Rehabilitating a prison system:

The need for rehabilitation greatly outweighs the need for incarceration and the resulting, conditioned perpetually violent and or stigmatizing prison incarceration. The benefits of redesign lowers the burden on the tax payer, offers a future and potential for prosperity to the “criminal”, positively increases the ability of the corrections and mental health systems, and societally drives institutionalism toward a better system for all persons.







As prisons fill and addicts litter the prison system, non-violent offenders overcrowd our prisons. There is a distinct battle separating an addict from jails as societally we push for removing things that offend our sensibilities. The result is a prison system that reaps billions in tax payer money while permanently housing and conditioning non-violent offenders to be violent and unable to overcome the stigmas that will follow them through their lives. Addicts and other non-violent offenders indefinitely carry a label of criminal, denying them opportunities for a prosperous future.


The last 20 years have demonstrated volumes of clear understanding as to what corrections and rehabilitation are capable of. Treatment programs aimed at curbing risk, needs, and responsivity have been shown to reduce recidivism (relapsing into criminal behavior). Further, sanctions (authoritative permission or approval, as for an action; something that serves to support an action, condition; something that gives binding force, as to an oath, rule of conduct; a provision of a law enacting a penalty for disobedience or a reward for obedience) without rehabilitation are proven ineffective.


The study: “INTENSIVE REHABILITATION SUPERVISION: THE NEXT GENERATION IN COMMUNITY CORRECTIONS?” evaluated cognitive-behavioral treatment (CBT) delivered within the context of intensive community supervision via electronic monitoring (EM). Via a scientific control group, researchers are able to eliminate and isolate variables. The aforementioned study statistically matched risks and needs of inmates both in an EM program and those facing only incarceration.


"Intensive supervision programs" (ISP's) that have demonstrated reductions in recidivism are those that went beyond simple control and also attempted to provide a significant treatment component (Jolin & Stipak, 1992; Paparozzi & Gendreau, 1993; Pearson, 1988). The most compelling data comes from: The Paparozzi's Bureau of Parole program which deliberately targeted only high risk parolees; across three indices, the recidivism rates for the ISP group were 21-29 percent lower than for a carefully matched sample of regular parolees. Secondly, critiques of the Pearson (1988) study have overlooked the fact that reductions in recidivism were 30 percent lower for those in ISP versus a comparison group in the case of the highest-risk probationers (Gendreau, & Cullen, 1994).


The results of this study were clear in that “treatment was effective in reducing recidivism for higher risk offenders, confirming the risk principle of offender treatment”. There shows a clear need for matching treatment intensity to offender risk and implementing treatment components in intensive supervision programs (such as prison) (Bonta, 2000).


The empirical evidence regarding ISP's is clear: reductions in recidivism are attained with a well implemented Intensive supervision program that targets risks and needs. The obstruction to this reprogramming is political as the for-profit model of corrections empowers legislators and profiteers. The solution lies within communities, non-profits, and local level initiatives.


The cure seems easy enough.


With community driven programs, non-profit entities, and a field of combined counselor/officers, the prison system (and tax payers) can realize major savings in removing non-violent offenders from prison. The opportunities for offenders, high quality officers, and human-services educators are numerous. Society benefits not only from the immediate results upon offenders’ lives, but also in the impacts reconditioning deviant behaviors in the institutional cores of the population.



Gendreau, P., & Cullen, F. T. (1994). Intensive rehabilitation supervision: The next generation in community corrections?. Federal Probation58(1), 72.


JAMES BONTA (2000) A Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of an Intensive Rehabilitation Supervision Program. Criminal Justice and Behavior June 2000 vol. 27 no. 3 312-329