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Resolved: Rehabilitation ought to be valued above retribution in the United States criminal justice system.
I love when they recycle old topics. And by that I mean, wtf are they doing recycling old topics? Come up with something more relevant! Alas, like the many topics before this one, we’re stuck with what we’ve got, so let’s talk about it.
Parts of Speech and Definitions
Rehabilitation – This is the approach to justice which focuses on helping criminals see the error of their ways and once again making them productive members of society
Retribution – This is the approach to justice which focuses on punishing criminals for the wrongs they have committed
U.S. Criminal Justice System – We know what this is; it doesn’t really need a definition.
Ought to be valued – This is the crux of your case. You must develop a framework which addresses how we determine what a criminal justice system ought to value. Based upon that framework, you need to explain why the U.S. criminal justice system ought to value rehabilitation of retribution
Potential Case Positions
1. Societal Welfare – A society is better off with a greater number of productive members. Prisoners do not do society any good. Therefore, there should be a focus on rehabilitating criminals and releasing them back into society for the sake of making society better as a whole. The recidivism rate is so high anyway that simple punish only creates more problems.
2. Violence Breeds Violence – The punishment environments, particularly for violent criminals, in the United States are terrible places where once must become increasingly adept at criminal activity in order to simply survive. The culture within prison systems is not one which encourages proper and just behavior, but rather one which encourages prisoners to become more immersed in a criminal culture. A focus on punishment only exacerbates this and creates increasingly violent criminals as opposed to solving our problems.
3. Rehabilitation is More Economical – We spend a great deal taxpayer money on punishment systems in the United States, at almost unsustainable levels. The problem is that we really don’t have anything to show for it. All this expenditure on punishment hasn’t resulted in a significant decrease in crime. Rehabilitation costs much less, and if properly executed, it addresses the upstream causes of crime, resulting in a tangible decrease.
1. Governmental Legitimacy – As per the social contract, a government can only be legitimate if it properly enacts punishments for violations of the social contract. If focusing on rehabilitation, the government must inevitably become more lax on punishment. Therefore, we sacrifice true retributive justice in some vain hope of rehabilitating someone who has already proven himself to have disregarded the social contract.
2. Retributive Justice – True retributive justice actually demands that there be no focus on rehabilitation. Criminals violate the social, and therefore, they give up any corresponding rights to those obligations which they violated. They don’t deserve to be rehabilitated and integrated back into society because they had their chance to be a part of that society and chose to disregard its rules.
3. Retribution Accomplishes Rehabilitation’s Goals Better – Plato explains that the only true deterrence to a crime is the threat of punishment, and Hobbes agrees. The reason criminals continue to commit crimes is not because they think it’s OK but because they don’t fear the punishment associated with it. If the justice systems focuses on punishment, this deterrent mechanism of fear becomes much more active.
That should help you get started. Good luck!