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Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/24/2013 Category: Society
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,496 times Debate No: 29528
Debate Rounds (4)
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I affirm the Resolution: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

I will now go over the terms stated in the resolution:
The United States criminal justice system is comprised of distinct stages, being arrest, prosecution, trial, sentencing, and punishment. Punishment is often delivered in the form of imprisonment. This debate over rehabilitation and retribution is encompassed in the last two stages of the justice system: sentencing and punishment. (US Legal)
Criminal justice system is also termed as law-enforcement system.

Rehabilitation is the restoration of someone to a useful place in society. The assumption of rehabilitation is that people are not permanently criminal. Rehabilitation would seek, through education or therapy, to bring a criminal into a more normal state of mind or into an attitude which would be helpful to society (Princeton)

Retribution is a penalty that is considered to be morally correct and fully deserved. Retribution is based chiefly on the seriousness of the crime itself, and not on consequential factors, such as whether the punishment is enough to deter the rest of society from committing the same crime.

The value in this debate is Societal Welfare
Societal welfare is about ensuring that society is more content than not with the levels of crime that are occurring. Societal welfare also emphasizes the quality of life, which includes factors such as quality of environment, extent of drug abuse, and level of crime. By allowing criminals to walk out of prison with the same motives that caused them to be put into prison, as would occur with retribution, the United States would be failing to achieve societal welfare, as they would not be addressing the problem of criminals posing as a threat to the average citizen of America.

Criterion: Valuing the power of the individual
A society is better off with a greater number of non-destructive and productive members. Prisoners that do not learn why what they did was wrong and instead are just punished are not given the right tools and options that would allow them to function in society. Through rehabilitation, not only would these prisoners have a chance at bettering themselves, they would also be bettering society as a whole. Treating criminals like human beings and valuing the power an individual can have for the good of society will allow for criminals to get a second chance at life and protect potential victims from becoming victims, thus upholding my value of societal welfare.
As John E. Douglas, a former FBI criminal profiler stated:
"When rehabilitation works, there is no question that it is the best and most productive use of the correctional system. It stands to reason: if we can take a bad guy and turn him into a good guy and then let him out, then that"s one fewer bad guy to harm us. . . "

Contention one: Rehabilitation creates reformed members with more potential to contribute to society. The rehab system produces more positive individuals than the retributive system. According to Kenneth E. Hartman, Chairman of the California State Prison of LA County, California has the worst recidivism rate, which is the rate of people who return to prison, in the nation. Of the 120,000 inmates released annually, at least 70% will go back to prison. Studies by "the honor program" state that through rehab, reductions in weapons offenses decreased by 88% and violence and work related offenses decreased by 85%. Furthermore, Gendreau confirmed that rehabilitation programs generally reduce recidivism in "Assessing Correctional Rehabilitation", and Andrews of Carleton University and James Bonta of Public Safety confirm that rehabilitation cuts reoffending substantially. With rehabilitation, there is also a range of employment possibilities designed to improve prisoners" chances of getting work when released which, according to the Department of Correction in New Zealand, makes them less likely to re-offend.

Contention two: Rehabilitation costs less than retribution. Budget cuts in the "integrated services for homeless adults with serious mental illness" program in 2007 left
over 4,500 mentally unstable adults on the street. According to William Shryer, Clinical Director of Diablo Behavioral Healthcare and Program Director for DBH Neuroscience Seminars, many of these people would end up in jail. Rusty Selix, executive director of the California Council of Community Mental Health Agencies, states that the cost of incarceration can be six times higher than the cost of enrolling someone in a mental rehabilitation program. Furthermore, the Honor Program at CSP"-LAC has saved the taxpayers of California over $200,000. As Jonathan Aitken, a former member of parliament in the UK, stated : "If rehabilitation reduces reoffending, you have two bonuses: you save money and, perhaps more importantly, communities will start to feel safer.", which promotes societal welfare.

Contention three: Retribution is not effective.
Our current system is based on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and we are in the end just creating a permanent conveyor belt of crime and offending. People released from prison end up back there because they are not helped to return back into society.
Researchers have demonstrated the power of the prison environment to shape behavior, often to the detriment of both prisoners and prison workers. The Stanford Prison Experiment, co-authored by Haney with Stanford University psychologist and APA Past‐president Philip G. Zimbardo, showed that "psychologically healthy individuals could become sadistic or depressed when placed in a prison‐like environment." It also showed that many released prisoners in supermax units "have few of the social or occupational skills necessary to succeed in the outside world."


As con to the resolution all I have to do is to assert that they are equally valuable or otherwise assert that retribution is more.

As my opponent failed to define the word valuable itself I shall take it upon myself to do so.

Valuable: to be extremely useful or important:

So now we shall redefine it as

Valuable: To be extremely useful or important to societal welfare.

It is also defined as worth more money but ironically the fact that you claim retribution to be worth more money (more expensive would be too easy a win for con.

So what are my contentions?

C#1: The purpose of a justice system is to adequately punish those who do injustice whilst not punishing those who do right. Thus, retribution is the most valuable aspect of such a system, rehabilitation being less valuable.

A justice system, in any context, is a system by which we punish those who do injustice in order to force them to conform to the justice-abiders who are encouraged to do so out of fear of punishment. The primary function of such a system is to take, for example, a murderer and give him just punishment to the crime he/she committed, it can then worry about helping the murderer overcome their psychological issues later on as a secondary function but primarily the function is to give a just and well-deserved punishment regardless of the outcome, unless the outcome would result in the justice system falling apart (which it doesn't since it wouldn't exist today if it did).

C#2: Retribution is effective at punishing, just as much as rehabilitation is at reforming.

This is actually a rebuttal to my opponent's third contention. My chooses to observe retribution it its effectiveness at changing or reforming a criminal to be a law abider once released form prison without realising that this is not the function of retribution in the first place. Retribution's sole function is to do unto a criminal what the justice system declares is a just and well-deserved punishment for the crime they committed, and it is effective at doing this since its effectiveness is to punish and this is all that it does. Its function is not the same as that of rehabilitation and thus one shouldn't judge it based on its functionality as a method of rehabilitation because this is not what it is nor what it was intended to be.

C#3: From a moral standpoint retribution is more valuable than rehabilitation.

Many nations throughout the world base their justice system on a strict set of morals often rooted in religion or for secular states in the emotional view of the common man of that society (I say this since my opponent never specified what country was being referred to). Morally what a justice system is there to do is to give the punishment that the society's system of morality demands for the crime committed, a less valuable aspect is then to worry about changing the criminal to really want to obey their morals, the primary function being that of giving morally appropriate punishment.

C#4: For society to be content with the crime rate they must first be content with the punishment being given.

My opponent highlights that we should base our value on "ensuring that society is more content than not with the levels of crime that are occurring." Well, I think that it is undeniably true that if society sees that well-deserved retribution is being dealt they will be far more at rest about crime than worrying about how rehabilitated criminals are if they are unhappy with the retribution. Society's main concern is that a drug dealer gets what a drug dealer deserves, they really do not care so much if the dealer comes out and goes back to doing the crime because they will say "at least our justice system gave him what he deserved" whereas if he comes out reformed but got what they would consider far too light a sentence, they would most likely protest and riot at the injustice of the retribution leading to chaos and reduction in societal welfare.

C#5: Fear of punishment is the number one easy-to-use deterrent of crime, when compared with reforming the emotional being within a criminal.

I am yet to see any argument against this. My opponent has the idea that rehabilitation, which is essentially forcing a criminal to become 'unhooked' from their inner urge to commit crime, take drugs or perhaps compulsively steal or harm others will work better to stop crime, in the big picture than the system currently in place, which worries more about making them scared senseless of the punishment they would receive if they acted on those impulses. I would argue that while it's a difficult job to ensure the insane members of the community would be afraid it is far tougher and more impractical a task to deter a criminal from crime altogether. Often you are dealing with incurable psychopaths, narcissists or people so crushed by their childhood that they vowed never to stop the life they lead of harming others to get back at the world for the torment they received as children. To reform such people is near-impossible, but to make them fear punishment is as simple as saying hey you want to be trapped in a cell unable to do ANYTHING with your life? Suddenly you have a one-size-for-all deterrent of crime.

C#6: Prevention is better than cure and cruelty is more effective than care.

This is more subjective than objective but I'm sure almost anyone will see the sound logic behind it. What shocks you more? The thought of pleasure or of pain? What sends that jolt up your body more? The fear of being butt-raped in a prison shower or of leading a peaceful life when all you have grown up knowing and seeing is violence? This justification is purely subjective but I think it clearly highlights, to the normal interviewee the fact that fear of punishment is more emotionally startling than the thought of a better life.

We can always worry about curing criminals, but if this is considered the most valued aspect of a justice system we would never stop crime to begin with (which is why almost every country on Earth is based around retribution being the most valuable aspect as opposed to rehabilitation). Each criminal is a different individual, what works with rehabilitating one will not work with another probably, and each needs to be nurtured for in a different way before we fully get past their psychological defences to the core personality and somehow convince them to obey a moral code which they have grown up to believe is completely false and pointless to believe in. On the other hand, retribution works for all criminals AND criminals to be. Whether you're a sociopathic fraud, a psychopathic serial killer or a narcissistic rapist, you can cognitively process punishment and deep in everyone's spirit is the urge to fear punishment, to fear being alone with people willing to butt-rape and beat you up the moment the guard turns a blind eye.

In terms of effectiveness and efficiency retribution stops many criminals at once as well as criminals considering whether or not to do a crime but if what they think is "oh well, it's okay they'll just rehabilitate me and that's a nice break from this life of crime, all you really do is encourage them to do the crime worse and faster in order to get to a more caring place than the cruel society they live in (which is usually a ghetto or violent household if we speak statistically of criminals' upbringings).
Debate Round No. 1


jakobkaufman forfeited this round.


Your BOP hasn't been met.
Debate Round No. 2


jakobkaufman forfeited this round.


Come on you coward.
Debate Round No. 3


jakobkaufman forfeited this round.


LatentDebater forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by jakobkaufman 5 years ago
Omggg sorry I totally forgot I had posted this! I guess it's too late now but truly sorry :)
Posted by wiploc 5 years ago
The reasons for punishment are rehabilitation, isolation, deterrence, and vengeance.

Vengeance is not a proper function of government; if you want vengeance, get it yourself.

That leaves rehabilitation (not "restoration of someone to a useful place in society," but the prevention of recidivism), isolation (keeping dangerous people away from those they might hurt), and deterrence (dissuading others from committing similar crimes).

: Retribution is a penalty that is considered to be morally correct and fully deserved.

This sounds like "retribution" results from a careful weighing of the likelihood of a given sentence to achieve rehabilitation, isolation, and deterrence.

: Retribution is based chiefly on the seriousness of the crime itself, and not on consequential factors, such as
: whether the punishment is enough to deter the rest of society from committing the same crime.

This, on the other hand, seems like you're talking about vengeance. (I'm assuming that rehabilitation and isolation are considered "consequential factors" like deterrence.) But that leaves only vengeance ("You pissed me off, so, even though no good thing will result from it, I'm going to enjoy making you suffer").

Vengeance has no justification at all, so of course rehabilitation is more important.
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