Find Us On

Follow Us on Facebook Follow Us on LinkedIn Follow Us on Twitter Follow Us on YouTube Follow Us on our RSS Feed

Connect with Your Citizens Anywhere They Want - CityConnect: New Mobile App for Law Enforcement

Creative Sentencing: Public Humiliation

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.


Search your local crime map at

12 thoughts on “Creative Sentencing: Public Humiliation

  1. Pingback: Creative Sentencing pt 2: Online Shaming | The Neighborhood Crime Map

  2. Yes I agree with creative sentencing because it would be more likely to deter someone from committing crimes. Some people commit crimes in hope of jail time to get them off the street therefore increasing the expenses of the city/tax payers incurred in the housing of the criminals.

    With creative sentencing these potential criminals have more to sacrifice or lose by committing crimes.

  3. I agree that creative punishment sentencing for small, petty crimes. People make mistakes, the largest being “I wont get caught”. If the petty criminal dislikes the punishment greatly (jail), then he/she is more likely to retaliate against it (the “I’ll get you back for this” mentality) when released. If offered a choice, then the criminal is really sentencing themselves, less of the “I’ll get you back for this” mentality. We parents are taught the same thing about our kids, if they want something we don’t want them to have, offer some choices pointing them in the direction we want them to go. As for the psychologically damaging thinking, wouldn’t jail do the same thing to some, maybe more so.

    • Thanks for the good comments, John. As we work toward a better criminal justice system, perhaps we should concentrate less on a “lock ‘em up,” mentality and start concentrating on policies and practices that actually make our society better.

  4. Pingback: Creative Sentencing pt.3: Man Forced To Live in His Own Rental Property | The Neighborhood Crime Map

  5. Pingback: Creative Sentencing: Woman Apologizes to Officer with Public Sign | The Neighborhood Crime Map

  6. Pingback: Creative Sentencing: Woman Apologizes to Officer with Public Sign | The Crime Map

  7. This is better because being humiliated like this everyone will remember this scum and will watch them to make sure they don’t steal from another little girl.

  8. The jails are full, humiliation is better and a lot cheaper!
    The pillory and tattooing the criminals will work fine!
    Maybe we should start with the crooked attornies and judges!

  9. Pingback: Should Public Shaming Be an Option for Criminal Punishment? | The Law Bugle | Florida Law News

  10. OK so this is not the first time I’ve seen this (this) meaning a person standing outside a courthouse or city hall holding a sign saying to any one taking the time to read it what that person did and why they are there holding a sign. a guy i used to know from high school skipped school too often and had to stand out side the police station/courthouse it was a really small town lol so he had to hold a sign saying i waste tax payers money by not going to school. i was out for a bike ride and stopped to talk to him of course i wasn’t stupid i stayed on the side of the building and out of sight so as he walked back and forth i got to talk to him about why he was there and if it meant anything to him (not in so many words) he said it beats probation/community service and he didn’t care that he was made to hold up a sign it was just a few hours out of that day and after that he would be done and couldn’t care less about it. so it’s not really a punishment is it!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

* Copy This Password *

* Type Or Paste Password Here *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>