Shoppers entering a Wal-Mart Supercenter in Alabama got a reminder not to try anything funny: Two shoplifters stood outside with signs reading "I am a thief, I stole from Wal-Mart."
Attalla City Judge Kenneth Robertson Jr. ordered the two people to wear the signs for four hours each during two successive Saturdays.
"The only comments we've heard so far have been positive," said store manager Neil Hawkins. "Most of them thought it was a good thing."
One of the shoplifters, Lisa King Fithian, 46, wore the sign from 11am to 3pm to avoid a 60-day jail sentence. Another convicted shoplifter was at the store from 3pm to 7pm.
Hats off to Judge Robertson for this excellent idea. Of course, in Britain it would probably be considered a violation of the criminals' "human rights".
This is the kind of "community sentence" that I would really like to see more of in this country. Yes, it's humiliating for the criminal. I think that that is rather the point. The element of public humiliation for the criminal is likely to be a strong deterrent against further wrongdoing. In addition, whereas in the case of a prison sentence the criminal's punishment (such as it is) is something that takes place behind closed doors, a punishment like this is carried out in public, thereby enabling the public to witness justice being done.
Personally, I would like to see the return of those two much-lamented (by me at least) British institutions, the stocks and the pillories. I particularly envisage such punishments being handed out, possibly in conjunction with a prison sentence, to the low-level gang members and petty thugs who terrorise communities all over the country. Such people set great store by "respect": they need to feel big and powerful, and to make others see them as such. Putting them in the pillories for a few hours on a Saturday afternoon would utterly humiliate them, and in so doing go some way towards both undermining their own self-respect, and reducing the fear with which they are regarded by law-abiding people.