A defendant’s failure to show remorse is one of the most powerful factors in criminal sentencing, including capital sentencing. Yet there is currently no evidence that remorse can be accurately evaluated in a courtroom. Conversely there is evidence that race and other impermissible factors create hurdles to evaluating remorse. There is thus an urgent need for studies about whether and how remorse can be accurately evaluated. Moreover, there is little evidence that remorse is correlated with future law-abiding behavior or other legitimate penal purposes, and, in fact, there is evidence that remorse is often conflated with shame, which is correlated with increased future criminality. More accurate information on the nature and evaluation of remorse can be used to reform the criminal justice system.
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