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Virtuous Prison: Toward a Restorative Rehabilitation.

Cullen, Francis T
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) In, Henry N. Pontell and David Shichor, eds., Contemporary Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice: Essays in Honor of Gilbert Geis. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall Publishing. Pp. 265-286.

The fundamental goal of the “virtuous prison” is to foster “virtue” in inmates, which is usually defined as “moral goodness” or “moral excellence.” The mission of the virtuous prison is to use offenders’ time of incarceration to cultivate moral awareness and the capacity to act virtuously. This approach rejects the progressive view held by many criminologists that nothing productive can be accomplished in prisons. It also rejects the notion of the painful or austere prison, because such prisons obstruct the development of virtue in inmates. Two principles form the foundation of the virtuous prison: restorative justice and the rehabilitative ideal. Restorative justice is based on the premise that the harm from crime is morally wrong and that its effects must be remedied. Offenders are thus called upon to announce and publicly accept blame for their offenses. They are then expected to act virtuously by restoring victims they harmed. Offenders also must recognize that breaches of the law damage the common welfare; therefore, restoring the community through service activities is often mandated. The precise nature of this restorative justice remedy is reached at a conference where the offender, victim, family members, and concerned others meet to express their disappointment and hurt and proceed to develop a way for the offender to remedy the harm he or she inflicted. Prisons serve this effort by creating a “virtuous milieu.” This involves surrounding inmates with positive moral influences. Features of the virtuous prison are the elimination of idleness, inmate activities with a restorative purpose, encouragement of contact with virtuous people, participation in rehabilitation programs based on criminological research and the principles of effective correctional intervention, and a high standard for inmate living.


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