The philosophy of rehabilitation refers to the use of prisons as correctional facilities. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, the judicial system used prisons to hold prisoners awaiting trial or as places where persons were punished. Other remedies for offenders included corporal punishment, exile, and even execution. The remedies did not, however, limit the rate of crime. In response to the poor efficiency and use of prisons, the early twentieth century developed correctional institutions, where prisoners were meant to be rehabilitated. The correctional institutes employed different tools to try and improve the lives of the inmates when they were re-inducted into the society.
The civil rights movement and the Vietnam War were among some of the most socially disruptive events of the mid-1960s all through to the 1970s. In addition to this, the judicial system saw some of the most incompetent years in the history of the USA. The judges were lenient to dangerous criminals, offering paroles in the name of the constitution. The conservatives saw the misuse of the judicial system and the correctional institutes around the country by the prison administration. The liberals, on the other hand, were more concerned with the injustices that the philosophy of rehabilitation has endorsed. The integrity of the judicial systems had been defeated in a significant manner. Both conservatives and liberals, therefore, moved to attack rehabilitation as a recourse to the crime problem.
In 1974, Dr. Martinson published an article indicating the futile nature of the government and society of the USA in rehabilitating prisoners. It is in this article that he coined the term, ‘Nothing works”. The article analyzed the different solutions that the government had tried to come up with to improve the crime situation. The nothing works doctrine was one of the most famous politically motivated phrases of the 1970s.