I came across the following sentences — about “finding alternatives to public shaming” — on pg. 55 of Jon’s Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed:
The boy of eighteen who is whipped at New Castle [a Delaware whipping post] for larceny is in nine cases out of ten ruined. With his self-respect destroyed and the taunt and sneer of public disgrace branded upon his forehead, he feelsQuoted in Robert Graham Caldwell,
himselflost and abandoned by his fellows.
Red Hannah: Delaware’s Whipping Post
I’ve constructed a bridge from those sentences to Season 3 of the podcast Serial. It examines the criminal justice system in the United States, using Cleveland as its petri dish.
A jail sentence or criminal record is a punishment. It stains people with a particular shade of shame. Not everyone in the person’s community might see it that way. But the larger society does. And too often society refuses to welcomes the shamed person back.
I get it. “Fool me once, shame on you.”
The problem is that you’re left with all these people living on the fringes. If you never give them a chance, chances are they’ll turn against you or whoever is closet.
Which outcome is worse?