The Effects of Alcohol Use and Offender Remorsefulness on Sentencing Decisions1


  • W. Andrew Harrel

    1. University of Alberta
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    • 2

      Requests for reprints should be sent to Dr. W. Andrew Harrell, Department of Sociology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada T6G 2H4.

  • 1

    This research was funded by Health and Welfare Canada, Non-medical Use of Drugs Directorate grant number 1212–8–044. The author would like to thank Mr. Roy Bricker of the Solicitor General's Department, Province of Alberta, for his assistance.


Presentence reports on 628 offenders were content analyzed. Regression analysis found that remorseful offenders received less severe sentences than non-remorseful offenders. Offenders convicted of minor offenses received more lenient sentences if they had used alcohol in conjunction with their crimes than if they did not use alcohol. The opposite was the case for offenders commiting serious crimes. Remorseful offenders with few prior alcohol-related convictions received less severe sanctioning than non-remorseful offenders with similar conviction records. In contrast, recidivists who were remorseful were dealt with more harshly than their non-remorseful counterparts.