Some judges devise teachable moments by ordering offenders to read books, tutor students, take classes, write reports, clean parks, send letters, or repaint buildings they had tagged with graffiti. For nonviolent offenders, these may be better punishments than having taxpayers pay the bill for jail sentences in already overcrowded facilities.
You may have read about the sentence given to an Ohio woman after she plead guilty for driving on a sidewalk, around a school bus, while children were exiting. In addition to a fine and suspended license, "Municipal Judge Pinkey Carr ordered Hardin to two days of standing on a corner during rush hour traffic, holding a sign that said, Only an idiot would drive on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus" (News.Yahoo.com)
Ohio State University law professor Doug Berman says, "When done well by the right folks with the right idea in mind, creative sentencing can be a good thing. There are lots of folks for whom prison may do more harm than good, not just for themselves but for society” (Rockwallheraldbanner.com).
According to the Worcester Telegram, Massachusetts Western Worcester District Court Judge Paul L. McGill has five considerations when determining a sentence for a defendant:
- Protection of the Public
- Detriment to Society
Creative sentences are unusual punishments tailored to the crime and designed to rehabilitate the offender. Consider a few more extreme examples from the Web.
A mother and daughter (ages 56 and 35) stole a pair of gift cards from a girl in a Walmart. Rather than jail time, the two opted for probation and a 4 1/2 hour stint in front of the courthouse holding a sign that read, "I stole from a 9-year-old on her birthday! Don't steal or this could happen to you!" (Publicengines.com).
A Buffalo, N.Y., pizzeria owner charged with tax fraud was sentenced to pay back taxes and deliver 12 sheet pizzas to the City Mission every Tuesday for a year (WIVB.com).
Ohio Judge Michael Cicconetti is well-known for delivering unusual sentences. In one case, he sent a man who'd been charged with disturbing the peace to sit alone in the woods for an hour of silence. He had a woman spend a night in the woods after dumping more than 30 kittens, some of which died (Newsnet5.com).
After destroying a baby Jesus statue from in front of a church, Judge Cicconetti sentenced a couple "to lead a donkey through the streets with an apology sign saying: Sorry for the jackass offense" (Newsnet5.com). In a much harsher sentence, he sent a drunken driver to view two dead bodies from car accidents (Telegram.com).
Some deride these punishments. Asked by an ABC affiliate to explain his sentences, Cicconetti said, "Can't stone 'em anymore. If they learn from it, that's what justice is all about" (News.Yahoo.com).
No we can't stone them, not literally. Are sentences like the ones mentioned here well-suited to the crime, judicial bullying, or just wacky? You be the judge.
- Browning, John, "Letting Punishment Fit the Crime," Rockwallheraldbanner.com, 7-21-2012.
- Christian Science Monitor, "10 Weird Criminal Sentences," News.Yahoo.com, 1-9-2013.
- Gunter, James, "Creative Sentencing: Public Humiliation," Publicengines.com, 11-9-2009.
- Hall, Lauran, "Creative Sentencing for Pizzeria Owner," WIVB.com, 10-19-2010.
- Ring, Kim, "Judges Turning to Creative Sentencing," Telegram.com, 1-25-2013.
- Seitz, Colleen, "Creative Sentences: Chicken Suits, Kiddie Pool, Blindfold, Jackass Offense Sign, Pigs," Newsnet5.com, 11-14-2012.