There are four main goals of corrections; retribution, incapacitation, rehabilitation and deterrence. Retribution is the idea society has the right to demand revenge for the violation of the social contract. Deterrence evolves out of a person not wanting to be punished. Incapacitation is the manner of retribution, separating evil-doers from the rest of society. Rehabilitation is a way of improving the prisoner's views of life and avoiding continued judicial problems.
The primary or more important goals differ according to the perception. Prison workers view the main goal as incapacitation or keeping the prisoner within the compound. Incapacitation as the primary goal is supported by the State of Florida's Department of Corrections. They list protecting the public, staff and inmates as their primary goal with reducing the number of escapes as the main objective. Although incapacitation remains a major concern, it appears to do little to aid in rehabilitation or deterrence.
Rehabilitation remains the least popular of the four main goals. It remains controversial because the evidence has thus far not demonstrated concrete positive results. It is also the opposite goal of many early punishments aimed at deterrence. The theory of rehabilitation took hold in the 1870s and remained until the late 1960s, when empirical evidence failed to show any positive correlation (Conrad, 1973).
Proponents of the rehabilitation theory argue the implementation of programs have been lacking due to funding and improperly applied mechanics. The mindset that has arisen within corrections is "nothing works," therefore nothing should be done to help (Cullen & Gendreau, 2000).
Whether rehabilitation should be a major concern of corrections remains largely a moral question because the empirical evidence does not support the cost-effectiveness of such programs. However, what is the price of saving one person from a life in prison?