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Home > Arhiva > 2010 > Numar: 3 > ‘Institutionalizing the Redemption Ritual’: Judicial Rehabilitation in France

 ‘Institutionalizing the Redemption Ritual’: Judicial Rehabilitation in France

  • Martine Herzog-Evans (PhD, University of Reims, Law Faculty, professional address: 57 bis rue Pierre Taittinger, 51100 Reims; personal address as of June 17: 30-32 rue Jean de la Fontaine, 51100 Reims, phone: 33-660 121 575; E-mail:

Shadd Maruna (Making Good, 2001), invites legal systems to allow for rituals - preferably in court - which would acknowledge solemnly that an ex-offender has desisted. Such a procedure exists in French law under the name of ‘judicial rehabilitation’. Its immediate legal consequence is to delete all the person’s criminal files. But this excellent procedure faces strong competition from other sources of partial or total criminal record expunging, which aim at helping offenders desist, especially by allowing them to obtain employment easier. Other rules are based on the ancient liberal notion that after the passing of a certain time without further offending a person should have a ‘right to be forgotten’. However, this does not fully apply to sexual offenders, whose records cannot be deleted that easily. Another noteworthy trait of French law is that there is no such thing as a right for the public, or even for employers (with the exception of public services) to access criminal records. One can thus say that the right to privacy and to a second chance still exists in this jurisdiction.

Keywords: criminal record, desistance, making good, rehabilitation, judicial rehabilitation