I read an article this morning that had me asking myself which side of this particular issue I supported. The article was describing the Tennessee law that went into effect on January 1, 2006. This law required convicted drunk drivers to wear a bright orange vest in public for three different days for eight hours at a time while picking up trash. Stenciled on the back of the vest are the words “I AM A DRUNK DRIVER” in four-inch tall letters. Given the threat that drunk drivers have imposed upon the highways, I don’t argue that they should be punished and I’m sure we all know someone or have ourselves been affected by someone who choses to get behind the wheel after drinking. But, is this a helpful solution? The Department of Transportation reports that…
“Every day, 28 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 53 minutes.1 The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $44 billion.2
Here is what some have to say on the issue:
“Supporters say the new state law will help “shame” DWI offenders into better decision making in the future. “You cause them to go out and pick up trash in front of their friends and neighbors, the embarrassment is going to be such that they’re never going to want to go through that again,” said sponsor state Rep. Charles Curtiss. “Hopefully you can turn them around to never become a second-time offender.”
But critics say the program will prove to be costly and ineffective if it does not include a treatment component. “If I’m forced to wear a sign saying that I’m a drunk driver, then I’m going to feel worse and worse about myself and I may drink more and more because I feel shunned,” said Jacqueline Helfgott, chair of the criminal justice department at Seattle University.”
(See full article at: http://www.drugfree.org/news-service/drunk-drivers-shamed-on-tenn-roadsides/)
After researching a little more, I found that there are even more instances where “shaming” is used as punishment for certain behaviors. Is this a true deterrent for illegal or harmful behavior?
Proponents of judicial shaming feel that simply paying a fine is trivial in comparison to the embarrassment and humiliation of a “shaming sentence”. When paying a fine, the guilt is quickly removed but the humiliation punishment forces the offender to face the seriousness of the bad behavior.
While on the other hand, opponents to the shaming sentences feel that this perhaps falls into the category of “cruel and unusual punishment”. Hmmmm?
I am a fence sitter on this one. I see both sides. I would love to hear what you think on this issue.