The International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation

What Does Social Justice Mean and Require in the Rehabilitation of
Ex-Convicts Addicts in the Era of Privatization

Ana Kadmon-Telias, MA,
(Clinical Rehabilitation Psychologist); MSW

Kadmon-Telias, A.  (2003)   What does social justice mean and require in the rehabilitation of
ex-convicts addicts in the era of privatization. International Journal of Psychosocial Rehabilitation. 7, 127-131

Key Words: prisoners, addiction, rehabilitation, social justice

The paper presents a model of treatment of ex-prisoners with addiction problems aimed at facilitating re-entry in the society. A comparison is made between two therapeutic approaches: ‘Bribing the criminal’ and ‘Converting criminals into non-criminals’ in the ‘Half-way house’ model. The present global trend of privatization is also addressed.

In this paper we are going to present a model of rehabilitation which enables the ex-prisoner to return and integrate to society, as compared with models which tend to perpetuate the individual’s dependence. This model has been shown to succeed in 96% of cases since it was started in 1988, success defined as permanence and integration of the individual who finished the program to society, without returning to prison. We are also going to consider the possible repercussions of privatization in the future of those individuals who until now were a burden for society, relied and depended on it. They will now be forced by the new reality of the Israeli society to enter  into an open-market economy with the inherent concurrence. Punishment, as well as two basic treatment and rehabilitation approaches will be discussed: a) Bribing the criminal, and b) Converting criminals into non-criminals in the ‘Half-way house’ model.
The paper will compare both approaches from the point of view of what social justice requires with respect to: a) the individual and b)  society. From the point of view of the individual we will discuss the issues of 1) autonomy and  freedom; and 2) paternalism, and how these items are considered in the “bribing the criminal” and in the ‘Half-Way-House’ model, and how the individual’s right to autonomy and freedom is best considered. From the point of view of society we will discuss: 1) what is better for society, meaning: less threatening for the normative majority, more rapidly achievable, cheaper and with a longer-lasting effect;  2) what is socially accepted, and 3) what is more cost-effective.

After discussing in the paper all the above mentioned, we claim that the ‘Half-way house’ approach is the most ‘socially just’ and most effective, in meeting the needs of rehabilitation in  the new era of privatization.

Addictions and the inherent criminality, have become one of the seven plagues of the 20th century, and, as things go, they will also be one of the seven plagues of the 21st century. All kind of different habits, like using chemicals, overeating, gambling, having a prolific sexual activity, etc., have been defined as addictions. But there is an obvious difference between at least two groups of addictions: those which are detrimental only for the individual, like overeating, or being addicted to dangerous situations (mountain climbing, etc.), and those addictions which are detrimental for others and for society as well, like addiction to drugs and/or to alcohol.

When a person uses drugs and cannot afford the cost of the drugs, then he has to resort to illegal activities, such as theft or dealing in drugs, in order to obtain the money to pay for his addiction, the problem is a social one. The individual is causing a damage to others with his addiction, and there is a societal interest in the case. The cost of such individuals for society is extremely high. One estimate for Israel is that an average heroin addict has to cause propriety damage of about 1.000  U/S dollars a day to support his habit and himself.

This ridiculously high price does not include: loss of wages; police, court and prison costs; health care for the results of drug consumption; health and/or psychological care for people who may result hurt during a delictive act performed by the addict; treatment of persons who may have been infected with HIV or other infectious diseases as a consequence of intercourse with the addict, or by sharing his needles, etc.; support for his family while the addict is in prison; psychological and social treatment for his wife and children; keeping the children in institutions when the mother cannot cope alone, or when the children begin to exhibit behavioral problems as a result of their defective rearing.

It is obvious that we are not facing only an individual problem or a possible damage to the physical and  mental health of the addict and his family. We are facing a serious problem for society.

For millennia societies have been faced with the problem of criminality, and in the last century, also with the one of addictions. In the course of time, two contradictory approaches have been developed: 1) Punishment and 2) Treatment, each of them with different variations. We are going to analyze different aspects of this dilemma. In this paper we will  focus and  emphasize  the treatment approach in general, and the non-coercive treatment in particular, which we consider the best solution to the problems. We are also to refer briefly to some aspects of punishment, which in our opinion is less successful than treatment.

1) Punishment:

Punishment is usually culturally dependent. Three basic approaches have been delineated for punishment (Walker, 1991):

a) - Punishment as revenge or to obtain compensation fits the old Anglo-Saxon social system, and also the old Biblical tradition of ‘an eye for an eye’, but it is not adequate for modern, big societies;

b) - Punishment as deterrence, or to defend society, is more adequate for big, cosmopolitan societies, in which crime is often committed not against individuals but against impersonal consortiums and companies. In this approach, individuals who are the victims of crime and who want to obtain compensation have to have obtained insurance previously in order to be protected. Nevertheless, the approach provides relative protection for individuals, entities, and the State.

c) - Coercive treatment and rehabilitation, as has been used in some places, is based on the supposition that crime is a   byproduct of a defective education, and that correctly-educated individuals should think and act as everybody else, otherwise, they have to be re-programmed.
Harsh punishments, either in approach a) or in approach b),  have proven non-effective. Countries where punishments are very harsh have the same incidence of criminality (depending on socio-economic factors) as countries with less severe punishments. The failure of the primitive Social Justice concept of “equal punishment for equal crime” has filled the prisons of the world, but did not solve the problem of criminality.
The purpose of the law and of correctional entities may ultimately be defined as: to prevent crime and reincidence. This prevention may be defined as the ultimate goal of society in this respect (Parent, 1990). Society is not interested in crime, thus, preventing criminality serves society well. But society, even in “rich countries”, is also not interested in spending unnecessary amounts of money in order to prevent criminality. Thus, preventing criminality in a cost-effective way is better for society than preventing criminality in an inefficient, expensive way.
2) Non-coercive treatment:
Among the many treatment and rehabilitation modalities available today, which cause serious ethical dilemmas among therapists (Reamer, 1982), we want to refer to two in particular: a) ‘Bribing the Criminal’, and b) ‘The Half-Way-House Model’:
a- ‘Bribing the criminal’:
We have preferred to call so a correctional attitude characterized by trying to keep criminals out of criminal activities by bribing them in a relatively organized fashion.
The policy of ‘bribing the criminals’ by allotting them a series of social benefits, like social welfare, privileges for housing and the acquisition of small shops, etc. can only keep criminals at bay for short periods of time. In most cases, after a more or less serious attempt at using the services provided, the criminal finds out that his economic level was better while he was a criminal, and consequently tends to relapse into delinquent activities.

This system keeps the criminal inactive for short periods only, and it is very costly for society and for the individual. It reinforces the criminal’s narcissistic perception of reality and of the rights of the individual. It also creates in the clients the habit of obtaining secondary gains, because society is to be blamed, society owes me: (it’s because of them). As a consequence, the criminal who wants to obtain a determinate benefit will break the law with ease if he considers that by doing so he is going to obtain at the end the benefit he was asking for, and which he considers ‘his legitimate right’.

This system does not take into consideration individual dignity in the sense that it does not respect his autonomy as a rational moral agent. According to (Kant, 1965-1797). Clients of this system become parasitic, and depend upon the continuous reception of benefits in order to subsist. This system does not lead the individual to autonomy and to freedom because the individual becomes dependent on the continuous provision of funds (for example, from Social Security) by a system which at the same time forbids him to develop independent means of survival (people receiving Social Security are specifically prohibited to work beyond a limited amount, which cannot exceed the monthly sum provided by Social Security).

b) - Converting the criminal into a non-criminal by the Half-Way-House model:
The model presents an opposition of authority in contrast to freedom, and when first looked at seems to be paternalistic, but after analyzing the rationale of the model, it is a necessary and justified paternalism.
The theories and concepts of: a) Winnicott (1965) (transitional object) are applied in the Half-Way House, which provide the opportunity for a “corrective experience” (F. Alexander, 1956), of an earlier incomplete developmental process.
and b) Seligman (Seligman et. al, 1979) (learned helplessness and its treatment by ‘forced response’) provide an excellent framework for achieving the reversibility of cognitive, emotional and behavioral deficits under the protection of the transitional object (the Half-Way House), where clients have to work to provide for their basic needs,  thus passing from dependence to independence, in a fashion which could be superficially interpreted as paternalistic,  but which really leads the individual to autonomy and freedom that he never reached before. They undergo a treatment pointed at improving their socialization, re-structuring their lives and becoming functional, non-addicted and non-criminal  members of society.
This treatment model is better for society because the system permits individual dignity (Kant, 1965-1797). Clients become productive and independent members that undergo a resocialization process, restructuring their lives and becoming functional and self-esteemed, non-addicted and non-criminal members of society.

It also provides a better opportunity for an equalitarian distribution of resources and better standards of living, consequently it is socially and morally more acceptable. Paradoxically, those were originally also the goals of the welfare state, as mentioned by E. Hertzog (1996): Distribution of public assets and resources on an equalitarian basis. (Hertzog, 1996))

This long-term process of a year in residence and a second year in intensive follow-up requires more time and effort but its effects last much longer, and it is less expensive for society and individuals, consequently, it is more cost-effective.

The Half-Way House model  is a very adequate instrument to achieve the goal of preventing criminality and reincidence at very low cost for both society and individuals in the new era of privatization Israel is undergoing where everybody, including ex-convicts addicts, will have to compete for resources.

These two approaches represent two schools of thought: the first school claims that if we give the clients sufficient material means to meet their basic needs they will not have to resort to drugs and delinquency as an escape from their fear to cope with life. Expectation from the individual by this school are very low.

The second school represented in the Half-Way House believes in teaching the clients how to be free and claims that if we give the patients the necessary tools and opportunities they never had before of learning how to solve problems and confront life, just as everybody else, they will not need to resort to delinquency and drugs in order to avoid the vicissitudes of life. They will not only be able to satisfy their basic needs, but beyond that they will be able to compete on an equal basis with others, and achieve their full potential, in the sense mentioned by Plant (1987).

 From the social point of view, the model is based on the idea that most criminals never had a “second chance”, which the rehabilitation process can offer, and that, given the adequate conditions, they can profit from it. This possibility of a “second chance” offered on the long term in the Half-Way House,  is much closer to the ideal of Social Justice.

The controversy between these two last approaches is not new, it is mostly a particular case of a wider controversy between two schools of thought regarding a much wider topic: Freedom. (according to  Stuart Mill (1909), and according to Rousseau (1967) ).

For Mill, the individual is sovereign of himself. For Rousseau the individual, for his own good, has to submit his individual will to a superior collective will. According to Rousseau, paternal treatment should be admitted because it is in the benefit of society.

Berlin, in 1969, offers a helpful distinction between ‘Negative Freedom’, which we would link with Mill, and ‘Positive Freedom’, which we would link with Rousseau.

The question of the limits of individual freedom has been raised since antiquity. Curiously enough, not only democrats strictusensu but even totalitarian regimes have claimed the words ‘Liberty’ and ‘Freedom’ as their own (George Orwell, ‘1984’); ‘Democratic Republic of Germany (East Germany), Torrijo’s ‘democratic’ dictatorship in Panama, etc.’.

The problem of the confrontation of individual freedom as opposed to collective rights has always been debated. Paternalists have used the concept of the rights of society as opposed to the rights of the individual in order to impose their ideas to revolutionaries.

The first approach, “Bribing the criminal”, is more closely related with Mill, and the second approach, the ‘Half-Way House’, is mostly related to Rousseau.

 Mill rejected most but two forms of Paternalism. The ones he accepts are: 1) that if a child could take rational decisions he would agree with our decisions about his own welfare); and 2) that no adult may sell himself into slavery, since doing so is inconsistent with any future autonomy). According to this, the ex-convict addict who is treated in the Half-Way House in a justified paternalistic fashion, should even be accepted by Mill’s view because the patients as a result of an incomplete development, are fixated in the childish stage of dependency, and still have to learn how to make rational decisions by going through a ‘maturational process’ in a ‘facilitating environment’ (the Half-Way House).

The tendency toward privatization, which characterizes present-day economies and also Israel, and the scarcity of funding caused by an ever-increasing population who needs access to resources which grow less rapidly than the population, configure an appropriate field for the application of the principles and techniques of the Half-Way House rehabilitation model.


When answering the question: What does social justice mean and require from the individual and from society in the rehabilitation of ex-convicts addicts in the era of privatization, it is obvious that we are not facing only an individual problem but a menace for society. Addictions and the crime inherent to it are not detrimental only for the individual, but for others as well. When a person uses drugs, he resorts to illegal activities and his problem becomes a social one. Preventing criminality in a cost-effective way may be defined as the ultimate goal of society in this respect, and the Half-Way House is an adequate instrument for this purpose, while enabling the ex-convict addict, after completion of treatment and reaching finally a fair ‘start point’, equal opportunities for free competition in the era of privatization.


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