January 27, 2020 in Sociology
Philosophy of Community Corrections


The term “community corrections” denotes all the processes that take place from pretrial diversion to intermediary punishments. These processes include any supervised and non-imprisonment methods of dealing with offenders who have either been or are about to be convicted. Community correction can take numerous forms including probation and parole that are the most popular methods. The term also includes home confinements, monitoring through electronic devices, restitution, and community service among others. The manner in which people view punishment as well as the anticipated result of such intervention is meant to inform the mission of community corrections. By and large, punishment is commonly associated with two wide orientations. According to the first idea, punishment entails retribution while the other ideology lays more emphasis on the consequences of the punishment. The utilitarian philosophy argues that punishment should aim at improving the situation by as opposed to making it worse. Punishment is, therefore, extremely mindful of the future results. Because of this it seeks to deter a criminal from embarking on illegal activities again. The diverging ideas about community correction mentioned above reveal that there are various particular types of philosophies or rationales that have fundamental consequences on how community correction services can discharge their duties. This paper will delve into the major philosophies of community correction that include the philosophy of utilitarian punishment, rehabilitation, the justice approach.

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The Philosophies of Community Corrections

The Philosophy of Utilitarian Punishment

The utilitarian philosophy is the most ancient and popularly accepted approach to criminal justice. According to the utilitarian theory of punishment, those people who embark on illegal activities do so with the knowledge that what they are doing is wrong. Such criminals are also aware of the fact that when caught and find guilty, they will be awarded punishments that are proportionate to the degree of damage they have caused. Besides, this kind of punishment also serves as a lesson to the entire community and incapacitates the offender from doing further harm in future. It, therefore, follows that the three primary goals of this approach include retribution, deterrence, and incapacitation.

The utilitarian method of punishing criminals can be likened to the “being tough on crime” practice. Consequently, the general public often responds positively to this philosophy due to the fear associated with criminal activities. This theory supports a number of policies and practices including a hard-line policy with respect to child offenders, a wide-spread use of determinate and mandatory sentences, the establishment of efficient judicial systems and the get tough policy for drug and substance abusers. The uses of boot camps as well as the implementation of death penalties are also supported by utilitarian punishments. All these punishments are meant to protect the entire community by eradicating dangerous offenders from the society. The utilitarian punishment will, therefore, continue being among the widely used methods of handling offenders.

Despite the positive results that might be produced by this strategy, it is also disadvantageous. This is because it solely relies on imprisonment as the only way through which the complex issue of crime can be resolved. People who are punished might become aggressive due to their frustrations.

The Rehabilitative Philosophy

The rehabilitative philosophy is the second approach to punishing criminal that endeavors to alter the criminal’s behavior by taking them through a therapeutic or skill-based program. Rehabilitation is, therefore, the systematic effort to change criminal offenders so that divergent tendencies, particularly those that are detrimental or negative to others, are reduced or excluded from their lives. Although most critics argue that it is impossible to rehabilitate criminals, the supporters of this philosophy are of the view that change is evitable. In fact, some people undergo drastic, life-changing experiences that are unbelievable.

Rehabilitation focuses on three vital areas. For certain categories of offenders, the ultimate goal is to change their ways of reacting to cues in their surroundings. The purpose of this objective is to correct the way in which criminals frequently observe, construe or respond to their environment. The other objective is to alter the factors that motivate the criminal engage in crimes. This strategy involves the abolition of the longing, liking, excitement or reward connected with criminal activity. Finally, this method strives to change or decrease the problematic behavior and modify the deviant ways of living. However, this objective is difficult to achieve because these characteristic patterns often reveal an individual’s self-concept. These goals are accomplished through the creation of comprehensive programs that can result in significant and long-term personal changes in the offender’s behavior. Coming up with such programs to fulfill the last objective is, nevertheless, a tall order.

Although this system gives offenders the opportunity to change their social and economic life, it is disadvantageous because it is difficult to punish and rehabilitate concomitantly. It is also hard to convert years of rebellious habituation by providing short-term programs for prisoners.

The Justice Model

This model is currently among the most popular approaches to punishment. The model was a creation of David Fogel in the year 1979 and has since then been widely utilized by administrators. Theoretically, this approach to punishing criminals falls between the utilitarian and the rehabilitative philosophies of punishment discussed above. Because of this, it is said to borrow heavily from the ideas proposed by the utilitarian and the rehabilitative arguments. For example, it acknowledges the need for rehabilitation and supports the utilitarian argument that stipulates that determinate sentencing is vital. This approach differs from the utilitarian and rehabilitative approach in that its punishments are considered humane and founded on the constitution which is a significant aspect of the contemporary society. Additionally, this system accepts crime as part of life and, therefore, finds no reason for discriminating offenders. The offenders are thus treated as an ordinary citizen who has a debt to repay and tries to return them to their previous non-criminal state.

This model is integrates two vital principles of modern corrections including punishment and treatment. It highlights the tenet of punishment by stressing on consistent, determinant sentences and ensures treatment by providing academic, counseling and other rehabilitative processes to the criminals who voluntary desire to change.

Some of the key elements supported by this mode include retribution as opposed to deterrence and reformation, as well as the fact that the offenders should restitute their victims. They also argue that criminals are normally aware of their illegal acts and hence must be held accountable. This model discourages the use of discretionary punishment. One of its advantages is that it supports fairness and justice and accords the offender various rights.


Having examined the parameters of the utilitarian, rehabilitative and justice philosophies of community correction, the next probable question is which approach is the most effective way of handling offenders. For a long time, people argued that criminals have the same characteristics and that, therefore, they can be corrected using similar methods. On the contrary, the current philosophy of punishment encourages the use of an integrated approach. According to researchers, the utilitarian approach might work well with some offenders but fail when used with others. The same may occur when the justice or the rehabilitative methods are used for different criminals. To ensure success, administrators ought to comprehend the variety of correctional strategies available and match particular types of criminals with the appropriate treatment method.


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