Justified or cruel?

When I saw the story about the Cleveland woman who was ordered to hold a humiliating sign as punishment for passing a school bus on the sidewalk, it got me thinking about the point where a court-ordered punishment goes from being deserved to possibly more unnecessary and humiliating.

Cleveland Municipal Court Judge Pinkey Carr ordered 32-year-old Shena Hardin to stand on the sidewalk holding a sign that read “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus,” as punishment for Ms. Hardin having been caught on camera doing just that.

Granted, passing a school bus on the sidewalk is unquestionably an idiotic thing to do, but does it really benefit anyone to make a joke out of the punishment?

Perhaps the argument could be made that we need more of these types of sentences as a way to make the consequences of such actions more shameful with hopes that it will make more people think twice before they do something illegal.

On the other hand, people make stupid mistakes and with the way news flies in today’s world, embarrassing someone so publicly for a lapse in judgment could potentially be more harmful than beneficial for that person in the long run.

Society often doesn’t forget these things quickly and Ms. Hardin may have to live with being known more for her mistake than for anything else.

Here are a few other similarly humiliating court-ordered punishments:

This past summer, a Utah judge agreed to reduce the sentence of a 13-year-old girl who cut a toddler’s hair off in a restaurant if the young girl’s mother cut off the teenager’s own hair in the courtroom.

In 2009, a Pennsylvania mother and her daughter were ordered to stand in front of a courthouse for 4 and 1/2 hours holding up a sign which read “I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday! Don’t steal or this could happen to you!” as punishment for stealing a gift-card from a 9-year-old inside a Wal-Mart.

After Jessica Lange and Brian Patrick admitted to defacing a statue at a Catholic Church on Christmas Eve in 2003, they were ordered to lead a donkey through the streets of Fairport Harbor, Ohio carrying a sign which read “Sorry for the jackass offense.”

And my personal favorite, Curtis Robin Sr. of Texas was ordered to spend 30 consecutive nights in a 2-by-3-foot doghouse after he pleaded guilty to whipping his stepson with a car antenna.

 

3 thoughts on “Justified or cruel?

  1. I like it! I like the idea of imposing punishments which are creative and out of the box.. It doesn’t seem like our legal system is as effective as we would like it to be. People are often impatient, reckless, haphazard or selfish, jails are crowded and money to pay fines is scarce. Why not come up with a modern scarlet letter as punishment and see if it works? If the crime (and punishment) has a small, local audience then I think the psychological impact of the media attention would be minimal and hopefully the accused will be motivated to be a more productive and less destructive member of society.

  2. Did you watch the video? She thinks she did nothing wrong! She talked on her cell phone, texted and otherwise ignored the purpose of the punishment. And, it wasn’t just one time she passed a school bus, she passed the bus multiple times and was caught on camera more than once!

  3. New York City is building these high rise apartments that have apartments that are 250 sq feet in size. These are for the middle-class. I think it would be good to sentence Wall Street fraudsters to these almost-doghouses. It could be a rotating residence for multiple offenders. As the offenders left the building they would have to lean their heads against the door to have imprinted the scarlet ‘thief’ upon their foreheads.

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