Sunday, April 1, 2012

Public Shaming


Public shaming is something that has been found throughout the history of the United States, and even today. One of the most famous historical incidences of public shaming was centuries ago in Puritan communities. Women who committed adultery were forced to were the letter 'A' on their clothing, more notably from the book The Scarlet Letter or the movie Easy A. In today's criminal justice system, shaming still exists, however it is no longer strictly for moral issues.
In Texas, a thirty-year-old man who groped a fourteen-year-old girl was forced to place a sign in his front yard that said "DANGER: REGISTERED SEX OFFENDER LIVES HERE." While some may argue that it is unethical to insist a man shame himself after he had finished the six month jail sentence he was given, other say it will help to further teach him a lesson all the while warning the community about his sexual preferences. These individuals will also note that it is not much different than requiring the offender to register on an online database. Public shaming is used for other offenses as well. For instance, the Huntington Beach Police Department of San Diego force people convicted of DUI to have their DUI mugshot as their profile picture on Facebook.  The department's hope is that this will produce more guilt and remorse in the offender than a fine and/or a class on drunk driving ever could.

Public shaming seems to be an up and coming alternative to prison/jail time or even fines. It has been used for more serious crimes such as sex offenses and DUIs, but judges have also opted to publicly shame individuals for shop lifting and even not showing up for jury duty. In one case, a man was forced to stand outside the court for two days after failing to appear for jury duty. In cases of shop lifting, especially for young, or first-time offenders, judges are becoming more fond of the idea of having the individuals hold signs saying what they did, or tried to do, outside of the store from which they intended to steal.



The principle behind public shaming is that people do not like being humiliated, and the prospect of facing public humiliation may act as a greater deterrent than more severe punishments such as prison sentences. However, an issue of the 8th Amendment comes into play: is public shaming a form of 'cruel and unusual punishment?' In my opinion, if public shaming is acting as an effective form of deterrence, then I think it should continue to be utilized. Although, I think certain limitations should be set, or some sort of guidelines made, so that judges do not cross the line from being constitutional to unconstitutional. What is your opinion of public shaming?



Sources:
http://www.ethicapublishing.com/ethical/3CH8.pdf
http://www.thedailyaztec.com/2011/01/public-shaming-is-an-effective-alternative-to-prison/
http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2012/02/03/public-shaming-option-criminal-punishment/

16 comments:

  1. This was an interesting post that could definitely cause some debate. I agree with the implemetation of public shaming and I agree with you that as long as its a deterreant for others as well as a fitting punishment for the offender that it doesn't violate eighth ammendment rights. I don't think being humiliated is either cruel or unusual. Kids do it to each other all the time and kids never seem to have problems with each other. As far as the facbook part, you know my view on facebook and in my opinion they need to butt out. However putting the im a registered sex offender sign on the offenders lawn would be a great benefit to society until they learn of who he really is, Like you said its no different from registering yourself online. Bottom line I think its fine as loing as the public punishment does not become physical, if that were the case then I think some lines would be being crossed

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  2. I kind of like this idea since I do think unusually and unconventionally sometimes, and I do think people would learn their lesson if they were exposed like that. But this is unethical as well and should not be done so I would have to vote against something like this. I still like the idea though.

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  3. I can understand how public shaming could be argued as cruel and unusual punishment. It is unusual but not cruel, I agree with this method for a few reasons. The first main attraction of this punishment is that it costs the courts close to no money. This saves the state alot of money but providing punishment while keeping the offender out of jail or probation. Public shaming may not work for all people but a majority of people hate this idea and find it humiliating. This will deter people from committing the same crime in fear of being humiliated again. Also, at no cost this may deter others from committing that crime when they see the person wearing a sign.

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  4. I'm kind of liking the idea! Some people would dread seeing people they know holding up a sign saying they stole from the store and looking like an idiot. If it brings about deterrence, then keep it up because like mentioned above it saves a lot of money. I'm sure these offenders are liking this rather then paying fines or even avoiding prison/jail, but I hope they are getting something out of it and feel a lot of embarrassment in order for them not to recidivate.

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  5. I personally love the idea of public shaming. I actually find it very humorous. If someone is found guilty of groping an underage child public shaming should be almost automatic as punishment. Public shaming allows everyone to know what he/she has done. Everyone always talks about protecting the community, and public shaming does just that by letting people become aware of certain individuals. I do not believe public shaming should be for any type of offense, but offenses such as stealing, and sexual assault should definitely be punished by public shaming. Especially those people who are young or first time offenders.

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  6. I think that the idea of public shaming is actually really good. It keeps offenders out of jail (or prison)- allowing the spaces in institutions for more serious offenders. This also saves the system a lot of resources by keeping offenders out of institutions. In addition, it may serve as a deterrent to other people who might commit crimes and encourage them not to do so. Finally, and most importantly, it protects the public by allowing them to stay away from people who have committed crimes that have harmed people.

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  7. I'm all for the idea of implementing public shaming as a punishment for some offenses. When people commit these offenses they often times are able to keep the fact that it happened on the down low, and if they simply have to attend a class or serve a short sentence in jail I think the punishment does not stick as well. However, the humiliation one would face in being required to partake in some form of public shaming would stick with them as a future deterrent for a long period of time I believe. Another major upside I see in using such practices is the potential low cost to the CJ system it presents. I don't think that there is anything cruel or unusual about public shaming. I wouldn't consider the implementation of it a violation of the eighth amendment when the person is convicted correctly. The records of such arrests are public anyways, in terms of public shaming they're just being put out there instead of having to be researched.

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  8. THIS is awesome! I disagree with vince though. I think it is great that they make the profile pic be their mugshot for an extended period of time. I do not like the sign in the yard though. I think that looks bad for the neighborhood, but more importantly, i could easily see that kind of shaming leading to negatively being labeled, adversely affecting the person. I know the goal is shame, but if we take it to far for people, like those who are habitual offenders, worst case scenario that isn't that far a stretch is suicide. Some may say who cares, they're bad anyways, but i don't want anyone to ever feel like they need to take their life. That also includes victims. So overall, i think signs in front of stores or what not is great, like most shaming methods, but we do have to be very cautious of if it is overly detrimental!

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  9. I think public shaming is very good for some type of offenders. For example, sex offenders deserve to be shamed publically since the crimes they commit are scar people emotionally for life. Also, this idea may be good for a deterrent so others do not commit such crimes. I know if there was a law that you had to carry a sign for certain crimes that I would think twice about committing them. However, there are some crimes so heinous that public shaming really isn’t punishment enough. For example, murderers just deserve to spend their entire lives in jail.

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  10. This is a great post, I like the idea of public shaming. It will definitely deter people from doing crimes, especially if they will be humiliated. I think its pretty funny how the Beach Police Department forces people to put their mugshots as their Facebook profile, thats very clever. This is a great idea especially for first time offenders because they will definitely think twice before doing another crime. I do not think public shaming is cruel or unusual punishment, maybe unusual but its not cruel, we are not torturing them, they are just being humiliated.

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  11. I think that this is a good tactic that is under-used in our criminal justice system. I feel like criminals are being punished with a sentence from a judge, but it goes one step further when they are forced to publicly humiliate themselves. They would be FORCED to think about their conduct and furthermore, they would be forced to think about what others think of them. It's one thing when you yourself know you have committed a crime, but it's a whole 'nother thing when everybody knows you have committed that crime.

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  12. I would say hell yes to public shaming! This is just an old form of specific and general deterrence all in one when a sentence like this is imposed on a criminal. I believe that there is nothing wrong with public shaming and people that say otherwise are stupid. If the person that committed the crime doesn't like that they are in the position that they are in well maybe they shouldn't have done the crime. I do not see this as a violation of our 8th amendment rights and I actually find it to be a very creative form of punishment. I remember reading an article when I was in grade school about a father that was convicted for beating his son and had to spend 30 nights sleeping a doghouse. Creative punishments are a great feature to break up the machine that is our criminal court system, plus I believe that it is a good way to keep people out of jail and to make sure that offenders feel the sting of their own injustice!

    Andrew Serena

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  13. I think that public shaming is a really good idea, but I think it can also cause a lot of controversy. While public shaming is obviously used to humiliate people and deter them from committing a crime again, it may be hard for a person to ever shake off that image in the public after they have been humiliated in front of so many people. This fact may alone lead people to not commit crimes because they may not want that burden with them for the rest of their lives. I don't think this is a violation of the 8th amendment because there are a lot worse things our government could possibly do that is cruel and unusual punishment. While this may be unusual, I don't believe that it is cruel because with many serious crimes nowadays, the criminal's face is put on TV or in the newspapers. I think public shaming would affect a person more then having them sit in a jail cell because they have to hear and see their peers staring and saying things to them all day, and that is very difficult for any human to handle.

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  14. Nice, interesting topic and blog. That man in the second picture . . Definitely a 'person of Walmart'

    Public shaming is a decent idea, but I don't that will effect as many people as you'd think. A lot of people are pretty shameless, in fact. Are you trying to tell me that the people dressed up as Uncle Sam or an Ape really care? I don't think they do. People forget faces all the time, too. If you see a guy outside of Walmart today, are you going to remember that exact face in two weeks? Probably not.

    In my opinion, if you're 35 and you grope a 14 year old.. You deserve that sign in your lawn and that 14 year old girl should be granted one kick delivered to the 35 year old's head. People read the paper and there is a blotter section. People are publicly humiliated in the newspaper, on Facebook, and on Twitter all the time. I'd be interested in finding out a few statistics about public shaming and deterrence, though. Nice topic (and pictures).

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  15. Bring Back Public shaming!! One of the good things about smaller communities like where im from is that everyone knows everyone so the thought of getting in trouble for something stupid or embarresing and being remembered by it is enough to keep most people out of trouble. Implement somehting like this in the big cities and that Anonymity goes away. Mark a child abuser or mark a theif so people who walk by them are aware of who they really are.

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