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Role of Guilt and Its Implication in the Treatment of Criminals

NCJ Number
International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology Volume: 31 Issue: 1 Dated: (1987) Pages: 71-78
G Czudner; R A Mueller
Date Published
8 pages
A discussion of literature concerning the effects of feelings of guilt combines with case examples from the author's clinical practice to support the view that guilty feelings that focus on the impact of an unfair act on a loved one can serve as an incentive for change in offenders.
The professional literature lacks consensus on the effect of guilt on an individual. The differing definitions of guilt and the distinctions made between guilt and shame may partly underlie this confusion. The professional literature also notes the self-centeredness of offenders and maintains that guilt about impacts on others is incompatible with guilt that focuses on one's self. However, guilt can serve as a guide to moral action. Altruistic behavior can reduce guilt and is incompatible with crime. People who can cry for the hurt of others and have uncomfortable feelings related to their illegal actions are ready and willing to change. Four case examples from the author's clinical groups illustrate how offenders' feelings of guilt can be used as an impetus for improvement. Description of the treatment approach and 24 references.


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