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Rehabilitation is a theory of punishment intended to be humanitarian in nature, which states that a criminal shall be placed in a reformation program to correct the criminal behavior. It is sometimes described as being therapy or healing, rather than punishment, and may describe criminal behavior as an illness or disease.


Murray N. Rothbard concluded that rehabilitation, in spite of its humanitarian aims, may in fact be the most cruel and arbitrary form of punishment. Like deterrence, it also suffers from a lack of proportionality, because a criminal who commits a petty theft might never be rehabilitated into acknowledging their behavior was wrong. Thus, logically, they must be confined indefinitely. The inverse is of course that for a great crime such as murder, the criminal is much more likely to acknowledge the wrongful nature of their crime and again must logically be held for only a brief period of time.

Additionally, this form of punishment gives arbitrary power to a panel of experts and authority figures to determine at what point an individual has been satisfactorily rehabilitated.[1]

  1. The Ethics of Liberty, p.94-96