Rehabilitation programs have been proven to reduce recidivism if they incorporate specific principles and target individuals who have committed a crime. Studies have shown that those who earn a high school equivalent diploma while in prison are more likely to find employment after being released. Time spent in prison can both deter offenders from future crimes and rehabilitate them by providing vocational training or wellness programs. However, incarceration can also lead to recidivism and unemployment due to the depreciation of human capital, exposure to hardened criminals, or social and labor stigma.The effects of imprisonment can extend beyond the offender 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. Regardless of one's opinion on crime and punishment, it is clear that we care about crime because of the damage it causes. 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 always the best solution to reduce the harmful impact of crime.