Prison Is Never Getting to Say You're Sorry

In These Times, December 2014 | Go to article overview

Prison Is Never Getting to Say You're Sorry


In Locked Down, Locked Out: Why Prison Doesn't Work-and How We Can Do Better {Berrett-Koehler), Truthout Editor-in-Chief Maya Schenwar assembles a damning critique of our justice system. Among the many failures she documents is the discouragement of "true remorse":

The role of remorse in court is often simply just that-a "role" that's played by defendants, coached by their lawyers once they're entering a guilty plea, in order to appeal to the judge or jury for a mitigated sentence, or to appeal to parole boards who may cruelly deny release based on a perceived "lack of remorse."... When I raise this topic with Father David Kelly, a long-time Chicago youth restorative justice leader who works with people trapped in the system, he speaks of the way the court system explicitly discourages and even punishes such emotion. "As far as expressing remorse, the criminal justice system says don't do it," he tells me. "The whole system is designed to say, 'Don't admit anything. …

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