If the purpose of our criminal justice system is to reform individuals so that they won’t commit crimes again, sometimes I wonder if jail is the best answer. For violent criminals, jail might serve to separate them from society so that they don’t harm anyone else. But for some lesser crimes, fines and other creative punishments might be the way to go.
Take for instance, the case of a mother and daughter in Pennsylvania. Recently, the pair, ages 56 and 35 respectively, swiped two gift cards from a 9-year-old girl at a Wal-Mart, totaling about $80. It was the girl’s birthday, and she had come to Wal-Mart to use the cards, but had placed them on a shelf temporarily while a store clerk helped her. The mother-daughter duo was caught, arrested, and taken to court. During the hearing, the judge offered probation instead of jail time, if the women stood in front of the courthouse holding signs that read: “I stole from a 9-year-old girl on her birthday! Don’t steal or this could happen to you!” (See pictures below.)
Does anyone think this was not an apt punishment? The women will still serve probation, but avoided jail time by publically humiliating themselves. Clearly, the 4 ½ hours they spent in front of the courthouse took less time, but I wonder if the humiliation they suffered was more psychologically damaging than a few days in a local county jail.
What are your thoughts? Is this type of sentencing a viable, low-cost alternative to putting minor offenders in jail with taxpayer money? Or were they let off the hook too easily?
Leave a comment with your thoughts.
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