The Role of Proneness to Guilt and Shame Among People in Custody in Promoting Restorative Justice Processes

Published date01 July 2021
Date01 July 2021
Subject MatterArticles
CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR, 2021, Vol. 48, No. 7, July 2020, 999 –1017.
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© 2020 International Association for Correctional and Forensic Psychology
Yezreel Valley Academic College
This research examined the role of guilt and shame proneness among people in custody in shaping attitudes toward restorative
justice (RJ) and in predicting the effectiveness of RJ practices. Study 1 (n = 110) examined the correlation between partici-
pant guilt and shame proneness and willingness to participate in an RJ process. It revealed that proneness to guilt, but not to
shame, was correlated with willingness to participate in an RJ process. Mediational modeling showed that guilt proneness
predicted willingness to participate in an RJ process via its strong correlation with regret and remorse. Study 2 (n = 133)
examined whether shame and guilt proneness affects the effectiveness of an RJ practice. It revealed that high guilt proneness
predicted high willingness to participate in RJ, whereas shame proneness moderated the effectiveness of an RJ practice. These
results can help practitioners and researchers develop interventions to promote the effectiveness of RJ programs.
Keywords: prisoners; restorative justice; guilt, shame; attitudes; rehabilitation
International crime trends have remained relatively stable or declined in recent years
(United Nations Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, 2015). This trend,
however, has not reduced prison populations (Gazal-Ayal & Roberts, 2019). In addition,
numerous studies show that punitive policies involving widespread incarceration often fail
to address the needs of persons who have perpetrated a crime (hereafter, perpetrators), of
victims, or of their communities, and fail to provide significant deterrence or rehabilitation
(Gromet & Darley, 2009; O’Hear, 2006; Strang & Sherman, 2003). Consequently, in recent
decades, law enforcement and social supervision systems in various countries, including
AUTHORS’ NOTE: The authors would like to thank the Israel Prisons Service for allowing the research to
take place inside the prisons and thus strengthen its validity. The authors would also like to thank the anony-
mous reviewers for their helpful suggestions on this manuscript.Correspondence concerning this article should
be addressed to Inbal Peleg-Koriat, Criminology Department, Yezreel Valley Academic College, Emek Yezreel
1930600, Israel; e-mail:
980506CJBXXX10.1177/0093854820980506Criminal Justice and BehaviorPeleg-Koriat, Weimann-Saks / Guilt, Shame, and Restorative Justice
Israel, have introduced alternative methods for settling the disputes behind much of crimi-
nal behavior.
Many of these methods are informed by the concept of restorative justice (RJ). As an
approach to doing justice, RJ places the emphasis on repairing harm to individuals, rela-
tions, and society (Walgrave, 2013). According to the RJ approach, this is to be achieved by
unprejudiced, guided dialogue between the parties harmed by the offense and the perpetra-
tor on ways of redressing the harm (Johnstone, 2012; Zehr & Mika, 2003). Despite these
important insights, however, use of RJ processes remains modest internationally (Butler &
Maruna, 2016; Peleg-Koriat & Weimann-Saks, 2019; Pereira, 2017). To address this, barri-
ers to the widespread and effective implementation of these processes need to be examined.
The present study does so by focusing on the powerful but relatively understudied role of
psychological barriers.
Unlike the criminal justice system, which views the offense only as a deviation from
legal norms, RJ views it primarily as a dispute between the perpetrator and the victim, the
results of which are harmful to both, as well as to the community (Zehr, 2002). According
to the Anglo-American legal system practiced in Israel, the criminal process begins with an
investigation whose findings are reported to the prosecution for indictment. The decision to
hold a trial is imposed on both the perpetrator and victim. The RJ approach, on the contrary,
offers a substantially different process (Dancig-Rosenberg & Gal, 2013).
Three core aspects define RJ: harms, needs, and obligations. It focuses on the harms and
needs of both victim and perpetrator and addresses the obligations of all stakeholders,
including the community. RJ is not a specific program, but all programs informed by it,
including the one reported below, shift the focus from what the perpetrator deserves to these
core aspects and involve all affected parties (Zehr, 2002; Zehr & Mika, 2003).
RJ aims to settle disputes and redress harm by identifying the parties’ needs through
impartial, guided dialogue. Such dialogue facilitates consensual resolution and enables the
parties to the dispute to embark on a path of reconciliation, victim healing, and perpetrator
rehabilitation and reintegration (Dhami et al., 2009; Johnstone, 2011; Zehr & Mika, 2003).
The community is an important stakeholder, representing the dual role of secondary victim
and secondary perpetrator, the latter due to its failure to prevent or address the crime
(McCold, 2004). Community members are invited to share responsibility by taking part in
the design of the restoration plan (Dancig-Rosenberg & Gal, 2013).
Although distinct from retributive justice that is oriented toward punishing perpetrators
proportionately to the severity of the crime, RJ does not contradict it (for the opposite view,
see Bazemore, 1998; Walgrave, 2004). Both recognize that an offense undermines the bal-
ance between the parties, and that there has to be a proportionate response to the criminal
act. However, they differ in how they believe that balance can be restored (Brunk, 2001;
Zehr, 2002). RJ complements retributive justice by helping achieve its practical goals along
with additional goals more difficult for retributive justice to achieve, such as redressing
harm, offering the perpetrator an opportunity to apologize, and enabling healing contact
between the perpetrator, on one hand, and the victim and community, on the other (Dancig-
Rosenberg & Gal, 2013). In evaluation studies, both victims and perpetrators were more
satisfied with RJ than with conventional criminal processes (Poulson, 2003; Sherman &

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