Why is rehabilitation treated as a punishment?
I was in court today for a duty session. I represented a man with a long history of drug abuse and offending. He had taken a ten-year break from crime and drugs, partly because he spent four-years in prison and partly because he met a woman, married and had kids. A family breakdown has led him back to heroin.
In the past year he’s committed a couple of minor thefts and been found in possession of heroin, which is why I represented him today.
He agreed he needed help to kick the drugs and wanted me to apply for a pre-sentence report aimed at a community order with a drug rehabilitation requirement attached.
His instructions and the recent offending indicate an escalation in offending meaning it’s very likely that without support he will find himself back before the court having committed further offences.
Ultimately, my application for a PSR was refused on the basis that the offence was not sufficiently serious to warrant a punishment as serious as a community order. In law, the court was quite right – the possession of a single wrap probably did not merit a community order. In practice, they will find themselves sentencing this man again in the next few weeks when he commits further offences.
This leads me to ask the question: why do we treat rehabilitation as a punishment?
I have no idea why rehab isn’t imposed as an ancillary order rather than as a sentence. There’s no reason why participation couldn’t still be mandatory but making the requirement ancillary to the sentence would enable the court to help more offenders get themselves clean and that means less crime for everyone else.