Offender Apologies


Offender apologies to their victims and others whom they have harmed have great potential, but can also
pose great peril, within a restorative justice framework. Apologies are often construed as complimentary
to accountability and remorse. Yet for many people who have been harmed by crime, apologies without a
context of full acceptance of responsibility, and a true understanding of the emotional, physical and
financial losses caused by the offense, are meaningless.
Ten guidelines for criminal and juvenile justice agencies to consider relevant to offender apologies are:
They should never be isolated as a Aquick fix@ for what the offender did. A parole board member
who tells the offender to Aturn around and apologize to your victim@ is not helping the offender,
and potentially harming the victim.
Offenders should never be forced to give apologies, and victims should never be forced to accept
Prior to any consideration of apologies, an offender=s casework planning should clearly identify
the harm that was caused. Offenders should be given the opportunity to address, AHow can I >right
the wrong= I have done?@, and clarify what Aremorse@ means to him or her personally. This can be
accomplished within the framework of the impact of crime on the victim B physically,
emotionally, financially and spiritually (these impact areas are not listed in order of importance).
Offenders should be made aware that an apology is Amore than saying you are sorry,@ with an
emphasis on actions B progress in accepting responsibility, distinct observable behavioral changes,
developing empathy for their victims, and learning skills to prevent their violent behavior from re-
occurring B speaking louder than words.
Victims should be provided with the opportunity to Aopt in@ or Aopt out@ of opportunities to receive
an apology from their offender. For example, when victims= receive initial notification of their
rights, a statement can be included such as:
The (correctional) agency provides opportunities for offenders to address the harm they have
caused their victims, and be accountable for their crime(s) that hurt you. In many cases, trained
staff members assist the offender in recognizing the impact of crime on victims. If the offender
wants to express personal remorse, would you be interested in receiving a written apology? The
apology letter will be facilitated by our agency
with no direct contact between you and the
offender and complete confidentiality of your contact information
unless you specify otherwise.
All apology letters sent to victims should be reviewed and screened by agency staff to ensure that
they are in no way harmful to the victim. Screening should include hidden meanings, appropriate
context, innuendoes, victim blaming, and cultural appropriateness, among other considerations
Measures must be taken to ensure the confidentiality of the victim=s contact information (unless a
direct, in-person apology from the offender is requested by the victim).


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