Theoretical Perspectives of Criminal Behavior

“There is an old adage that failure is an orphan but success has many parents” (Walker 2001:5). All individuals must be taught right form wrong as they are growing up; unfortunately not every individual has that chance. Webster defines rehabilitation as “To restore to a formal capacity, too restore the good name of, too restore or bring too a condition of health or useful and constructive activity.” Often time’s individuals who commit a crime were not previously habilitated at any moment in their life, so therefore why would you rehabilitate someone to their former state of functioning when they never had the ability to do so? ”

Learning theories believe “Criminal behavior is learned. Negatively, this means that criminal behavior is not inherited, as such; also, the person who is not already trained in crime does not invent criminal behavior, just as a person does not make mechanical inventions unless he has had training in mechanics.” (Bohm 2001:83). Individuals often need to be made fit or capable for functioning in society to qualify them selves as functioning members. “Criminals are fundamentally different from noncriminals, either biologically, psychologically, sociologically, or in some combination of all three” (Bohm 2001:25). There are several different programs for rehabilitation such as: diversion, probation, parole, and home confinement and electronic monitoring. Specifically I will cover probation and parole in regards to rehabilitation for criminal offenders.

“Probation embodies the philosophy of rehabilitation by keeping convicted offenders in the community rather than sending them to prison”(Walker 2001:217). Probation’s mission is to provide cost effective incapacitation, rehabilitation, deterrence, and punishment; too provide the courts and the criminal justice community with useful, objective, credible, timely, and accurate information and alternatives; provide probationers with fair and just programs designed to foster accountability and stability in life through opportunities for employment, education, training, counseling, and family services (McNulty, Adult Probation Philosophical Mission Statement. Website.) Probation is rehabilitation consists of things such as employment or evidence of looking for a job, community service, schedules of activities, limitation of travel, drug and alcohol counseling as well as random drug and alcohol testing, random polygraph tests for sex offenders, and reporting to the probation officer as well as home visits. Through rehabilitation, probations purpose is to reintegrate the defendants back into the community. Like probation paroles purpose is as well to reintegrate the defendants back into the community. Through this supervised mandatory release from prison, this program offers an incentive for the prisoners to behave while they are incarcerated, and more prominently serves as a means to control the overcrowding of prisons.

Studies show that 68% were not arrested while on probation (includes felonies and misdemeanors). 46% did not have a petition to revoke filed during probation supervision. 90% were not convicted of a new felony while on probation (McNulty, Adult Probation Philosophical Mission Statement. Website.) 61% had completed their term of probation or were still “active” on probation, 3% were discharged, 1% were deported, 25% were subsequently sentenced to prison and did not complete probation, 4% had absconded, and 6% were unknown (McNulty, Adult Probation Philosophical Mission Statement. Website.)

My conviction is that probation is an excellent program for certain non-violent offenders, such as offenders with drug cases. However, probation has defendants of domestic violence, child abuse, and sexual assault over crowding case loads and reintegrating back into our society while minor drug cases overcrowd prisons forcing out a substantial number of violent criminals back into society. The criminal justice system allows individuals that have brutally beaten their significant others, children, or family members, as well as individuals who have molested, and raped family members, people they know, or even strangers a chance to be reintegrated back into society. On the other hand, we “lock up” people for position, attempt to distribute, or the sale of marijuana.

In cases of violent criminals and re-offenders my viewpoint changes in regards to rehabilitation also known as the paradigm of the positivist view. Individuals who commit high-class felonies, violent offenders, and high-risk or career criminals should be incarcerated. I am not an advocate for capital punishment simply because it is not a deterrent for capital offences, and to be honest because of moral reasons as well however, I do consider mandatory sentencing a just form of punishment. Having a federal death penalty just seems like a step in an uncivilized direction, to a lot of people including me. Juries usually convict a murderer for what seems like the least of their crimes. For instance, several hundred people died in the Oklahoma bombing but McVeigh was only found guilty of the murder of eight U.S Government employees. In the late 1980’s when executions were increasing, the murder rate increased radically at the same time. There has yet to be any form of substantial evidence that has surfaced representing the death penalty deterring crime. “In January 2000, the governor of Illinois suspended all executions after 13 people were released from death row because they had been wrongly convicted” (Walker 2001:106). No one keeps a list of innocent people who have been executed but a lot of mistakes have been made. To name just a few innocent victims of the death penalty, three come to mind Jesus Christ, Socrates and Sir Thomas More.

For certain crimes, I believe in the three strikes law, for instance repeat violent offenders. Offenders who continue to cause harm to another human being should receive life in prison after three offences, simply for the safety of the community. Of course no law is perfect, this laws imperfection, for example an individual who gets arrested for grand theft auto going to prison does not seem like the punishment fits the crime, and would add to the problem of overcrowding in the prisons. Sometimes there are as they say “exceptions to the rule” I think that this law definitely should contain exceptions and I believe with a few changes in regards to who this law will effect, this law would be sufficient.

Webster defines responsibility as “The quality or state of being responsible. Being moral, legal, or mental accountability. Reliability, trustworthiness, something for which one is responsible. Ability to respond.” Responsibility is a part of habilitation, not every individual has the ability to respond appropriately to a given set of circumstances. The assumption that all criminals are low lives or should be locked up is illogical; there are often circumstances where a wrong action or even a statement is made proceeding from faulty judgment, inadequate knowledge, or inattention. In this circumstances offenders should have the prospect to undergo a modification of their original identity, as well as a chance to make amends. I concur with the functionalist theory as well, “it’s basic premise is as follows: the world is a system of interrelated parts, and each part makes a necessary contribution to the viability of the system” (Bohm: 2001:74). The functionalism theory does not want to prevent crime just contain it, I don’t believe that there is any way to absolutely prevent crime and why prevent it completely if it also provides a substantial amount of employment. It provides employment is such fields as the police department, probation, parole, correction, as well as the courts. These jobs provide thousands of opportunity for citizens to obtain employment as well as maintain a low unemployment rate. “The criminal comes in as one of those natural “counterweights” which bring about a correct balance and open up a whole perspective of “useful” occupations” (Bohm 2001:75). Peter Kirk stated “I hate this “crime doesn’t pay” stuff. Crime in the United States is perhaps one of the biggest businesses in the world today.” (


1) Bohm, Robert M. 2001. A Primer On Crime And Delinquency Theory. Thomas Learning Inc. pp.

2) Walker, Samuel. 2001. Sense and Nonsense about Crime and Drugs. Thomas Learning Inc.

3) McNulty, Adult Probation Philosophical Mission Statement.