Rehabilitation programs reduce recidivism if they incorporate proven principles and target specific individuals who have committed a crime. Research shows that people convicted of a crime who earn a high school equivalent diploma while behind bars are more likely to get jobs after being released. Time spent in prison can deter offenders from future crimes or rehabilitate offenders by providing vocational training or wellness programs. However, incarceration can also lead to recidivism and unemployment due to depreciation of human capital, exposure to hardened criminals, or social and labor stigma.
Imprisonment can also have effects beyond those affecting the offenders themselves, with repercussions on other family members or on the criminal networks of offenders. It is important to note that the effects of incarceration may depend both on the characteristics of the prisoner and on the conditions of the prison. Opinions on crime and punishment differ. However, almost everyone would agree that we care about crime because of the damage it causes.
It is not necessary to have any particular ideological inclination to advocate an approach that reduces harm. There is evidence that rehabilitation (even within prison) reduces crime and can be cost-effective. Economic analysis, therefore, reinforces the idea that punishment is not the best solution to reduce the harmful impact of crime.