Friday, November 6, 2009

Punishment--Bring Back the Stocks!  The pic is viral, it's all over the internet, because it appeals to our sense of justice.

Occasionally you will see similar stories, videos, pics of persons engaged in the sorts of punishment usually meted out by well-meaning creative municipal judges. These creative punishments are the modern equivalent of the town stocks?  Shaming!

Shaming works because it exacts a psychic penalty on the petty criminal, we think.  Get this, though,  there is zero evidence to prove the proposition that these little shaming sentences work to deter further crime  The bigger bang for the buck is how it makes us feel.  We feel satisfied, we get genuine pleasure from rubber-necking those who get shamed.  I suppose on some level we can rationalize taking pleasure in the presumed misery of those who we shame, because we are all so frustrated at our powerlessness to do anything actually effective about crime.   We tell ourselves, "if we could just instill a sense of shame, or conscience in thieves,"  uh, huh, good luck with that!

I'm all aboard the shame train, the moment someone shows me empirical evidence that it does anything more than create a voyeuristic thrill.   Until I see the evidence I'm not for bringing back the stocks, lynchings, or riding folks out of town on rails.


  1. How about old fashioned gibbeting?

  2. Samuel Pepys was disgusted by gibbeting, but I was reading that Saudi Arabia still does "Crucifixion." A child rapist is about to be beheaded and they are intending to gibbet or crucify the remains. Lovely.