Public Shaming In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Words: 856
Pages: 4

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, criminals, such as Hester Prynne who commits adultery, are frequently sentenced to public humiliation. In the realm of the judicial system today, public shaming is sometimes still used. In contemporary society, however, public shaming should not be used as a sentence for a crime.
Public humiliation can drastically affect other people unrelated to the crime, which is not logical. For instance, say a man drives drunk, and gets arrested for driving under the influence. His sentence is to have a sign posted outside of his home reading, “I drove drunk and could have killed someone.” Say that man has a family. The entire household has to see that sign every day, and that family will be known by everyone
…show more content…
Many advocates of public humiliation argue that public humiliation is not as embarrassing as going to jail. However, a criminal’s family and friends will know that the criminal is in jail. Also, “Given that the whole point of public humiliation is to turn attention into punishment, an audience of one million is a more severe punishment than an audience of one thousand” (Beato 2). It is more embarrassing to have a million people knowing what a criminal did, rather than a couple of hundred people knowing. It is inconceivable for a judge in a courtroom to know if a public humiliation sentence will go viral on the internet or not, and that is too big of a risk to take. Thanks to mass media “it's impossible to predict how many photos and videos the news media and random passersby may produce. Nor can you predict how much notice this imagery will attract” (Beato). When a person is sentenced to stand at a public place, it is exceedingly likely that a group of passerbys will form. France has experimented with public humiliation and has found that “shaming sanctions have caused riots and significant crowd control issues” (Ziel 508). Public humiliation is a seed for mob mentality, and when a group of humans get angry about something, that seed will grow to a furious giant …show more content…
A judge’s job is to rehabilitate and to try and get the criminal to not break the law again. Therefore, judges will “expose offenders to public ridicule and humiliation, rather than facilitate rehabilitation” (McKown 8). Judges, with false intentions of rehabilitating, will look for the way to humiliate the criminal in the most public way possible, rather than to assist the criminal in understanding what they did wrong and why it is wrong in society’s eyes. The criminal will not be rehabilitated after his or her sentence, but instead will be outraged and mentally disturbed by all the citizens who walk by and say distressing words and phrases. Also with creative sentencing, judges have the power to give more or less punishment for the exact same crime. For example, if a woman were to steal something from a convenience store say her sentence would be two weeks in jail, and six months of probation. Now say a man were to commit the same exact crime. His sentence would be to stand in front of city hall holding a sign reading what he did. These are two identical crimes, but have different punishments which does not make sense. In order to have equality and justice in the courts, there must be uniform punishments so there can be no area of discussion about discrimination or opinionated sentences. In other words, “justice works best when