Public shaming has been practiced for years as punishment for petty offenders. In Japan for example, adulterers were publicly exposed for the people to see and mock them. It might seem cruel and demeaning but it is effective and is a fitting punishment for criminal behavior.
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Obviously, not all crimes are punishable by public shaming, a murderer cannot be put to public shame as punishment for taking another person’s life, this is why prisons exist. For petty offenders though it is another case, sentencing a shoplifter to prison may seem a harsh thing to do.
The costs of maintaining prisoners would also rise if all shoplifters were imprisoned and this may dent a country’s finances in a situation that is avoidable. Fines and community service might also be effective in some cases but not all because the offender might have the money to pay off the fines easily and will not have felt like he/she has been punished.
Another measure should be put in place to make sure the offender gets properly punished for their crimes and this is where public shaming comes in. Kahan (2001) argued that public shaming is a more humane alternative to imprisonment. Sentencing a shoplifter to a harsh environment like prison exposes him/her to sometimes violent nature of prison life and instead of reforming the shoplifter comes out even more violent and hardened than before and becomes an even bigger threat to society.
According to a series of studies conducted by Harold Grasmick, public humiliation forces people to comply with the law more than when threatened with imprisonment or other formal punishments (Kahan 2001). This therefore shows that not only is public shaming humane, it is also effective in shaping people up because of fear of humiliation. This does not apply to the major offenders though because as much as public shaming will humiliate them, they are still dangerous people to have around in the community.
Community service is one of the punishments used for the petty offenders to pay the community back for the trouble they caused. This apparently helps the offenders to come to grips with the crime they committed and seek retribution by helping out with community service.
Although this might be true in some cases it undermines the work of those that volunteer to help without any incitement or without anyone forcing them. Community service also does not serve as punishment enough for the offenders like public shaming does. With public shaming, the offender feels the shame of what they did and this invokes feelings of guilt which makes the person change their behaviors to avoid another public humiliation.
Recent scientific evidence shows that when a person is publicly humiliated they either have feelings of guilt or feelings of shame. Feelings of guilt helps to improve a person’s behavior while feelings of shame negatively affects the person. If the person is properly punished then they experience feelings of guilt which leads them to change.
Public shaming may not be the most popular mode of punishment but it certainly does the job when used appropriately. It is a cheaper, more humane and less troublesome method of punishment so instead of filling up our prisons and incurring more costs we can deal with the offenders in a way such that they will think twice before committing another crime.