Two ideologies exist behind incarceration of convicted criminals, and they are inherently contrasting: there is the belief that penal institutions must promote rehabilitation and reform the criminal, and there is the conviction that most felons are not likely to change, and that lengthy imprisonment is the best possible solution for the society. Not unexpectedly, laws equally reflecting the opposite views vie for dominance. The Second Chance Act of 2007 is an example of administrative emphasis on rehabilitation (Peak), with job training and financial assistance offered to released offenders. Conversely, the Three Strikes Laws, prompted by a society intolerant of habitual and violent offenders, supports the view that there is no recourse beyond continued separation of the offender from the mainstream society.
Behind this conflict, however, remains a persistent reality, in that prison conditions of abuse, gang activity, and prisoner victimization inevitably do little more than generate further criminality. If the prisons are unable to facilitate rehabilitative measures, they must become institutions that promote crime. There is the factor of incarceration as essential in cases of violent offenders, but the more pressing reality is that, if pragmatic rehabilitation is not conducted within the jails, the situation must grow more dire. Efforts in the past have been mixed in terms of focus and results. Nonetheless, as overcrowding is causing the release of unprecedented numbers of convicts (Peak), it seems clear that further designs for reentry and rehabilitation must be developed for those prisoners deemed potentially able to benefit. If rehabiliation remains subject to debate, it must be realized that rehabilitation itself may take a variety of forms, and be conducted in ways still protecting the society.
Peak, K. J. Justice Administration: Police, Courts, and Corrections Management (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2010. Print.