Towards a Retributive Concept of Re-entry

Netanel Dagan*, Ram Cnaan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Retributive justice is the preferred penal theory in many countries, especially for serious offences, and is a predominant justification for imprisonment. Retributivists, however, have little to say regarding the state's role towards returning citizens after release from prison. In reality, paroled individuals struggle with continuing surveillance, poverty, stigma and other significant barriers to housing, employment and health. Thus, rates of recidivism are high. Re-entry services can help, but they are few. Without a proper understanding of the implications of the retributive model, advocates for re-entry services struggle to gain public support or the attention of policy-makers. Recognising that retributivism is not a monolithic theory, and with a focus on the parole period, we argue that key sub-streams of retributivism offer a valuable support for understanding public responsibility for re-entry services. To that end, we offer a conceptual understanding of the core retributive principles that call upon governments to actively assist parolees. We do so by connecting re-entry to the retributive notions of unfair advantage, penal communication and moral reform. Finally, we emphasise two, often neglected, re-entry programmes that fit the core retributive principles and highlight implications for the parole process.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1071-1091
Number of pages21
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.


  • collateral consequences
  • parole
  • re-entry
  • retributivism


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