The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
0 Points

Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.

Do you like this debate?NoYes+0
Add this debate to Google Add this debate to Delicious Add this debate to FaceBook Add this debate to Digg  
Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 0 votes the winner is...
It's a Tie!
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/9/2014 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,291 times Debate No: 51958
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (0)




First round acceptance


I accept.
Debate Round No. 1


I affirm the resolution Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.


Valued - "consider (someone or something) to be important or beneficial; have a high opinion of." (Oxford Dictionaries Online)

"Note: Because the resolution uses "valued above", that does not mean I have to value just one and disregard the other. I can value some retribution; thus, I advocate for a system where rehabilitation is primary, while retribution is the fallback.

Rehabilitation - Smith, Nick, Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice"as "Punishment intended to reform a convict so that she can lead a productive life free from crime."

Value: Societal Welfare

My value in this debate is societal welfare, or the overall well-being of society. Society is composed of both offenders as well as the general public, thus, to uphold societal welfare, we must provide opportunities to offenders while at the same time protecting the general public. Rehabilitation accomplishes both of these goals because few criminals actually reoffend.

Value Criterion: Cost-Benefit Analysis

My value criterion in this debate is cost-benefit analysis, which is weighing the advantages and disadvantages of an action to determine if it is worth carrying out. This is the best way to weigh two different systems of criminal justice to determine which one best upholds my value of societal welfare. By using this criterion to analyze the round, it allows the round to be analyzed by determining which system is better for society as a whole, much like how a real world policymaker would analyze the two. It allows the pros and cons of the two systems to be compared.

Contention 1: Rehabilitative Justice Provides Benefits for Society

a."Rehabilitation Lowers Recidivism Rates

First, let"s examine the rehabilitative justice system. Since the goal is to provide the t societal welfare by protecting both offenders as well as the general public, we can use recidivism rates, or the rates of previous criminals reoffending, as a measure of its effectiveness. Low recidivism rates are good for both offenders and the general public. For offenders, low recidivism rates mean a greater chance of reentering society and functioning as a normal individual. For the general public, low recidivism rates mean that less crimes are being committed, leading to a "safety for everyone.""Studies have shown that various rehabilitative programs, such as education and drug rehabilitation programs, lower recidivism rates.

Jon Aborn et al (Annie van den Toorn, John Hockin, Scott Jordon, Man Nayvelt, and Michael Finkelstein) "The California Prison and Rehabilitation." Ethics of Development in a Global Environment. "Stanford University 1999

Numerous studies have been published documenting the positive results from education and drug treatment programs undertaken within the prison system."With regards to"education, it has been shown to be extremely effective in preventing prisoner release and returns to jail."Wilmington (Ohio) College reports that recidivism rates for inmates who took degrees through their programs in two Ohio prisons were 18% versus a state average of 40%.~"A Boston University program tracked inmates in its program over a 25-year period and found that for those who earned BU degrees while in prison, recidivism rates dropped to less than 5 percent, compared with the 65% national rate. Therefore,"one may conclude that the education programs are working - prisoners are taking these skills into the real world and applying them successfully.

Drug treatment programs have also had profound effects on recidivism rates. Arizona has been the first state to divert all of is non-violent drug offenders into probation and treatment instead of prison. Arizona reported that of 2,622 people on probation diverted into treatment, 77.5% have since tested free of drugs, a rate that is significantly higher than that for offenders on probation in most other states. And 77.1 % of drug users on probation, who are expect to help pay for treatment, made at least one payment.7 This has cut down on the "revolving door" phenomenon. Prisoners are cleaning up and staying outside of prison post sentencing.

This evidence shows that these types of programs are working. Rehabilitation programs such as those just stated allow offenders to understand their wrongdoings while preparing them to lead a normal life, and become productive members of society. Rehabilitations lowers recidivism rates, stopping a cycle of crime before it can get out of hand. It protects both the community members and also the former offenders themselves, which upholds my value of societal welfare, both the criminal and the general public benefit.

b."Rehabilitation is Cost-Effective

Opponents of rehabilitation argue that it is expensive, but in reality, it actually saves the state money. In fact, the status quo is actually more expensive because individuals are reoffending, costing the state a lot of money. Rehabilitation lowers the costs of the criminal justice system because these individuals aren"t reoffending, and as a result, we aren"t spending money to imprison these reoffenders.

Jon Aborn et al (Annie van den Toorn, John Hockin, Scott Jordon, Man Nayvelt, and Michael Finkelstein) "The California Prison and Rehabilitation." Ethics of Development in a Global Environment. "Stanford University 1999


How do these programs pay off? First, it pays in reduced recidivism rates. A report from the Center on Crime, Communities and Culture states that"education is the key to keeping offenders from returning to jail"and they write that it"is very inexpensive compared to lengthy incarceration."In New York, it costs $25,000 to incarcerate a prisoner for one year; educating a prisoner for one year costs only $2,500. Educating inmates adds only 10% to the costs and could potentially save the state millions of dollars in the future by preventing recidivism. In addition to saving money on prison stays, there are additional benefits as well of the individual obtaining work: contributed tax money, contributing to the general economy, etc..

By giving these offenders the chance to reintegrate into society, we save money in the process. These savings could be placed into programs that improve societal welfare, such as education or health care.

Contention 2: Retributive Justice Doesn"t Provide Rehabilitation"s Benefits

a."Retributive Justice Alone Does Not Lower Recidivism Rates

Many advocates for retribution will argue that a strong retributive stance in prisons is effective because it acts as a deterrent for crimes"However, most studies state the contrary.

Bronsteen, John, Christopher Buccafusco, and Jonathan Masur. "Happiness and Punishment." University of Chicago Law School. JOHN M. OLIN LAW & ECONOMICS WORKING PAPER NO. 424 (2008). Web. (12-13)

From these studies a pattern of hedonic response to imprisonment emerges. Initial entry into the prison environment triggers significant psychological distress and low levels of wellbeing."Within weeks, however,"inmates develop coping mechanisms that enable them to adjust to the situation and improve their"wellbeing. 62 After this initial adjustment period,"offenders maintain relatively constant levels of happiness"throughout the remainder of their terms.63 Thus, the "pains of imprisonment"64 are felt immediately, with diminishing hedonic penalties over the remainder of the sentence

This evidence shows that retribution alone would not work due to the nature of human psychology. If retribution is attempting to make offenders unhappy the way they made their victims unhappy, then retribution is not doing its job. Also, this means that prison fails as a deterrent to reoffending, as levels of happiness remain constant throughout the entire sentence. Thus, we must have rehabilitation in order to lower recidivism rates and uphold societal welfare. Another reason that retribution fails is due to environmental factors.

"Imprisonment and Reoffending" by Daniel Nagin, Francis Cullen, Cheryl Jonson. University of Chicago, 2009

The key insight is that regardless of the precise mechanism, prisons are marked by the presence of cultural values supportive of crime that can be transmitted through daily interactions. It is thus a social learning environment in which criminal orientations are potentially reinforced."Consistent with social learning theory (Akers 1998), it can be expected that"a custodial sentence will intensify a commitment to a life in crime.

Many offenders come from disadvantaged backgrounds. These underlying problems do not go away during that time period, thus, rehabilitation is needed to try and lift them out of their disadvantaged backgrounds. Due to the nature of prison as well as psychology, offenders never rehabilitate in a system of retributive justice, which doesn"t prepare them for life free of punishment. Therefore, rehabilitation is required in order for crime rates to be lowered and for societal welfare to be upheld, because retribution alone simply does not accomplish that goal.

b."Retribution Fails to Benefit the Offender

Finally, let"s examine the effects of retributive justice on the offender. First, let"s take a look at the average offender.

Rotman, E. (1986). Do Criminal Offenders Have a Constitutional Right to Rehabilitation? The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminality, 77 (4).


The denial of rehabilitation and the consequent lack of concern for the future life of the offender amounts to a

passive and indifferent acceptance of the inevitable deterioration brought about by the institution. Imprisonment

itself jeopardizes other rights different from those forfeited through the commission of a crime and the

consequent criminal punishment. Moreover,"a large majority of inmates are socially handicapped offenders who

need basic support in the areas of education, job-training and fundamental social learning. Their social handicap

is considerably"aggravated by the stigma of a criminal record, requiring additional efforts from the social

agencies to support the arduous"process of social reintegration.


In all of these ways, the average criminal is handicapped by a harsh retributive stance. Without rehabilitation, none of these problems are ever solved for. They will have few options other than a life of crime unless they can be rehabilitated. A criminal lifestyle is bad for the offender as well as the general public, my value of societal welfare would be upheld under a system of rehabilitative justice because the offender benefits as a result. For this reason as well as others stated throughout my case, I strongly urge an affirmative ballot in today"s debate.



First: Before any other evaluation of the resolution we must evaluate the effects on human ontology that the resolution has. Campbell:

Campbell & Shapiro 99 (Michael, and Campbell, professor of International Relations at the University of Lancaster, Moral Spaces: Rethinking Ethics and World Politics, p. 97-8) google books

“the relevance of ontology to all other kinds of thinking is fundamental and inescapable. For one cannot say anything about anything that is, without always already having made assumptions about the is. Any mode of thought, always already carries an ontology sequested within it. What this ontological turn does to other- regional – modes of thought is to challenge the ontology within which they operate. The implications of that review demand[s] a reappraisal as fundamental as the reappraisal ontology has demanded of philosophy.”

I negate, negate is defined by Encarta World English Dictionary: as to deny the truth of something, or prove something to be false. Thus my burden as the negative is to only disprove the affirmative. The thesis of the negative case is that acting on the basis of minimizing suffering is wrong because suffering is needed in order to understand human fatality of the ontological mode of being. Long explains the way humans exist:

Suffering and Transcendence Eugene Thomas Long International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Vol. 60, No. 1/3, Self and Other: Essays in Continental Philosophy of Religion (Dec., 2006), pp. 139-148 Published by: Springer Stable URL:

“we exist in the future that is coming towards us. Our being is such that in the present we recollect the past and anticipate the future. Our transcending or becoming, however, comes up against many boundaries along the way which set limits to our transcending or becoming. Suffering stands over against our transcending, our acting the process of becoming in which we act to realize some state of affairs that we desire and through which we find meaning in existence, the experience of suffering appears to be the opposite of activity. Suffering may bring us up against our finiteness and suffering may be accommodated into our human becoming. for example, that although we would not have sought suffering we are better persons for having undergone the experience of suffering.”

Thus, the way in which humans exist is through the experience of suffering in order to know the distinction between gods and humans. This allows for human becoming and transcendence to happen. Long 2 explains why suffering is needed:

“suffering is necessary to a greater good or that it will be transformed or overcome in the future by a greater good. persons are called not only to condemn such evil and suffer with those who suffer, but assume responsibility for working for new possibilities for good. Human suffering on this account is at one and the same time an experience of emptiness or nullity and the giving or loving of Being, the on-going creative activity or providence of divine reality. In this giving of Being in reaction to the suffering of beings in the world”

Thus suffering allows prospering over future problems; the on-going creative activity of the divine reality, which allows people to come to their fullest being This proves that suffering is a necessary part of human existence in order to find solidarity with others and confront our finiteness as human beings. The suffering of others calls us to question who we are what actions we take as human meaning that it is necessary to understand the true function of being a human. This argument functions as an apriori because it disproves the assumptions the affirmative framework is founded upon.

Additionally, confronting notions of death and suffering is how individuals conceptualize good and bad and this confrontation is the only reason why life has value Strauss:

Jonathan Strauss. “After Death.” Diacritics. 30.3 (2000) 90-104.

“Dasein is the term to speak of individual human consciousness, and is Unique among entities in that it puts Being itself- Death, in turn, puts the whole of Dasein's own being at stake. In part, this is because death is "nonrelational," which is to say that no one else can represent me or stand in for me at my inevitable demise. dying is something that I must do for myself. I am therefore alone in the face of my death, and that mortal isolation informs me of my separation from others, makes me aware of my finitude in relation to them. The non-relational character of death, as understood in anticipation, individualizes Dasein down to itself.” Me capable of being a whole to myself, and I actually do become whole to myself through my attitude toward that death. it is that a privative limit can structure experience into subjectivity and existence into a life. One's relation to death is either authentic or inauthentic, In the latter case a person tries to forget that he is finite and must die by imagining that he is the same as the indeterminate They authentic" Anticipation turns out to be the possibility of understanding one's own most and utter most potentiality-for- Being-that is to say, the possibility of authentic existence. The ontological constitution of such existence must be made visible by setting forth the concrete structure of anticipation of death" The structure of our relation to death makes our authentic individual existence apparent to us as a whole, and it is, consequently, through anticipating death that we authentically exist as whole individuals.”

Thus it is necessary to confront death in order to find meaning in life.

Also, I do not advocate that we advance suffering, but let the suffering in the world flow naturally and avoid trying to minimize it so any arguments about me justifying another holocaust or promoting extinction won’t link.

Further, suffering is not something with a brightline i.e we have never undergone enough suffering, it is always static because if it weren’t then we would slowly be able to lose the ability to suffer which doesn’t make sense because even people who have suffered through insane torture or crazy diseases will always have the ability to suffer more

And, they are going to stand up and say they know what it is like to suffer just by watching other people suffering however this is false for two reasons

A) The warrants in long assume that it is the experience of suffering that calls into question what it means to be and to find meaning in existence and

B) The warrants in strauss are clear on the fact that it is the confrontation of death that only I can do for myself and it helps me realize my finitude in relation with others which would function just by watching someone confront death because that would only increase the false idea that we are in some relation to others.

This has 2 impacts on the round

1.) I am proving the resolution false

2.) This turns the AC because their notions of trying to reduce suffering only harm human ontology

Next, presume neg because a statement has a higher chance of being false than true for example if I have a pink pen then it is only true to say that it is pink however you can make several false statements about he pen i.e. it is blue black or orange.

So let me clarify on exactly what my case implicates. My opponent is arguing through her two contentions as well as her criterion of de facto utilitarianism that we should adopt rehab over retribution because it lowers crimes rates and saves people money, all of which reduces the total amount of suffering we can experience. That's all bad for the reasons listed in Long, Long 2 and Strauss. Therefore, you reject the aff case and vote neg. Don't let her try to delink from the harms of the neg case because that would mean that you end up defaulting neg under her framework. If she isn't arguing that adopting rehab would offer some sort of benefits then there's no reason to adopt it under her framework of "cost-benefit analysis", meaning that she doesn't have any kind of offense she can extend out that fulfills her framework and you default neg anyway. So, to summarize:

- She's arguing that rehab offers x and y benefits that reduce suffering and bring about all these different benefits.
- I'm saying that we shouldn't be trying to reduce suffering, but rather keep things at the current level and avoid deviation, therefore you reject her cas apriori.
- If she isn't arguing that rehab has those benefits, then she isn't fulfilling her framework via cost-benefit analysis, therefore has no actual offense to win the debate.

Debate Round No. 2


Im my opponents case all his evidence comes from people theorizing that suffering is necessary. He does not state any proven facts or statistics. I also stated it my case that " the resolution uses "valued above", that does not mean I have to value just one and disregard the other. I can value some retribution; thus, I advocate for a system where rehabilitation is primary, while retribution is the fallback." So his entire case over how suffering is necessary is Irrelevant, because I am not advocating for no suffering im advocating for a focus on retribution. He also failed to refute my studies on why rehabilitation is better. So my opponent has failed to disprove any of my contentions, and I've disproved his case so you should vote pro.


Whelp, this is dissapointing. She's not really making any kind of attempt to engage with the NC other than to say that I never give any kind of stats so I'm wrong and that it's "valued above" so she can do both. I'll respond to both before going back over the NC.

Her first response is that I don't give any kind of stats to back up my case, therefore my case is false.

First, she doesn't explain why not having stats means I'm wrong, she just bare asserts it.
Second, it's entirely fallacious. Not having stats doesn't mean your argument is unsound.
Third, you prefer analytics over empirics anyway because analytics are the only reason why empirics have any kind of weight. Analytical arguments are why stats have any kind of impacts for debates. If we say that only stats matter in terms of providing warrants, then it would be impossible to answer the question "Why do we care about statistics" without relying on circular logic.

So that response fails. Next move on to her other response of she can value both and so she can still provide for suffering meaning she de-links herself from the harms.

First, hold her to her definition of valued, specifically where she said under it "I advocate for a system where rehabilitation is primary," which means she's biting directly into the harms of the NC.
Second, by that logic there's no reason why I can't just value both as well and co-opt all of her offense. If she's advancing this argument there's no reason I can't take her offense as well which means a) I have a solid link into her framework whereas she can't have one into mine since my entire advocacy is rejecting the affirmative, and b) this refutes her "I have no stats" argument because if I have access to her contentions then I now have stats.
Third, if she isn't advocating for rehab over retribution then she doesn't actually fulfill her cost-benefit analysis framework because she'd be supporting something that she is claiming doesn't work. It's a blatant contradiction on her part.

She also makes the claim that I don't respond to any of her studies but the thing is that I don't really have to. My case functions apriori to her case. Recidivism rates and losing money won't matter if we're devaluing what it means to be human. Because my case a) functions apriori to the affirmative case and b) functions as a case turn to the affirmative case, if I'm winning on my case then I win the debate.

Extend out all of my offense (Long, Long 2, and Strauss) because they were effectively unresponded to. They prove why suffering is necessary for us to experience in order to understand our own humanity and fatality in our mode of being. Without suffering we lose any kind of value in being human, so any kind of action that reduces the amount of suffering in the world is something we instantly reject. Her arguments for rehabilitation reduce the amount of suffering in the world, therefore we instantly reject the affirmative case.
Debate Round No. 3


My opponnent states that " Not having stats doesn't mean your argument is unsound. " but in this case it does. Were debating changing the prison system of the united states, so for a plan to be valid it must have some proven evidence so we can hypothoseis which out come will be favorable. My case offers a multitude of evidence to prove that valuing rehabilitation will lead to many positive changes. My opponnent has no proof that refutes my claims or proves this. Thus the only logiucal thing to do is to look at the facts and vote pro.

In my case i do value both but the main point is to make rehabilitation the primary goal. I prove through facts that doing this will lead to many positive changes, and my opponnent fails to disprove this. My opponent states he can value both, this is true, but he must value retribution over rehabilitation, and in my case i prove that doing this is not as sucessful as valuing rehabilitation over retribution. So you should vote pro because he fails to prove his case and fails to disprove any of my contentions.


'Tis a sad day that this debate has become what it is. My opponent still fails to adequetly respond to anything coming off of my case, rather still insisting that I need statistics among other things without answering back for all the reasons I explained in the previous round for why I don't. I could simply just say Extend out Long, Long 2, and Strauss as they explain why suffering is necessary and why it shouldn't be reduced, she's trying to reduce it, therefore I win. But to be nice, I'll respond to her points she brought up.

Her first point is that I need statistics because in order for us to adopt any kind of plan we need some way to weigh between the two to see which one we would rather do. There's a number of errors in her reasoning:

1. She's assuming I'm trying to make some sort of plan. I'm not. The entire advocacy of the NC is to reject the affirmative case, not to posit a plan of it's own. Insofar as I'm not making a plan of my own, instead just arguing for why we shouldn't accept your reasoning (and I can do this because of the definition of Negate I provided in my case that my opponent never contested meaning to disprove or deny the truth of something), I don't need to posit any kind of statistical evidence.

2. She's assuming I'm accepting her cost-benefit analysis framework and operating under such. I'm not. The entire point of the NC is to apriori reject the AC for denying the value of being human. There's no weighing between anything, I'm saying "THe affirmative is doing x. X is absolutely, 100% wrong for x, y, and z reasons. Therefore, you should reject the affirmative and vote neg." Nothing about that has anything to do with weighing between two different plans.

3. I'm not engaging with my opponent on a normative or substantial level, but rather on an ontological level, which functions as a higher line of reasoning than the normative evidence she's providing. Like I said previously, recidivism rates and how much money we'll save won't matter if we lose what it means to be considered human.

4. She ignores the argument I make in the previous round as to why you prefer analytical evidence over empirical evidence in the first place. That means that even if I do have to engage with her on a normative level, you're prefering my arguments anyway because the only reason that empirics have any kind of impact in a debate round is through analytical reasoning. Empirics also rely on analytical arguments to have any kind of real-world application. If I just say "42%", there's literally nothing you can draw from that without any kind of analytical context saying what the 42% means. Also, if only statistical evidence matters in terms of warranting arguments, then there's no answer that we could provide to the question "Why do statistics matter" without relying on flawed, circular logic.

So there goes, really, the only point she brings up in her last round. She doesn't respond to anything else that I say, essentially. So I guess this is just the point where I summarize the round:

- My arguments that suffering is necessary for human existence and to be able to find meaning in what it means to be human have gone unresponded to throughout the entire debate.
- Because my case has been unrefuted, it disproves the assumptions my opponent's case makes that we should be attempting to reduce the amount of suffering in the world (i.e. by valuing rehab over retribution), therefore meaning we reject her case.
- If we're rejecting the AC, by the unrefuted definition of negate that I give in my case meaning to deny the truth of or to disprove, then I successfully negate the resolution, meaning I win.

Sooooooo yeah.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by Zaradi 7 years ago
TFW you thought you had cases from back when you did this topic, only to find that you don't anymore >.> whelp, time for interesting stuff then.
Posted by ScrinTech 7 years ago
Oh this is going to be sick!
No votes have been placed for this debate.

By using this site, you agree to our Privacy Policy and our Terms of Use.