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September 25, 2008

Six-year-old suggests dad's shaming sentence

UPI reports here on another interesting shaming sentence from a local state court:

A Kalamazoo County, Mich., judge has ordered a man convicted of theft to wear the words "Daddy, don't steal" for seven months.

Kalamazoo County Circuit Judge Pamela Lightvoet handed down the sentence after Daniel Lee Cleland, 27, told the judge his 6-year-old son had recently told him: "Daddy, stop stealing," the Kalamazoo Gazette reported Wednesday.  Lightvoet said Cleland must wear the words written or taped to his arm or hand for the next seven months in lieu of a jail sentence for the same time span. "You very easily could have been sent off to jail for seven months," Lightvoet said. "I don't want to see you back here unless you're visiting."

Cleland, who was also sentenced to four years of probation and ordered to earn his general-education degree, told the judge before sentencing that he had an addiction to heroin and was working to clean up his life for himself and his family.

This shaming sentence makes a lot of sense to me, but I suppose those who oppose shaming sentences perhaps believe society would be better served by forcing Cleland to serve seven months in jail.

Some recent posts on shaming sentences:

September 25, 2008 at 08:17 AM | Permalink

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Comments

"This shaming sentence makes a lot of sense to me, but I suppose those who oppose shaming sentences perhaps believe society would be better served by forcing Cleland to serve seven months in jail."

You don't seriously believe that these are the only two options, do you?

That's a false dichotomy if I've heard one.

It's possible to (a) oppose some/most/all shaming punishments (without commenting on this particular one) and (b) not believe that the public is better served by incarcerating this offender for 7 months.

Posted by: Jamie | Sep 25, 2008 12:19:29 PM

Fair point, Jamie, though I find that those who oppose shaming sentences rarely grapple directly with the fact that opposition to unusual types of sentences will often likely result in more and longer usual types of sentences --- i.e., more and longer jail and prison terms.

Posted by: Doug B. | Sep 25, 2008 1:35:44 PM

Well I'm all for it in a 2-option only world. But realistically here - speaking from the trenches of criminal defense - we're talking about a condition of probation.

I'm not convinced that if a guy doesn't already feel deep shame when his 6 year old tells him to stop stealing is really going to benefit from this particular condition - but who knows?

But we're in agreement when it comes to alternatives to incarceration for most non violent offenders. And if this condition of probation is what it takes for the judge to grant it to him, I'm for it.

Posted by: Jamie | Sep 25, 2008 2:37:40 PM

I can support innovate sentencing. The bigger issue to my mind is whether it is actually going to change behavior. Jamie makes a good point, if the shaming by his own kid isn't working, upon what basis does the judge hope his shaming will. Sentencing innovation for the sake of innovation is just judicial showboating.

If the judge has done a psychological assessment and has a specific foundation for thinking this type of sentence will work, I'll gladly support it. But if not, he's wasting everyone's time.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 25, 2008 2:50:33 PM

Daniel described this for what it is--judicial showboating--one judge trying to burnish a reputation as being more innovative than the next with little expectation that any tangible change will result. While shaming may have a place as a sentencing supplement, me thinks the heroin addict is not a good candidate.

Posted by: mjs | Sep 25, 2008 4:01:49 PM

Doug wrote: "Fair point, Jamie, though I find that those who oppose shaming sentences rarely grapple directly with the fact that opposition to unusual types of sentences will often likely result in more and longer usual types of sentences --- i.e., more and longer jail and prison terms."

Well, that's not the fault of the person who objects to shaming sentences. It is the fault of the judge who imposes more and longer usual types of sentences and the legislature that mandates it. Shaming only exacerbates the damage society has already done to the individual law breaker, adding insult to injury. Individuals who come before the court as defendants are in much greater need of self esteem than of social shame. This only matters, of course, to somebody who actually cares about his or her society and nation. (I am not trying to subtly suggest Doug does not care, but there are many people who comment to this site who do not. Most people who are privileged and educated, in fact, do not.)

Posted by: DK | Sep 25, 2008 8:26:05 PM

I don't really believe that the judge was trying to showboat. I personally know cleland and I know his history I believe that the judge was trying to give him another chance by reminding him on a daily basis what his son had told him. I believe that if that can't get him to change than nothing will.

Posted by: cheo | Sep 26, 2008 12:50:51 AM

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