The biggest problem with rehabilitation and reentry theory within maximum security or super-max prisons—since the historic reliance on internal change or religious conversion as the axis of rehabilitation which was prevalent in the earliest American prisons—is just that, it has become too much about theory (even the possibility of prison rehabilitation being the perennial favorite) and too little about practice.

One of the better summations is the chapter Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs, by Francis T. Cullen and Cheryl Lero Jonson in the 2011 book edited by James Q. Wilson and Joan Petersilia, Crime and Public Policy.

Most rehabilitative efforts within prisons or on parole have the internal contradiction that they are burdened with a sanction—without participating in them you cannot reduce or ease your sentence—thereby eliminating the prime ingredient for successful reform, individual choice.

The Austin Statesman reports on Texas prison programs.

An excerpt.

“Texas has received national recognition for its innovative prison treatment and rehabilitation programs, but it provides almost none of that for its toughest, most violent convicts who have spent years in solitary confinement.

“Prison officials acknowledged Tuesday that 878 convicts were released last year directly from administrative segregation onto the street, and only a few received any treatment or rehabilitation.

“Appearing shocked by the revelation at a Capitol hearing the same day, members of a Senate committee pushed prison officials to come up with a plan to provide such programs for many more of the 8,100 convicts who are in administrative segregation in Texas’ 111 state prisons. Convicts in administrative segregation spend 23 hours a day locked in their cells. Barring trouble, they get out one hour a day for recreation and to shower, officials said.

“So these people were too dangerous to be in general population in a prison, but they are being released directly into our neighborhoods with no supervision?” asked Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston. “That’s scary. We need to review this whole process.”

“Brad Livingston, executive director of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said Texas has never provided much in the way of programs for convicts in the highest security classification. Sixty percent are confirmed members of prison and street criminal gangs.”