The International Journal of Restorative Justice

Article

Offenders’ understandings of forgiveness

Keywords Offenders, forgiveness, victim lens, offender lens
Authors Tamera Jenkins
Author's information

359215 Tamera Jenkins
Tamera Jenkins, Ph.D., is an Adjunct Research Fellow at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice of the Griffith University – Mount Gravatt Campus, Brisbane, Australia.
  • Abstract

      Despite extensive research on victim perceptions of forgiveness comparatively little is known about the meaning offenders attach to forgiveness. Through in-depth interviews with 19 criminal offenders this study sought to lay foundational groundwork regarding offenders’ understandings of forgiveness. Offenders viewed forgiveness through both a ‘victim’ and ‘offender’ lens. From a victim perspective offenders described giving forgiveness as a response that enabled them to ‘let go’ or ‘get over’ personal harms. From an offender perspective receiving forgiveness was defined as being either conditional or unconditional. Conditional forgiveness was related to evidence of positive change in offenders that must occur prior to forgiveness while the essential characteristic of unconditional forgiveness was found to be love. A better understanding of the significance of forgiveness in the lives of criminal offenders has practical implications for clinicians, service providers, and criminal justice professionals involved in the treatment or custodial care of this population.

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