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September 7, 2005

Creative (and effective?) shaming

The Columbus Dispatch, my local paper, today ran this amusing article on the creative sentences of a local judge.  The article raises issues about the appropriateness and efficacy of shaming punishments.  Here are some highlights:

Judge Michael A. Cicconetti usually lets the punishment fit the crime. Using a blend of humor and humiliation, the Painesville Municipal Court judge has sentenced defendants facing lowlevel crimes to fates such as sharing a sty with a pig and parading a donkey through town....

In his previous career as a defense attorney, Cicconetti quickly learned that jail doesn't leave much of an impression on some people, who soon become repeat offenders. "I have not had any of those people return, ever," he said....

Cicconetti first experimented with alternative sentencing with motorists who sped through school zones, making them spend a day working as a school crossing guard.... Some of the sentences Cicconetti has handed down through the past few years: a man ran with officers in a race for fleeing police; a couple apologized in a newspaper for a public sex act; a man and a woman marched with a donkey for vandalizing a statue of baby Jesus....

"Generally, the humiliation type of punishment may serve to teach the lesson well," said Lewis Katz, a criminal law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "You can't really argue with success if they're not depriving an individual of their liberty, and as long as it's related to the offense."

Below are links to some prior posts in which shaming punishments were discussed and debated:

September 7, 2005 at 01:32 AM | Permalink


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I come from a legal family and my dad was a judge for twelve years and he talked about the recidivism rates for offenders. Therefore, I tend to think that this manner of shaming punishments is something new and interesting that not only serves to teach people a lesson, but also seems to make more of an impression on them than serving simple jail time or paying out a mere fine would do. I also think that doing things like forcing a couple to publicly apologize or walk down the road with a donkey are unique enough and stand out enough so as to make a lasting impression on the offenders and their friends and family. Personally, I always tend to think that humiliation is a long-term punishment that will follow you as long as your friends can remember to tease you.

Posted by: Baby Gifts | Jun 1, 2007 12:14:24 AM

I don’t know about this. I mean, where exactly do you draw the line, and what is the different between a shaming punishment and public humiliation that is just as bad, if not worse, than the crime? When someone goes to jail, yes the community will probably find out and gossip a bit about them, but it will eventually die down. When a couple is forced to publicly admit to performing a sexual act, however, that’s going to ruin their reputation. It’s just as bad as Hester Prynn wearing her scarlet letter A around the town. I, personally, think that there is no place for such a punishment in our judicial system. The idea is to punish people, let them pay their penalty, and then re-enter society cleansed of their crime. Punishments like this will only cause lasting damage to their standing in their community and will end up humiliating them, not showing them the error of their ways.

Posted by: Baby Gifts | Jun 14, 2007 9:47:15 PM

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