Friday, September 14, 2012

Dissertation on shame. Chapter 8.3 Shaming

8.3 Shaming

Baithwaite (1989, 2002) recommends that one induce shame in criminals as a response to criminal behavior in order to build up their conscience rather than imprisoning them. However, this is in my opinion no solution for the shameless; those that do wrong without regret. Nussbaum[1] (2004) describes how shaming has been reintroduced, and I agree with her when she argues against this development. She discusses several ways in which shaming is used as a punishment; a drunken driver is required to drive for one year with a license plate that says DUI (“Driver Under Influence”) or compelling a business man who urinates in public to scrub the sidewalk with a toothbrush. She presents five arguments for abandoning this practice:

  1. First, shaming violates the principle of dignity and society’s responsibility to give all citizens a social basis for self-respect.
  2. Secondly, shaming as a response resembles stoning people or using the pillory. It represents a primitive form of reaction that is not worthy of a modern civilized society.
  3. Thirdly, shaming is not reliable. It is quite possible that this form of reaction will strike the wrong person, or be too harsh or too mild in relation to the misdemeanour.
  4. Forth, shaming does not function as a judicial punishment; one is not finished with shame when shaming is over. The humiliation one is subjected to through shaming continues and the community will thus alienate the wrong-doer even more than before.
  5. And lastly, one has the problem of what Nussbaum (2004) calls “net-widening” (Nussbaum 2004: 236). When a reform is introduced with alternatives to imprisonment for short sentences, the system will always resist including people it believes deserve to go to prison in these alternatives. One might end up shaming people who otherwise would not have gone to prison but received probation. The result would be an unplanned expansion of the act of shaming without control from the judicial system. (Nussbaum 2004: 227-250)

[1] Martha Nussbaum 1947-      American philosopher.

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