Why Rehabilitation Is Important For Society by Faith Spear
Society puts people in prison and expects them to reintegrate after their sentence and not reoffend. But recidivism is high because often the root cause of offending is not addressed.
Rehabilitation can be described as restoring, rebuilding, or repairing and in the context of those that have spent time in prison a means of re-joining society and hopefully being accepted, but that’s not always the case.
But what if they don’t want to be “rehabilitated” or don’t see the need for it? This is when questions arise such as:
- Can true rehabilitation exist, if so what does it look like?
- Does ‘rehabilitation’ force a way of life onto people that we deem ‘acceptable’?
- Does our lifestyle fit the mould that we expect of those that have offended and ‘need to be rehabilitated’?
We must ask ourselves if we really want to give people a 2nd,3rd…chance or whether we as a society are too punitive to allow people to move forward with their lives.
So, society can and does hinder rehabilitation by placing certain requirements upon those that have broken the law that may not be relevant and therefore putting unnecessary pressures on them.
What we as part of society expect, could we even live up to and could it be said we are setting people up to fail so we can say “I told you so”?
It is too easy to recall over minor issues such as lateness to appointments or forgetfulness when we all fall foul of these from time to time. Making those expectations so high we could almost see rehabilitation as a form of control or conformity to a norm that many would not recognise.
For some picking up where they left off is not an option due to the nature of the crime, family circumstances or health.
But if we build a barrier to those who pose no threat to society which prevents them from re-joining their work sector then are we continuing to punish?
I have seen the crushing stigma that many live under on release; the failure of a system that is meant to be there for them beyond the gate, the lack of accommodation, the difficulties of finding work, the list goes on.
Recently David Gauke the Secretary of State for Justice said:
“…I want more employers to look past an offender’s conviction to their future potential.
How do we do that? Well, we do it by working more closely with employers, so they open their eyes to the benefits of hiring ex-offenders…”
Sounds all well and good, however, the stigma of a criminal record can be a barrier to even getting an interview. As Christopher Stacey, Co-director of Unlock states:
“The current criminal record disclosure has multiple, harsh consequences and damaging effects on individuals, in particular it deters people from applying for employment and for those that do apply it brings high levels of stress, anxiety and feelings of shame and stigma. It acts as an additional sentence that often runs for life. It desperately needs reform”
Is it time for society to think differently towards people who find themselves in prison and as Erwin James (The Guardian, 2013) succinctly wrote:
“…however unpalatable it may be to some, the fact is prisoners are still people, and if we want them to have any respect for society when they get out we need to be mindful of their dignity as fellow human beings” (Erwin James, The Guardian 2013)
Written by Faith Spear, former member of the Independent Monitoring Board for prisons. Faith was a prison monitor who eventually blew the whistle on conditions inside English and Welsh prisons. She was ousted from the IMB as a result.
You can read more about her thought and work on her blog: