I'm skeptical of the very term prisoner "rehabilitation." It seems rooted in a misguided sense of paternalism, implying there is some criminal class just waiting to be cured by us, the enlightened class. Rehabilitation implying there is something to "habilitate" in the first place. And this hogwash it is the very foundation upon which our whole prison system was invented.
But the truth is, and many people don't know this, we don't even try to rehabilitate. The Wall Street Journal reports that just 6% of prisoners were enrolled in vocational or college programs. Of course some argue against all programs for prisoners. But what's supposed to happen when they get out (as 95% of them do)? Is this the best we can do with our $60-billion-a-year government-run system of incarceration? Maybe it's time to try something else.
Even if we could "rehabilitate," could you imagine a worse setting than in confinement, surrounded by criminals? And if prisons are just punishment, aren't there better, cheaper, and more honest ways to punish? (Like, for instance, flogging ? But more on that later.)
[Also posted at The Agitator]