Why help offenders? arguments for rehabilitation as a penal strategy

  • Peter Raynor (Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Swansea University )
  • Gwen Robinson (Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice, Sheffield University )

This article considers the variety of theoretical justifications, or moral arguments, which have been put forward to support approaches that can be broadly described as ‘rehabilitative’. The article takes an historical approach, tracing the development of ideas supportive of rehabilitation which begins with the origins of probation in England & Wales, and the Christian mission to ‘save souls’. In the twentieth century context we consider the emergence of a utilitarian emphasis on maximising decent and productive members of society, subsequently challenged by arguments which emphasised state- obligated or ‘rights-based’ rehabilitation. More recently, utilitarian arguments emphasising rehabilitation’s contribution to public safety and ‘risk reduction’ have risen to the fore. However, we argue that justifications which emphasise offenders, victims and/ or communities as beneficiaries of rehabilitation need not be in conflict: nor should probation services have to choose between the broad range of stakeholders they are potentially able to serve.

Keywords: Rehabilitation, Utilitarian approaches, Treatment model, Rights, Strengths-basedapproaches, Restorative justice

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