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Justified or cruel?

Dave Kuhn//November 14, 2012

Justified or cruel?

By Dave Kuhn

//November 14, 2012

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.



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