Short-Term Rehabilitation and Crim Prevention

Any program designed to reduce the rate of recidivism in the United States must be viewed as a valuable tool of crime prevention. It can be safely said that at least two-thirds of the crimes committed every year are committed by recidivists, for over the past decade approximately fifty to sixty per cent of all offenders have become repeaters. Thus the elimination of the recidivist in our society would result in a minimum reduction of thirty-three per cent in the number of crimes committed over a given period of time. The task of eliminating recidivism has been left to the process of criminal rehabilitation. We have perhaps overemphasized the humanitarian justifications for rehabilitative treatment while ignoring its more practical raison d’etre. As a consequence, our penological system has failed to take full advantage of rehabilitative therapy as a technique of crime prevention. Our rehabilitative efforts have been focused on the serious offender, the state or federal penitentiary inmate. These efforts have come too late to help such offenders, as the practical problems of rehabilitation have unduly increased in number and complexity. The offender’s psychological problems have strengthened their footholds and asocial habits have become ingrained. To make criminal rehabilitation an effective means of crime prevention we must reach the offender when he is more readily susceptible to rehabilitative therapy and before he has added unnecessarily to our crime rate. The achievement of this goal is the primary concern of this article. It is submitted that the recent accomplishments of our short-term institutions in the area of rehabilitative therapy indicate that more extensive treatment at that level is both justified and necessary in response to the problem of recidivism.