Sociology Index

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Rehabilitative ideal as defined by F. Allen (1981) refers to the belief that a primary purpose of punishment is to effect a change in the character, attitudes and behavior of convicted offenders so as to strengthen the community's social defense but also to contribute to the welfare of the individual.

Rehabilitative ideal can be traced back to the 18th century work of John Howard and its influence is seen again in an American Congress of corrections held in 1870 and put into place in the Elmira Reformatory. The rehabilitative ideal has fallen out of favor with both the public and politicians, and there is little indication that it will return to prominence any time in the immediate future.

What is the REHABILITATIVE IDEAL? What are its premises? Why did it fall so seriously from grace? and, What could be done to make it more acceptable to the “law and order” climate of today? Sundt, Jody L., Francis T. Cullen, Brandon K. Applegate, and Michael G. Turner 1998. “The Tenacity of the Rehabilitative Ideal Revisited: Have Attitudes Toward Offender Treatment Changed?” Criminal Justice and Behavior 25 (December):426-442.

Applegate, Brandon K., Francis T. Cullen, Bonnie S. Fisher 1997 “Public Support for Correctional Treatment: The Continuing Appeal of the Rehabilitative Ideal.” The Prison Journal 77 (September):237-258. 

Cullen, Francis T., Edward J. Latessa, Velmer S. Burton, Jr., and Lucien X. Lombardo 1993 The Correctional Orientation of Prison Wardens: Is the Rehabilitative Ideal Supported? Criminology 31 (February):69-92.

Cullen, Francis T., Sandra Evans Skovron, Joseph E. Scott, and Velmer S. Burton, Jr. 1990 Public Support for Correctional Rehabilitation: The Tenacity of the Rehabilitative Ideal. Criminal Justice and Behavior 17 (March):6-18.