Feature

United Kingdom: An apology in lieu of hard time

In Northern Ireland, the apology method is credited with contributing to a 25 percent reduction in recidivism, said Philip Hensher in The Independent.

Philip HensherThe Independent

Rewarding criminals if they apologize for their crimes could save the state a lot of money, said Philip Hensher. A victims-rights group recently released a report that analyzes, “in hard cash terms,” what happens when criminals are offered the chance to reduce their sentences by apologizing to their victims face to face. The findings are stunning. In Northern Ireland, the apology method is credited with contributing to a 25 percent reduction in recidivism, saving the government millions in prison costs.

Prisons Minister Crispin Blunt now wants to introduce “restorative justice” in the rest of Britain. Of course, whether Blunt can “sell a proposal with so many of the marks of wishy-washy-dom to his Conservative colleagues” is quite doubtful. Many people assume that any criminal would simply utter an insincere apology in order to shave a year off his sentence. But it’s not that simple. “The sort of abasement and renunciation which an apology requires” is entirely foreign to the streetwise toughs who make up most of our prison population. The act of facing their victims and expressing contrition really has been found to bring about “a painful but beneficial evaluation of past actions.”

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