What do we need for a rehabilitation culture?

Today I was at the RSA talk  Creating a Rehabilitation Culture. Rachel O’Brien chaired and Shadd Maruna spoke.

In Shadd’s history of changing attitudes to rehabilitation  I was struck by the idea that the seminal paper in the 70s that suggested ‘nothing works’ vs the ’12 disciples’ whose scientific work showed that rehabilitation ‘does work!’ and allowed a renaissance in the idea of rehabilitation, were presented, not as causes of the change in attitude, but symptoms of a larger societal change. What might have actually caused this change was left open. Connie Willis devoted an entire novel to this question. If only we could find the hidden influence (we have met the enemy and he is us?).

Shadd also drew on the familiar Spirit Level graph pointing out that the link between relative deprivation and crime can be a two way street. While more unequal countries have more people in prisons, going to prison also makes you poor. (The US is an outlier as its prison population is even higher than  you’d expect given their inequality, while Greece has a much smaller prison population than expected compared with all other developed countries).

A third point discussed how imprisonment can be considered an act of violence towards the imprisoned, meeting violence with further violence. Shadd suggested, that the question that was ‘answered’ by prison was not a meaningless question, but a loaded question. That by asking the wrong question we get an answer (prison) that is the right answer to that question but not right overall.

The worrying idea of performance related pay for outsourced rehabilitation services came up in the questions This has never been show to work in any creative job (maybe rote work), instead it encourages people to game the system, rather than care about their work from intrinsic motivation. Alfie Kohn discusses this in Punished by Rewards.


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