Concept of the Month -- November 2004

Does the Criminal Experience Remorse?

The conventional wisdom has it that criminals are totally without a conscience and thus do not experience remorse over their conduct. This is another of many instances where appearance belies reality.

Criminals do express remorse. One man broke into an elderly person's home and stole many valuable heirlooms. Upon learning that his victim was suffering from terminal cancer, he felt so remorseful that he saw to it that all the stolen items were returned to the owner. However, this remorse was no barrier to his committing subsequent break-ins.

Instead of remorse being a deterrent, it actually furthers criminal behavior. This is how it works. Because he can and does experience remorse at times, the criminal finds further support for his belief that he is inherently a good human being. Remorse builds up the good opinion of the self. It does not influence him so that he refrains from committing more crimes.

Stanton E. Samenow

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