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Unusual Punishment

For some judges, prison sentences or fines just don’t always seem like quite the right punishment. After a former judge was tried and convicted of theft, the sentencing judge came up with a novel punishment: the convicted judge would be required to write apologies for her crimes, on photographs of her wearing handcuffs. The photographs would then be sent to other members of the judiciary.

Needless to say, the convicted judge wasn’t pleased about this and appealed. Fortunately for her, a higher court determined that the photographs were a no-go—while apologies were a good idea, putting them on a staged photograph was a little too heavy on the shame and humiliation front.

This is nothing compared to some of the things judges have required however. In Minnesota, for example, a few other bizarre sentences from around the country include:

  • Two men in their early 20s who were sentenced to dress in women’s clothes and wigs and walk along their town’s main street. The men had been charged with throwing beer bottles at a woman’s car.
  • Having to spend Friday night listening to Barry Manilow and other easy listening classics, for noise ordinance violations.
  • A woman was given, and accepted, the option of less jail time if she spent a night in the woods without water, food, or entertainment as punishment for abandoning 35 kittens in the woods.
  • Various “shaming” punishments, such as a driver who drove on the sidewalk to get around a school bus and was given the punishment of standing on the sidewalk holding a sign that read “Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus.”

Inexplicably, an unusual percentage of the bizarre-punishment cases seem to come from Ohio, leading an Ohio professor to conduct one of the only, or possibly the only, studies on whether “shaming” punishments actually work. There is some evidence that requiring repeat DUI offenders to get special license plates does help reduce offenses up to a certain point.

However, the professor’s study also found that when counties imposed the special plates for 35 percent of drunken driving offenses or higher, those counties began to see the reverse effect — an increase in drunken driving offenses.