Shaming Punishments: Sitcom Justice?

Sentencing Law and Policy has a thoughtful response to Jonathan Turley's op-ed in the Washington Post on shaming punishments as an alternative to incarceration. Professor Berman says:

....given the questionable efficacy of our traditional approaches to punishment and our over-reliance on incarceration (background here), I am quite open to greater use of alternative punishments, including mild shaming sanctions, especially when they are imposed in lieu of an extended imprisonment term.

Turley, in constrast, opined:

There's no evidence that creative sentences work better at deterring crime than other punishments. Yet public punishments can be harshest on the most commonly targeted and vulnerable group -- young people.

The recent penchant for customized punishments also undermines efforts to make criminal sentencing more uniform. Creative punishments often reflect the cultural character of a state. While an abusive father was given the choice of sleeping in a doghouse in Texas, domestic abusers were forced to attend meditation classes with herbal teas and scented candles in Santa Fe, N.M.

Turley concludes:

If states and Congress do not act, we may find ourselves with hundreds of Judge Browns imposing sitcom justice with real citizens as their walk-on characters. In the meantime, as shaming devices become commonplace and therefore less shameful, and as there are more people walking around wearing special signs, jurists will need to dream up new, more demeaning punishments to make an impression on defendants -- leaving both citizens and justice at risk.

The Supreme Court could help reverse this shameful trend with the Gementera case. Of course, even if it does, Judge Walker is unlikely to be seen standing outside the San Francisco courthouse wearing a sandwich board proclaiming "I Was Reversed by the Supreme Court" or "I Imposed Cruel and Unusual Punishment." In some ways, that's a real shame.

I don't like shaming punishments. The real shame of America is its prisons. TChris wrote about a particularly ridicuclous one here. I don't think this should be an either or all call - incarceration or shame. There are other alternative sentencing solutions out there that should be tried, and if they are lacking, then judges should spend their creative energy coming up with better ones that don't demean and further alienate the offender.

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    Re: Shaming Punishments: Sitcom Justice? (none / 0) (#1)
    by Che's Lounge on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:07 PM EST
    Let's try it out first on the white collar criminals.

    Re: Shaming Punishments: Sitcom Justice? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Johnny on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:07 PM EST
    I agree Che... The sight of a millionaire crook parading around a working class neighborhood with a sign that says: "I steal from you" would be excellent.

    Re: Shaming Punishments: Sitcom Justice? (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Sat Dec 17, 2005 at 01:04:08 PM EST
    there was a time when being sent to prison was cause for shame in and of itself. the entire family was embarrased, and made every effort to keep it out of the public view. that appears to no longer be the case. in many neighborhoods, a prison sentence is now a badge of honor, "you have become a mensch", and almost every family has a member either doing time, or having done time. therein lies part of the problem. when being a convicted felon no longer brings the approbrium of the society you come from, jails become no more than warehouses, a human FIFO inventory waiting to be moved to the front of the rack. no rehabilitation, no education, just moving them in and out. that's the true shame of all this.