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As in nearly all things, America has been of two minds concerning the rehabilitation of criminals. One camp believes the more severe and lengthy the punishment, the less opportunity a criminal will have to re offend. Lock them up and throw away the key. Statistics prove this camp wrong and alternatives are far from their concern. They are the law and order people who have a strong appeal to a society that fearfully sees itself as victims.

The other camp wants to rehabilitate criminals but can seldom raise the needed economic support to initiate and evaluate rehabilitation programs. These are folks who know that no life is beyond redemption or incapable of productive work.

Rehabilitation has failed so often because it rests on the idea of stripping every right from a person, throwing them in a cage, isolating them from the larger society and destroying any sense of personal identity or value. Treating people worse than animals is not conducive to self improvement. Rehabilitation must begin by not caging non violent offenders. House arrest, victim restitution, fines, counseling and work habilitation will prove much less expensive to society than caging and produce a better outcome.

Anti social behavior grows out of confusion and misidentification. That is, anti social people believe they are someone different than who they are at their core. They are books judged by their covers; judged by people only interested in covers. They come to believe and behave as though they are the covers others have created for them. They are the products of other people's expectations and imaginations as so many of us are. Unfortunately, the expectations of many role models were low and easy to fulfill. Let society help the victims of low expectations to distinguish between who they are and who they have been told they are. This explains their confusion to them and alleviates it. Clearing this confusion makes good candidates for rehabilitation.

Rehabilitation begins by helping an offender find their true identity. The tools trained counselors now have at their disposal for this identification process are readily available: aptitude and IQ tests; personality and character tests; astrological and numerological charts and reports; literacy tests. Poor readers are non readers and have a lifetime social handicap until they want to read well. Probations should continue until literacy is achieved. Once a person can read well and wants to do so, they can learn anything else they so choose. This opens a world of options previously denied.

Lives of total dependency in cages help no one. Not keepers, the prisoners or the society trying to protect itself. To treat a person as though they will never have an opportunity for revenge and then releasing them with hearts full of fear, resentment, anger and rage, guarantees that society will pay a price for the way they treat people who were most often fellow victims, long before they turned to crime.

In Orwellian double speak, society talks of caging people as criminals paying a debt to society. The fact is the reverse. Society is creating a debt to the offender, turning a marginal life into a hopeless and useless life. Society is restricting a person from any opportunity to contribute to the society he or she offended; allowing no opportunity to support a family for which they may be responsible; innocent victims of terrible, thoughtless social policy.

Society has so long applied this cruel punishment that its debt to the criminal element cannot be paid. Just like the debts owed Native Americans and the descendents of African slaves. We can go ahead and live our lives as though no debt existed and we do. America will pay in blood, terror and plague - death and destruction. It is a sad thing we have so chosen. Divine justice does not allow for life in cages or a few living well from the misery of many.

The rehabilitation of social offenders will not prevent the judgment of a dispassionate, unrepentant people, long past due. It could create pockets of mercy within that judgment. Perhaps you and I will know a little of that mercy. Perhaps you and I will make some effort to end a social injustice that is worldwide and centuries old. Perhaps you and I will no longer ignore the problems some are paid to hide from us. Perhaps we actually do know right from wrong. Perhaps knowing the difference, we will choose what is right. Perhaps but no one is betting on it.

About the Author

Freelance writer published on websites and in newspapers.


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