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September 9, 2009

Shaming t-shirts ordered as part of community service sentence

Thief t-shirtGiven that shaming sentences would seem to have special appeal during lean economic times when the costs of traditional punishment are of great concern, I am somewhat surprised that there has not been more discussion and debate of these kinds of innovative sentences lately.  But, as highlighted by this recent article from the Toledo Blade, which is headlined "Fashion police: Judge tailors punishment that fits criminals to a T," the use of shaming sentences remains alive and well at the local level.  Here are excerpts from this story:

I did the crime, I did the time, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt. Such a reaction could crop up in Fulton County, where a no-nonsense judge is requiring some criminals to wear customized clothing in public: neon green shirts with large, black letters announcing, "I'm a thief."

To curb crime and provide a form of public punishment, Western District Court Judge Jeff Robinson recently introduced the "criminali-tees," and so far several convicted shoplifters, while performing community service, have worn the garish, attention-grabbing garments.

The shirts aren't designed to be a fashion statement, but rather a statement of fact, a wash-and-wear way to help weave criminals back into the social fabric. Public punishment, the judge said, serves as a deterrent, particularly at a time when more people are being tempted to steal from others.

When the economy started to tank, the judge noticed "what appeared to be a huge uptake in the number of shoplifting cases occurring in the community."  During one proceeding, he asked a thief how she expected to get away with stealing stuff from a busy retail store, and she seemed rather proud to know security cameras can't spot shoplifters in a particular area, he said.

After that, he decided shoplifters needed to "suffer a little bit of humility." And, he said, a message needed to be sent to others that being a thief isn't something they want to get involved in. The shirts, the judge said, are not worn with a sense of pride, and the message appears to be having its desired effect. "Shoplifting cases are down," he said, but he added that the shirts alone aren't the reason. Enforcement efforts have stepped up....

Mr. Robinson, a judge since 2005, admits customized clothing for criminals isn't a new idea. A judge in Defiance County, who is now retired, "had a whole parcel of shirts for juveniles" to wear, he said....

Mark Powers, a lawyer in Fulton County who represents clients who come before Judge Robinson, said he's aware of the shirts, but hasn't seen anyone wearing one in public. So far, none of his clients has been ordered to wear them, but "I am sure that will happen," he said. And when it does, he'll be OK with it, even if his clients aren't.

"Quite frankly, the idea is to get people to not do this and if that is an effective way to not do that, it serves its purpose," Mr. Powers said. It's sort of like the old days of pillory, Mr. Powers said, when people were punished by public humiliation, with heads and hands secured in a metal or wooden framework device. "If it keeps them from doing it again, it wasn't the worst thing to try to do."

September 9, 2009 at 05:23 PM | Permalink


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I would like to order a dozen, one in each crime. It would give me street cred, and would make more happening. I couldn't find them on Amazon. Great chick magnet. They could try to reform me.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 9, 2009 5:37:45 PM

Good illustration of the lawyer term of art, dumbass. Take someone with an IQ of 300. Put them through 1L. Instant mental retardation. It is an intentional tort to cause someone such profound brain damage, with scienter. It qualifies as an aggregate claim. Good case for the right lawyer.

The judges provide the personification of lawyer mental retardation and brain damage by 1L, the so called, dumbass effect.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Sep 9, 2009 5:43:26 PM

Might turn into a whole new product line.

Kicking Cop Sells Gang-Life Clothing: Report

Posted by: George | Sep 9, 2009 6:56:15 PM

Did this defense attorney just say that bringing back the stockade would be okay?

Posted by: Soronel Haetir | Sep 9, 2009 7:44:32 PM

SH. That's what I came to say too. Seriously, that's what the *defense* attorney says he should be disbarred. Honestly. He sounds worse than the prosecutors. I don't even think Scalia is in favor of bringing back the stocks.

Posted by: Daniel | Sep 9, 2009 8:50:08 PM

" to Soronel and Daniel.

Posted by: Texas Lawyer | Sep 10, 2009 2:15:25 PM

With all due respect to the prior posts on this topic (not that much respect is due), this is a brilliant alternative to incarceration and fines. Fines don't get paid by the indigent and incareration for minor crimes such as this serve only to hurt the family of the offender and cost society huge sums of money. What the prior posts fail to focus on is that the goal of the criminal justice system for each individual in its presence should be to STOP THAT PERSON FROM COMMITTING NEW CRIMES and that is done by punishing the present crime in a way that is deterrent. Stopping the commission of further crimes is a benefit to the individual and society. Everybody wins when someone stops committing crimes. (I simply can't resist writing DUH here for the writers of the prior posts). With that goal in mind, this judge clearly reconginizes my earlier statement that the status quo for punishing criminals is simply not working. The knee jerk reaction that this punishment is some sort of violation of their constitutional rights is a clear indication that the person associated with that reaction has a micro perspective rather than a macro one. I am a defense attorney and know from that personal experience that the traditional fine and imprisonment method is not working and is only serving to futher separate the races and classes by keeping the indigent, well, indigent and further hampering that individual's ability to advance in society. That detriment trickles down to that individual's family as well. This type of alternative sentencing can actually work and should be utilized. This punishment seems less "cruel and unusual" than the end product of fines and imprisonment as noted earlier.

Posted by: Martha Norton | Oct 17, 2009 8:33:35 AM

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Posted by: Term Papers | Mar 13, 2010 4:51:30 AM

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