time. Criminals are sent to sit in jail for a period of time dependent on their crime, and then released. Jail is obviously by no means pleasant, it makes it harder to get a job, eliminating some entirely, and it will lead to people being less trusting of you. This form of negative re-enforcement, or punishment, is not too inhumane considering you are dealing with someone who broke the law, and it is a decent deterrent for crimes. While it may be true that this is more costly, there are ways to reduce this cost. Inmates can be put to work, there's no law against it. If inmates work even at the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour for 8 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire year, then they can generate almost 150,000 dollars. Going off of North Carolina's imprisonment cost of 27k [1] , there would be almost 123K dollars of profit. That can be split between the inmate and the state. Money is gained by both parties this way, thus making the cost a mute point.

Community service is another type of punishment. This is perfectly humane and can be used in minor offenses. If someone steals a $50 worth of food from a store, then they can make it up by cleaning up some streets. Simple enough and wouldn't cost a thing whereas rehab for a minor offense would cost too much money to be worth it. THis would mean that the person has to be let off with a warning leaving no reason for them to not repeat their crime.

Downside of Rehab

Rehab is impractical in most cases. If someone robs a candy shop of 30 dollars worth of goods, then it costs too much to send them to rehab. If someone commits a murder, then they can't be left to roam free in a rehab center.

Rehab is punishment, too. If someone is sent to rehab, then they aren't getting out free. They did something wrong, and the punishment is an amount of time in rehab.

Good luck to JM, and have fun.

Debate Round No. 2


Thanks again, BH. I understand that my opponent had limited time to write this and as we can see, my opponent made a brief representation of his arguments and rebuttal, most of my case weren’t pointed out to be refuted, so therefore, please extend them this round.


Again, I’d like to point out that we have agreed that in the resolution, the term ‘punishment’ will refer to incarceration or imprisonment. See R1 definition of ‘punishment’.

Re: Upside of Punishment

My opponent first argues that punishment is beneficial to society, and he states that there are many ways of punishing, but again, we’re talking about imprisonment.

My opponent claims that there is no guarantee that the criminal will change, that a criminal can fake it, but my arguments and statistics in R2 says otherwise. Furthermore, the DP argument fails not to mention my opponent didn’t give a single reference to support this argument. Yes, once the criminal is executed, he won’t kill again, it’s obvious since he’s dead. But let’s not get too far now, shall we? We are debating whether rehab is more effective than jail punishment in general, and not in capital crimes which involves capital punishment.

My opponent further agues about jails, he admits it’s not pleasant and that it’s inhumane, and the only way to change that is to put prisoners to work. There are a number of prisons which let prisoners do labor, and they do get paid for it, even more than the minimum wage. I don’t know why we need to force them to do more, this isn’t really a big of a deal.

My opponent’s final premise if the community service argument, I’d like to remind him that being put to community service is a way of rehabilitating, since it restores a person to normal, useful life.

Re: Downside of Rehabilitation

It looks like that the main point of my opponent’s main contention here is that we shouldn’t send every offender to rehab. Yes, we shouldn’t, but that isn’t what we are debating here. What we’re debating is that if rehabilitation is better than punishment (via incarceration) not if we should rehabilitate all offenders instead of imprisoning them.


Again, ladies and gentlemen, like my previous conclusion I’ve proven above that rehabilitation is a better, cheaper helpful, effective, useful and desirable way of treating offenders. Extend previous arguments and enjoy your day.

Now, off to my opponent’s case, hopefully, it’ll start to be interesting.

Good luck!



blackhawk1331 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3


My opponent probably loss track of time. I hope everything's okay.

Seeing that this is the last round and I couldn't respond to CON's last statements, I hope he fulfills his ethical obligation to not make new arguments.

BH, it was kinda fun debating with you, I learned alot... kinda.

Readers, thanks for reading. Vote PRO. ^_^


Sorry I missed my last round. I got caught up in a book and lost track of time.

Upside of rehab.

Rehab is an important kind of punishment

You are arguing that rehab is a more effective than punishment, yet here you say that rehab is a form of punishment. Therefore, punishment is the only option for criminals even according to you.

You argue that rehab decreases the chance of a repeat offense. The main problem with this argument is that you never specified what kind of offenses warrant rehab. Someone isn't going to go to rehab for stealing $30 worth of candy. They'll serve a bit of time in jail, and go back out to do as they please. In the case of rehab, you're going to be dealing with higher offenses. Maybe rape, murder, theft of thousands of dollars in goods, etc. Those crimes aren't nearly as common as petty offenses, so rehab isn't dealing with as wide a range. If someone steals $300 worth of candy from ten stores over 5 weeks, and gets caught only for stealing from that last store, they aren't going to rehab. They'll serve a few days in jail, if that, and go back out. There isn't too much of a deterrent there.

I've already shown how prisoners could be put to work during their time in prison to not only eliminate their cost in jail, but turn a profit.

Downside of Prison

You never told us what offenses those 74% of prisoners committed. They could very well have committed crimes that didn't warrant time in rehab, and had the prisoner in jail for so little time that they didn't care.

Now you show what crimes were committed. Most were crimes. The repeat offense rate of the homicides and rapists is negligible. It could be better, but not much. Asking for the number of repeat offenses in those ares to drop would be like asking a student whose getting 98% in all their classes to score higher. Those numbers aren't bad at all. They could be better, but not much.

Saying that we have the highest incarceration rate doesn't warrant the assumption that prison isn't a deterrent. If we had an incarceration rate of 50% in 1990 (just random numbers and years) and Russia had an incarceration rate of 35%, and then 10 years later we had an incarceration rate of 35% and Russia had an incarceration rate of 10%, then prison is working. Everyone's numbers would have dropped, which still leaves us at the top. The increase of repeat offense of 30% means nothing in the lack of context provided. If that number is no repeat offenses of the candy shop robbery in one year, and 30% of people robbing the candy shop again the next year, then the repeated crime is not a crime that rehab is likely to deal with. You also failed to provide how many people 30% is. If this is out of 1,000,000 people, then 30% is a significant amount of repeat offenses. If this is out of three people, though, 30% is not that significant.

There's an easy fix to children being abused in adult prisons. Send them to juvenile hall, that's what it's for. Also under the abuse topic, I'd like to revisit my making prisoners work idea. If they're working 8 ours a day all week, then that's going to leave less time for abusing other inmates. Since the inmates will most likely be doing undesirable physical labor jobs, it increases the likely hood that they'll be too tired to abuse other inmates at the end of the day as well.


most of my case weren’t pointed out to be refuted

I just wanted to say I was trying to steer clear of that since you didn't have my cases to argue against. As it turns out, I probably should have argued them to give you a chance to come back. To keep things fair, I won't respond to your refutations of my arguments since you can't respond to my refutations of your arguments.


I have shown that the cost of imprisonment can be offset by having the prisoners work. I have also shown that putting the prisoners to work can help reduce the amount of abuse. I have shown that repeat offense rates from prison compared to rehab is a mute point because there are many petty crimes that you won't go to rehab for, and that won't leave you in prison for a long enough time to offset the benefits of your crime. I've shown that the rates of repeat offense in the context you gave mean nothing. There is no number of repeat offenses to go off of, just a percent. That percent could be out of 3 people, or 3,000,000 people for all I know.

It was fun debating with you jm, despite my missing a round. I definitely learned a lot in this debate. Good luck.

Vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
16K, please elaborate your RFD, it seems to me that Roy's vote influenced you.
Posted by RoyLatham 6 years ago
This is a good topic for debate, and a difficult one.

I think the justice system has gone through three phases: punishment, rehabilitation, and isolation. Punishment (pre-1970) doesn't do well at deterring future crime, rehabilitation (1970-1990) turned out to not work well either. Keeping criminals out of society by locking them up (>1990) works well, but it's expensive. In this debate, imprisonment for any purpose seems to be equated with punishment. Pro's source for imprisonment gave four purposes, but that wasn't picked up. The reason tat incarceration rates are now high is that the only way discovered to prevent criminals from committing crimes is to keep them locked up. Certainly some are deterred by punishment, probably most effective with the death penalty, and some are rehabilitated, probably mostly juveniles, but overall neither is very effective.

Pro made a fair case of evidence for rehab being effective for juvenile first offenders, but I think that's short of meeting the burden of proof for the broad topic. Con doesn't have to do much when Pro fails to make a prima facia case.

Pro must be given credit for researching the topic and making a clean presentation. Con lost conduct for the forfeit. This is one of the unusual cases where Pro lost arguments by not meeting the burden of proof, but wins the debate nonetheless.
Posted by socialpinko 6 years ago
I'll vote later tonight.
Posted by Maikuru 6 years ago
This is one of my favorite topics. I'll give this a go.
Posted by blackhawk1331 6 years ago
Sorry. I got caught up with stuff and completely lost track of time. I'll do my best in my remaining round, but I doubt it will go well for me.
Posted by socialpinko 6 years ago
Wwwwhhhhyyyyy?!?!?!!?? I was hoping to go the entire first round with no forfeits by anyone!
Posted by blackhawk1331 6 years ago
I know. :) The panic was beginning to set in.
Posted by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
40 secs awaaaaay XDXD
Posted by blackhawk1331 6 years ago
Posted by jm_notguilty 6 years ago
I'll just post it in my R2 arg. :)
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by socialpinko 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: Conduct goes to Pro for Con's forfeit obviously. As to arguments, the crux of Con's argument I believe was to dilute the categorical distinction between rehab and punishment even as Pro plainly defined punishment as incarceration in the framing round. Pro also provided ample evidence for the effectiveness of rehab on decreasing recidivism rates which Con did not adequately refute.
Vote Placed by 16kadams 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:13 
Reasons for voting decision: pro had the burden pf proof, but he didnt fulle meet the requirements. HE DID WELL, but not perfectly. Cons arguments made the bop harder to fill, and didn't let him in so he wins arguments. conduct pro b/c of FF
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 6 years ago
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Total points awarded:43 
Reasons for voting decision: Pro has the burden of proof, and that is critical in this debate. Pro had to show statistically that rehabilitation lowered recidivism more than punishment. Pro only argued juvenile crime, and it seems many first offenders. In this debate imprisonment seems equated with punishment, although one purpose is to keep criminals off the streets as a means of preventing crime, which works. Con loses sources for lack of research, conduct for the forfeit, and S