Robert Martinson-What Works

RobertMartinson-What Works

TheUnited States, over the past few decades, has been witnessing a risein the number of people locked behind bars. The nation got tough oncrime in response to its surging rates during the 1960s and 1970s.The government in their quest to curb the rising menace of lawbreaking decided to increase arrests and lengthening the sentencesfor those convicted. In 1979, there was a sharp uptick, in theimprisonment rates. About 314000 people were behind bars according tothe statistics provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (Davis M.etal.2013). By mid-2013, the number of people locked-up was estimated tobe around 2 million. This paper focuses on whether the rehabilitationand treatment of offenders are worth it or not.

MartinsonR. (1974) conducted a survey with the aim of finding out what worksfor the American prisons and rehabilitation centers. Martinson foundmany defects in the entire prison rehabilitation centers that oughtto be addressed for prisons to rehabilitate prisoners effectively.

MartinsonR. (1974) discovered that nothing works in the treatment andrehabilitation programs use on criminals. In 1966, the New York stategovernors came up with an ad hoc committee on criminal offenders. Thecommittee was formed since the prisons in New York were not makingserious efforts towards rehabilitating prisoners. There was also theidea of converting the New York’s prisons from their real custodialbasis to rehabilitative centers.

Itwas thought that a correctional facility which had rehabilitativeprograms such as education and vocational training would turn out tobe more efficient as compared to prisons where people are left torot. According to Martinson R. (1974), this was not the case.Overall, the improvement was poor. He found out that it was easierfor the young offenders to change as compared to adult offenders.Robert also found that offenders who performed well in the educationand vocational training still did well even before they were lockedbehind bars.

Theperformance of the offenders could not be attributed to thevocational training they received in prison. Adult offenders proveddifficult to train and change their characters. Vocational trainingmade no difference to the rate of recidivism of the adult female lawbreakers too.

Thestudy by Martinson R. (1974) supports that most of the programs andvocational training in the prisons and rehabilitation centers havefailed. In 1975, the U.S criminology did not uphold the idea ofrehabilitation, since rehabilitation programs did not help to reducethe rates of recidivism. According to the study results, it wasevident that something was not right in the way rehabilitation wasbeing conducted in prison. Robert came to a conclusion that nothingworked.

Thegovernment had tried various ways to rehabilitate and change thecharacter of the offenders in no vain. The programs such aseducation, and vocationally training proved not to work to a majorityof the criminals (Tonry, 2013). There was an influx of people inprisons. Some of the offenders had been rearrested a few months afterbeing released from jail. There was sure proof that a lot needed tobe done to curb the menace, or else things might get out of hand. Thefindings of Tonry (2013) were similar to those of Martinson R.(1974). Tonry (2013) confirmed that only a small percentage ofconvicts are transformed even after serving their term in jail.Vocational training was not effective in turning the lives of theoffenders. According to Tonry (2013), the initiative by thegovernment to introduce education and vocational training to theoffenders was not embraced, and most of the criminals rejected it.

Theresearch conducted by Davis etal.(2013) indicated that it was challenging to prepare law breakers withthe necessary vocational training for them to be reintegrated backinto the society. This research is in line with the findings ofMartinson R. (2013). Davis etal.(2013) realized that the offenders on average are less educated thanthe other people in the society. The offenders also lacked a steadyhistory of employment (Davis etal.,2013). Unemployment has been a big challenge from these coming out ofprison. These factors made a lot of the offenders lose hope in life.Davis etal.(2013) supported the findings of the study conducted by Martinson R.(1974).

Iagree that nothing works. The government has been making extraefforts to chance the character of the offenders but in vain. All theprograms brought by the government are intended to ensure that theoffenders will lead a normal life after serving their term in prison.The biggest challenge to the government is that the offenders are notreceptive. The offenders can greatly benefit from the education andvocational training provided in prison and the rehabilitationcenters. The other challenge might be the way the training is done.If it is done using a holistic approach, a good number of theoffenders will show significant changes. Martinson R. (1974) saw theneed to release low-risk offenders or make them serve shorter jailterms and rehabilitate the high-risk offenders instead.

Thestudy by Martinson R. (1974) provided important information that thecriminal justice system can use to improve their treatment andrehabilitation programs. Though there was resistance to the programs,there were some changes in the behavior of offenders. The attitude ofthe criminals towards the training was negative. Due to the weakrelationship between the offenders and the law enforcers, it was hardfor the offenders to accept anything brought to them even if it wasfor their benefit. Martinson’s views came to be accepted by boththe progressive and conservative critics regarding the criminaljustice system.


Theprison reforms should be extended to the families and communities ofthe offenders. Upon the liberation of the convicts, many find it hardto cope with the society. At times the community fails to accept themback. Once accepted by the society as reformed people, they caneasily lead a productive life without breaking the law. Everyone hasa role to play in helping the convicts to change their life.

Thegovernment should also try to come up with ways that will create agood rapport between the prisoners and the law enforcers. The policeshould also try to find out the programs that criminals prefer to betrained on. By so doing, the offenders would embrace these trainingsince they will be doing what they love and not due to force. The lawbreakers should also get an education on the benefits of suchprograms.


Davis,L. M., Bozick, R., Steele, J. L., Saunders, J., &amp Miles, J. N.(2013).&nbspEvaluatingthe

effectivenessof correctional education: A meta-analysis of programs that provideeducation to incarcerated adults. Rand Corporation.

Martinson,R. (1974). What works?-Questions and answers about prison reform.&nbspThepublic interest,(35), 22.

Tonry,M. (2013). “Nothing” Works: Sentencing “Reform” in Canada andthe United States.&nbspCanadianJournal of Criminology and Criminal Justice,&nbsp55(4),465-480.