Some judges believe that "shame" sentencing is effective

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Some judges believe that "shame" sentencing is effective

Postby Alan K » Thu Oct 17, 2002 4:29 pm

We have had a number of cases in Massachusetts involving sentencing which involved demeaning of a defendant, and these cases usually get media attention.

This should not be confused with "public service" types of sentencing.

I have seen the latter work very well, but the former is questionable.

Here is an article giving some examples:

U.S. Judges Try Shaming Convicts

By DAVID B. CARUSO Associated Press Writer

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Faced with an unending stream of unrepentant crooks, vagrants and addicts who shrug off short jail terms and scoff at probation, a small number of judges are returning to an old weapon in the war on crime: shame.
From the South Carolina judge who forced a man convicted of battery to carry a sign that read "I beat women," to the Ohio judge who sentenced two men who tossed bottles at a woman's car to dress in women's clothing, jurists have tried a variety of punishments intended to shame convicts into contemplating their crimes.
"The idea is that you are trying to rehabilitate someone, if in no other way than by reminding them and the community what they have done," said Mark Bergstrom, executive director of Pennsylvania's Commission on Sentencing.
Central Pennsylvania judge Charles Saylor of Sunbury drew mixed reviews this month when he ordered a man who had helped his girlfriend dispose of the body of her newborn baby to make monthly visits to the child's grave with flowers and a lighted candle.
County coroner James F. Kelley called the sentence, "a slap to the memory of that child" and said Scott Kinney's presence in the cemetery would be disruptive.
"So far, he hasn't shown any remorse whatsoever," Kelley said. "The judge seems to feel that maybe having him go there and see the marker will make him think about what he's done, but I'm leery. I don't think it's going to happen."
Kinney, 28, also served 204 days in jail while awaiting trial. His former girlfriend was convicted of murder for drowning the baby after giving birth.
Pennsylvania gives judges the power to set almost any condition on convicts who are placed on probation, as long as they are "reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the defendant."
This month a Carbon County judge approved a plea bargain that required a man who fled from police to run in a 5-kilometer foot race held to benefit a police union. Chad M. Eschbach, 21, completed the race Oct. 5.
"I was hoping it would be a deterrent," said District Attorney Gary F. Dobias. "I hoped that if he had a chance to interact with these officers, he would realize the danger he was putting them in when he fled."
Earlier this month, Lebanon County Judge Bradford Charles tried to plant the seeds of remorse by sentencing a man who destroyed a field of crops with his Jeep to serve community service on a farm.
Some of the cases have grabbed headlines and won praise, but lawyers and some experts say trying to embarass someone into reform can be risky.
Robert Sadoff, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said research has shown that prisoners subjected to shaming tactics often react by becoming more violent. Other people punished in humiliating ways can be left embittered and likely to re-offend, he said.
"I don't think you can really manufacture remorse," he said. "It has to come from within."
Charles has tried creative approaches before, once ordering a woman to wear a badge that said "convicted shoplifter." The Superior Court overturned the sentence in June, ruling the badge had no value in the woman's rehabilitation.
"In that case, it didn't really help to rehabilitate her. She had a drug problem, and that is why she shoplifted," said the woman's attorney, Scott Stein.
Temple Law School professor Edward Ohlbaum said those and similar sentences are following a long-established legal tradition.
"I remember hearing in the 1980s about judges sentencing drunken driving defendants to work as volunteers in hospital emergency rooms," he said. "It strikes me that shaming somebody like that is on some level an act of revenge ... but it could also be a sign that the judge is saying, 'Can I do something that can turn this person's life around?'"

What do you think?

Alan K
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Some judges believe that "shame" sentencing is effective

Postby LeeDarrow » Fri Oct 18, 2002 5:42 am

Shades of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Phoenix, AZ, with his "Tent City" program. In THAT little program, he makes the inmates wear PINK underwear (and little else while in the "city") and has now started a new program: Chain Gangs!

While these are voluntary, I find the concept rather terrifying, demeaning and probably cruel and unusual - but as the chain gangs are voluntary (for POSSIBLE sentence reduction), he can skirt the issue - and has.

NOT what I like to think about when I think of rehabilitation in the system.

Oh, yeah - Tent City is used to house people who HAVEN'T BEEN CONVICTED and are awaiting trial - which can take up to several MONTHS!

Under Sheriff Joe - PEOPLE get sent to Tent City. No air conditioning in the Arizona summer, no heat in the winter (and it does get COLD there). Don't even get me started on the "medical support" there - such as it isn't.

Animals, on the other hand, under Sheriff Joe, live IN DOORS and get air conditioned cells!

In other words, if you break the law in Phoenix - or are arrested and are suspected of breaking the law there, EXPECT to be treated WORSE than a stray dog or cat!

Anyone got a hookup with the ACLU in Arizona that wants to make a name for themselves? - And who wouldn't be afraid to go up against this guy?

Lee Darrow, C.Ht.

[This message has been edited by LeeDarrow (edited October 17, 2002).]
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Some judges believe that "shame" sentencing is effective

Postby Panther » Fri Oct 18, 2002 4:35 pm


How about commenting on the "perp walk" that has become so common-place. IE: where, even though someone has planned to "turn themselves in" or has made other arrangements with the authorities, they still call the major media and tell them that they will be arresting the person at X time in Y place. The media shows up in force and films the "perp" being "walked" (always in handcuffs and often trying to cover their face with hands or coat) openly to the waiting cruiser. This (IMNSHO) is not only demeaning to the "innocent until proven guilty" party, but has the sole purposes of 1) ensuring maximum exposure for the "hard work of law enforcement" and 2) building a pre-trial opinion of the defendant (which seems contradictory to what should be allowed). And please notice that these "perp walks" are never of the local scum-bag or gang-banger... oh noooooo, these are reserved for those who are "prized catches", such as the upstanding citizen who has been accused of some white-collar crime, or failure to file taxes, or not paying enough child-support, or some other such charge... (granted there are exceptions)

Just food for thought for you to comment on... (IIRC, there was a case that addressed this issue not too long back... comments?)

Take care and be good to yourselves...
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Some judges believe that "shame" sentencing is effective

Postby Alan K » Mon Oct 21, 2002 8:48 pm

Panther, what you call a "perp walk" has been a thriving business for the media and the puplic love it associating the arrest and handcuffing and hiding the same with jackets as a covering up for guilt.

All high profile cases in the Superior Court county system have the media with portable TV station vans and trucks, with cameras on the lawn to film anything outside the court house, schools or what have you. I see this all the time in Dedham, Cambridge, Boston and any time there is an arrest made or a trial happening.

These scenes are made into clips which get circulated over and over ad nauseam onto the tv screen and these file shots are crammed into the news report such as in the predator priest cases, where you see the same profile being constantly displayed.

The same is true of the scenes where persons charged with crimes are either going to arraignment or being transported to court or prison.

The news media thrive on this and the public loves it with a fascination and is second only to the public sport of rubber necking (gawking)on highways causing jams and more accidents.

I don't think people care too much about the action of the media respecting the innocent until proven guilty. Hey this guy killed his wife and children; what does he look like?

As to the media, they care about capturing the best ratings, which is how they make their living.

They do have a duty to report news and breaking news; some of the problems relate to scenes taken out of context as well as misquoted or partially quoted statements.

I do have to admire how they so quickly get to an accident or crime scene and begin reporting within minutes.

After all, how can filming breaking news be demeaning?

Tell that to some guy was accused of rape and taken away in hand-cuffs only to be exonerated when the accuser is found to be a crack addicted whore, whose motive was pecuniary.

Alan K
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Some judges believe that "shame" sentencing is effective

Postby Gene DeMambro » Mon Oct 21, 2002 10:05 pm

Hi Alan,

I don't rememmer the case, but in the last 10 years or so, a high court ( a state SC or the USSC) ruled the "perp walk" to be illegal.

If you do some research, could you check it out?

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