remorse-detectingremorsepaper.doc

Prisons under federal jurisdiction routinely prepare

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prisons under federal jurisdiction routinely prepare “Progress Reports” for the National Parole Board that include information on the offender’s “understanding of criminal behavior.” Both offer opportunities for assessment of the individual’s attitude towards his or her offense- in particular, feelings of remorse. 7. For example, see Tavuchis(1991, p.45)- a work I have found most helpful. Or, Nechama Levy Eidelman, “Sorry, I Apologize,” in Stern(1989, pp.175-189.) 8.Legal and psychiatric interpretations are likely to differ, for example, on whether attempts at suicide should be valorized as expressions of conscience or pathologized as symptoms requiring
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treatment. 9. There are parallels between the purported surfacing of a truer self in remorse and Goffman’s characterization of embarrassment as those moments when the discrepancy between the ‘official self’ and ‘our all-too-human selves” is made visible- Goffman( 1956) 10. Tavuchis makes a similar point in his discussion of how the introduction of third parties affects the interpersonal character of the apology- see Tavuchis( 1991). 11. Freud’s skepticism is expressed in this quote- “A man who alternately sins and then in his remorse erects high moral standards lays himself open to the reproach that he has made things too easy for himself. He has not achieved the essence of morality, renunciation.” Freud( 1961, p.177). 12. Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are taken from this population. It should be understood that case law is merely one of the many sites for constructing the official identity of the offender as remorseful or not-indeed, much of the case law itself makes reference to other phases of the definitional process including pre-sentence reports, psychiatric evaluations, police records, and other documents. Parole board hearings, probation reports, and so forth provide further documentary materials by which to fix the identity of the offender. Case law is nonetheless significant because it is public and because it carries the authority of the state. 12. It needs to be emphasized that my purpose in this analysis is to interpret what the imputations of remorsefulness and remorselessness mean rather than to explain why judges remark on the presence or absence of remorse in their judgements. The premise of this paper is that remorse cannot be reduced to the organizational and ideological agendas that it may serve whether through its
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contribution to bureaucratic efficiency(guilty pleas that save time and money are rewarded as evidence of remorse) or its fit with possessive individualism(the remorseful person takes full responsibility as an individual and not as a member of a disadvantaged or advantaged social category) and or its affirmation of judicial infallibility(a guilty person must show remorse because if they have been found guilty, they are guilty) and so forth. I have taken the question of how remorse is imputed- both the process and the content- as prior to the question of why it is imputed.
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