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August 14, 2023

"Exploring the Impact of Remorse on Recommendations for Sentencing Diversion for Defendants With Psychiatric Diagnoses"

The title of this post is the title of this new paper on SSRN authored by Colleen Berryessa.  Here is its abstract:

This study, using semi-structured interviews with a sample of probation officers (N = 151), develops a model that suggests how officers may weigh psychiatric diagnoses when assessing defendants’ expressions of remorse and how this may shape their presentencing recommendations for sentencing diversion.  Results suggest that probation officers consider psychiatric diagnoses when evaluating remorse in sentencing contexts in three main ways: (a) the extent to which psychiatric symptoms may lead defendants to have difficulties showing conventional expressions of remorse and complicate how officers understand their non-normative remorse displays; (b) how psychiatric symptoms can mitigate defendants’ emotional behaviors used to develop and “feel” remorse, particularly their blunted empathy and hindered recognition of their criminal acts; and (c) some officers make stigmatized assumptions about personal qualities of defendants diagnosed with psychiatric diagnoses, which can lead them to be critical of their remorse.  Then, drawing from views in the first two areas, officers discussed providing information on defendants’ psychiatric illnesses — and the potential impacts on their abilities to show or develop remorse — to support recommendations for sentencing diversion in presentencing reports.  Takeaways, as well as how remorse assessments may shape probation recommendations for sentencing diversion for defendants with psychiatric diagnoses, are discussed.

August 14, 2023 at 08:28 PM | Permalink


Paying off a shrink to write some ginned-up "psychiatric diagnosis" was one of the favorite tricks of the hoodlums I dealt with.

One might consider the possibility that the reason they don't express remorse is that they're not sorry. Why should they be? They have the defense bar and academia to tell them it wasn't their fault.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 15, 2023 3:08:37 PM

Bill - how do you know that the defense psychiatrists were lying and not telling the truth? Brett Miler

Posted by: Brett Miler | Aug 15, 2023 4:32:28 PM

Brett Miller --

Because I've been there. I was there a long time.


That's a serious question. What exactly is your experience with the criminal justice system?

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 15, 2023 11:39:53 PM

Bill - I actually don’t have any experience with the justice system. I started responding to your comments because I believe that a compassionate approach to criminal justice can be more humane than your stern approach and your insistence on individual responsibility.

Posted by: Brett Miler | Aug 16, 2023 9:00:32 AM

Brett Miller --

Experience helps. One thing experience has taught me is that sometimes a compassionate approach helps and sometimes a demanding approach helps. Depends on the situation, the person's age, and what exactly you're dealing with.

I basically grew up to have a successful life. That would not have happened unless my parents had been demanding and constantly challenging me, and expecting me, to do better. They were not all that harsh, but excuses didn't work in my family.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 16, 2023 10:07:14 AM

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