Medieval Latin rehabilitatus, past participle of rehabilitare, from Latin re- + Late Latin habilitare to habilitate
- Date: circa 1581
- 1 a : to restore to a former capacity : reinstate
- 2 a : to restore to a former state (as of efficiency, good management, or solvency) <rehabilitate slum areas>
The assumption of rehabilitation is that people are not permanently criminal and that it is possible to restore a criminal to a useful life, to a life in which they contribute to themselves and to society. A goal of rehabilitation is to prevent habitual offending, also known as criminal recidivism. Rather than punishing the harm out of a criminal, rehabilitation would seek, by means of education or therapy, to bring a criminal into a more normal state of mind, or into an attitude which would be helpful to society, rather than be harmful to society.
This theory of punishment is based on the notion that punishment is to be inflicted on an offender so as to reform him/her, or rehabilitate them so as to make their re-integration into society easier. Punishments that are in accordance with this theory are community service, probation orders, and any form of punishment which entails any form of guidance and aftercare towards the offender.
This theory is founded on the belief that one cannot inflict a severe punishment of imprisonment and expect the offender to be reformed and to be able to re-integrate into society upon his release. Although the importance of inflicting punishment on those persons who breach the law, so as to maintain social order, is retained, the importance of rehabilitation is also given priority. Humanitarians have, over the years, supported rehabilitation as an alternative, even for capital punishment.