International Journal on Responsibility


This research, using interviews with probation officers in the United States (n = 151) and a constant comparative method for analysis, draws from the focal concerns framework to qualitatively model a process by which probation officers use a defendant’s remorse to attribute focal concerns in order to guide their sentencing recommendations in pre-sentencing reports. The model suggests that officers use expressions of remorse to make attributions about mitigated criminal intention (blameworthiness and notions of responsibility), reduced dangerousness and a high potential for reform (community protection), and organization-level effects for increasing caseload efficiency and using correctional resources (practical effects of sentencing). Then, officers appear to use attributions from two remorse-guided focal concerns (blameworthiness and community protection) to directly advise their recommendations for more lenient sentencing outcomes. Finally, as probation officers also described feeling sincerely responsible for providing critical information to the court about a defendant’s background and remorse, contributions and implications of this model for criminal sentencing are discussed.

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