Shamed into change

September 8, 2009
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One judge in Ohio thinks shame is the way to curb crime, so he’s ordering some criminals to wear bright T-shirts stating their crime.

The T-shirts, obnoxiously neon yellowish-green, say things like, “I’m a thief” in big, block letters. The “criminali-tees” must be worn while performing court-ordered community service work.

The judge decided to impose the fashion statement in hopes that shame will deter shoplifters from repeating their crimes. Western District Court Judge Jeff Robinson noticed an uptick in shoplifting cases in the community and thought if those convicted suffered a little bit of humility for their crimes, they wouldn’t steal again.

Another example: “I starved my horses to death.”

Those convicted have to make sure the shirt is visible and must return it in good condition. They aren’t allowed to lend it to someone else to wear as a prank or to a party, according to a release form.

Humiliating? Sure, but these people did commit crimes and proceedings in these kinds of criminal matters are public record. It’s like a modern day “Scarlet Letter;” instead of an “A” for adultery, people will instantaneously known you stole something, hit someone, drove drunk, or other offenses. You bet people will judge those wearing the T-shirts differently than if they were just wearing a bright orange jumpsuit or even regular clothes. It’d be even more shameful to have to wear those shirts for an extended period of time out to work or to the store.

Is shame enough to deter crime? Maybe for some, but those likely to steal again or drive drunk again will do so, regardless of whether they are wearing a loud T-shirt announcing their crime.
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