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Friday, 28 February 2014

No Place To Hide

  • A convicted politician puts up a board in front of his house: 'Here resides a thief punished for looting the exchequer'!
  • A rapist wears an irremovable bracelet that warns what he is capable of!
  • An offender who disturbs his neighbours with loud music at night, undergoes the same ordeal in an enclosed room!
  • For rudely and repeatedly interrupting the court proceedings, a defendant's mouth is sealed with duct tape!
  • An environmental rights activist guilty of arson, gets prison term with a rider: Read Mary C Wood’s 'Nature’s Trust', and Malcolm Gladwell's 'David and Goliath' in prison!
These are just a few instances of how Judges in the West, particularly the USA are venturing beyond conventional jurisprudence to dole out innovative punishments. Its scope may be limited to first time offenders of non-violent crimes (theft, burglary), or victimless crimes (gambling, possession of drugs), or white collar crimes (cheating, bribe taking). But the public humiliation the convict faces is far more degrading and disciplining than a prison term.

Call them 'alternative', 'reformatory', 'public shaming', or 'Scarlet Letter' sentences. The perception is that apart from being effective deterrents against criminal intents, they also shield first time offenders from hardened criminals in prison.

Think of a situation where the offenders do not get to enjoy ill-gotten wealth! Where they are treated as social pariahs for the rest of their lives! Where they don't ride back on the society's forgetfulness into public life?

What do you think? Would such punishments work in India? Remember we are talking about first time offenders of non-violent crimes.    

   'It's the bitterest of all,
To wear the yoke of one's own wrongdoing.'
- George Eliot