Sunday, April 1, 2012
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.
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?