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A short time ago the newspapers carried an item accompanied by lurid photographs of how a newly established third world power dealt with its criminals. The technique used guaranteed the offenders would not recidivate. They were hanged, thereby saving the state the expense of maintaining them while incarcerated. In our humane and democratic society such a brutal, final solution to the problem would never be acceptable. We are concerned with treatment. By treatment we do not imply that all criminals are ill and therefore in need of medical attention. Conceding that some offenders are mentally, emotionally and physically ill and therefore in need of medical attention, we are mainly concerned with the vast majority of criminals who are impelled to commit crimes by the interplay of a host of social, psychological, familial and cultural factors. Treatment in these cases consists in helping offenders to exercise some measure of control of those elements either by helping them understand their motivations and/or by our mitigating the destructive impact of the forces playing upon them.

Although we are humane we are also practical and utilitarian. We are concerned with the results- of our treatment techniques. Before addressing ourselves to this matter, it would be helpful to clarify society's basic goal and aim in treatment. No one will contest our assertion that our goal in treatment is to change the offender so that he will be more conforming and law-abiding than he was prior to the rehabilitative process. However, as will be illustrated in this article, to say this is to introduce tempestuous arguments as to the "types" of techniques used in this transformation of the offender.


Alexander B. Smith Professor Emeritus of Sociology, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, New York, New York. B.S., City College of New York, 1930; LL.B., Brooklyn Law School, 1930; M.S., City College of New York, 1939; M.A., New York University, 1953; Ph.D., New York University, 1959. Co-author of Crime and Justice in a Mass Society (1972).

Louis Berlin, Branch Chief, New York City Department of Probation; B.A., Brooklyn College, 1934; M.S.W., Columbia University, 1968. Co-author of Treating the Criminal Offender (1974).

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