Prison Vs. Rehabilitation Centers

Written by susan hillman
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Prison Vs. Rehabilitation Centers
Is prison or rehabilitation better for offenders? (old prison window image by green 308 from

There is a continual debate about if prisons or rehabilitation centres work better for sentencing of non-violent offenders. People with mental illnesses or a drug or alcohol addiction problem are being sent to prison, when a rehabilitation centre would address the problem of mental illness or drug addiction. This would help reduce the amount of repeat offenders and save tax dollars. However, there is a difference between prison and rehabilitation centres.


People are sent to prison for committing a crime. The justice system sends a person to prison to punish, rehabilitate and to prevent crime; however, there is a very high recidivism rate among drug and alcohol offenders and the mentally ill. Additionally, the prisons have been overcrowded and are becoming more so. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, "In 2008, over 7.3 million people were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end --- 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults."

Prison Vs. Rehabilitation Centers
The recidivism rate is high for prison. (prison wire image by robert mobley from

Rehabilitation Centers

A rehabilitation centre is where a person can go for help with alcohol, drug, or mental illness treatment and also receive individual services from a counsellor or therapist. These facilities can offer outpatient, inpatient, residential or extended care depending on the individuals need. Additionally, there are state-run rehabilitation centres and for people with insurance there are private ran rehabilitation centres. Some states, such as California have started sending non-violent drug offenders to rehabilitation centres.


There are many people who think that prison is not rehabilitating the offenders that enter and leave from prison, especially the repeat drug offenders and mentally ill. Many offenders are leaving prison with their addiction problems or mental illnesses untreated or any type of referral for treatment after release. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, "Treating drug-involved offenders provides a unique opportunity to decrease substance abuse and reduce associated criminal behaviour."


Both Texas and California have tried two different incarceration policies, which have shown that rehabilitation works better. Texas started imprisoning youth offenders with non-violent crimes for longer periods of time, hoping this would decrease their rising amount of youth offenders. California took a different stance, putting their non-violent youth offenders in a rehabilitation centre. According to the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, the results for Texas showed that their stricter incarceration policy was unwarranted and that non-incarcerative alternatives should be considered.

Research Statistics

When the research started in 1995, the juvenile incarceration rate was higher in California; however, the statistics changed by 2006. According to the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice, "However, by 2006, the situation was reversed, and the Lone Star State's juvenile incarceration rate was 2.6 times higher than in California." Therefore, rehabilitation centres could be an option for non-violent drug offenders or mentally ill offenders.

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