Public humiliation is not cruel, unusual punishment

What do you think of this? Shawn Gementera pleaded guilty to mail theft in 2001 after stealing mail out of people’s mailboxes in San Francisco, Calif., and was sentenced to, among other things, wear a sign in public which reads, “I stole mail.” The Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal.

In 2003, Gementera was sentenced by a district judge to two months in jail, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

The release conditions stated that Gementera must spend four days at a post office observing staff dealing with inquiries about lost or stolen mail, write letters of apology to the victims of his crime and give three lectures about his crime at schools.

The judge also ordered him to wear a signboard reading “I stole mail — this is my punishment” for a full eight-hour working day.

Gementera appealed about the latter requirement, but a US appeals court panel ruled against him earlier this year.

The court said in August that the record in Gementera’s case showed the judge imposed the condition for the purpose of rehabilitation.

“Punishments aimed at imposing shame and humiliation are inconsistent with a constitutional requirement that punishments, even for heinous crimes, be consistent with human dignity,” Gementera’s lawyers were quoted by Reuters news agency when appealing to the Supreme Court. — BBC News

The Supreme Court turned down his appeal without comment.

I’m interested in your opinions. Should Gementera have been required to wear a sign saying he stole mail? Is this sort of punishment appropriate at all? Does it achieve the intended effect of rehabilitation? Or is it simply public humiliation without purpose?

One thought on “Public humiliation is not cruel, unusual punishment

  • October 10, 2006 at 9:51 am

    i think public humiliaton is a good thing so yeah

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