remorse-manuscript-socialandlegalstudies-websiteedition.doc

Hauntedness self loathing or depressive demeanor can

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‘hauntedness,’ self-loathing, or depressive demeanor can be valorized in law as moral condemnation of the self that betrayed community even if pathologized in psychology as symptoms of mental disorder. The avowal of responsibility for the act coupled with the offender’s demonstration of self-condemnation enacts the tension between doing and being- the offender has chosen to act in a manner that betrays community but they have shown on their body that they are loyal to community. It is in the third usage of remorse that the separation between act and being is concretized as the offender sheds the self that perpetrated the transgressive act by embarking on a project of self-transformation. (c) Remorse and self-transformation- It is the third criterion for validating a claim of remorse that is potentially the most expansive of all because it widens the involvement of the state in managing the offender. 22
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From this vantage point, the proof of remorse consists not just in the acknowledgement of responsibility and the demonstration of visible suffering for one’s wrongdoing but in the willingness of the offender to make fundamental changes in one’s character so that the wrongdoing will not recur. Here the task of the remorseful offender or their advocates is to show to the satisfaction of the court that they are no longer the person who perpetrated the transgressive deed- that they are taking or have taken steps to renounce those parts of the self that led to the misconduct and to develop a new self for whom such actions would no longer be possible. The transgressive act becomes the occasion for the wrongdoer to effect a radical rupture with the past: in turn, remorse is demonstrated by abandoning previously cherished ways of seeing, by changing one’s life style, or by other means of effecting deep characterological transformations. What is offered as evidence of remorse is engagement with those identity transforming institutions that are believed by the court to bring about these profound inner changes. 10 Thus, in one case in which the offender had been convicted of kidnapping and assault causing bodily harm, the judged observed of the offender that “the remorse he expresses may have some substance. I have heard as well not only the words of (the offender) in his comments to the court about his acceptance of responsibility and his intention to continue his progress … I have also had the opportunity of assessing his commitment to change subjectively( R. v. McBride [2003]:38.)” Similarly, there is promise of significant change in another case in which a father who was convicted of assaulting his daughter for hitting her in the face after she refused to admit she had stolen something, spoke to the court as evidence of his remorsefulness- “ .. I have completed both courses that were mentioned earlier(there) , the anger management and parenting course, and I have a lot of comments 23
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about it from friends noticing a big change with myself, nothing more important than my children: they have noticed- a drastic difference within myself. I have learned new ways
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