Retribution Versus Rehabilitation: Why North America should Adopt the Nordic Prison Model


  • Karen Tang Dalhousie University



retribution, rehabilitation, punishment goals, justice system, prison, Nordic Prison Model, Canada


Both Canada and the United States of America have a considerable imprisonment issue, leading to calls for prison reforms. When considering the role of punishment in the legal system, research indicates that individuals tend to want to achieve three objectives: retribution, general deterrence, or specific deterrence. The Nordic Prison Model, which focuses on rehabilitating the individual, may be a solution to the current North American retribution-oriented penal system. In this position paper, I will examine the contentious issues plaguing the current North American prison system, research around the role punishment plays in society, arguments against rehabilitation and the Nordic system, and finally, the growing evidence advocating for a paradigm shift toward adopting a rehabilitative-oriented remand system. Lastly, the paper ends with a call to action on future research into the feasibility of enacting a rehabilitative-oriented prison model in capitalist countries such as the USA and Canada, as well as policy implications including increasing educational courses or work-release programs.