Document Type

Article - Open Access

Publication Title

Journal of Qualitative Criminal Justice & Criminology


Southwestern Association of Criminal Justice

Publication Date


Abstract/ Summary

Criminology has documented the decline of rehabilitation in the age of get-tough approaches to crime and punishment. Therapy and punishment, however, are not mutually exclusive. Rehabilitation and traditional punishment have long co-existed in penal facilities. In this article, I examine the role of rehabilitation at Northeast Jail, a county jail in the U.S. that adhered to an ideology of rehabilitation. But Northeast Jail was, first and foremost, a penal facility where offenders were confined and punished. While staff and administrators at Northeast Jail routinely invoked a rhetoric of rehabilitation, they adhered to rules and engaged in punitive practices that interfered with the rehabilitative process. Based on 18 months of participant observation, I found that managing the irresolvable tensions between confinement and rehabilitation was part of the job for staff at Northeast Jail. I identify three strategies that staff used to negotiate these tensions: rehabilitation as rhetoric, role-switching, and deferring to punishment.