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Four forms of ‘offender’ rehabilitation: Towards an interdisciplinary perspective


Fergus McNeill, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research, University of Glasgow, Ivy Lodge, 63 Gibson Street, Glasgow G12 8LR, UK (e-mail:


This paper aims to advance the case for a more fully interdisciplinary understanding of offender rehabilitation, partly as a means of shedding light upon and moving beyond contemporary ‘paradigm conflicts’. It begins with a review of current arguments about what a credible ‘offender’ rehabilitation theory requires and by exploring some aspects of current debates about different theories. It goes on to locate this specific kind of contemporary theory building in the context of historical arguments about and critiques of rehabilitation as a concept and in practice. In the third part of the paper, I explore the nature of the relationship between desistance theories and rehabilitation theories, so as to develop my concluding argument; that is, that debates about psychological rehabilitation have been hampered by a failure to engage fully with debates about at least three other forms of rehabilitation (legal, moral, and social) that emerge as being equally important in the process of desistance from crime.