Shena Hardin Punishment: Not new, not creative

Of all the articles I read in the press, concerning Shena Hardin, the Cleveland woman that drove her SUV on a sidewalk to get by a stopped school bus, this is one of my favorites.

The Excellent article by School Bus Fleet magazine Thomas McMahon, 'Did 'idiot' sign sentence go too far — or not far enough?',  covers the Hardin public humiliation issue with a more realistic look at the issue of public shaming.

In the article, McMahon mentions, "Ordering a person to make a public mockery of herself struck me as a punishment that is certainly unusual, if not cruel. It seemed that the judge's idea was a bit too close in spirit to medieval stocks."

The judge’s order is not very creative, in my opinion, mimics sentences handed out by other judges to publicly shame offenders. Some other examples from around the country.

New York Attorney Oscar Michelen presents that, "Judges seeking their 15 minutes of fame are likely to use these shaming sentences as a way to garner a headline – or like Judge Brown – a TV show."

He mentions in his article that, “Shaming sentences may make for funny headlines and interesting water-cooler chatter but they have no place in a modern criminal justice system. They are generally however upheld as constitutional.”

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A general statement on a billboard or ad might be a little more effective, not convinced would be much more effective but at least singles out the act, not a specific person. A school bus driver yelling out to stop acting like idiots is not singling out a specific person but is generalizing an acting out the driver wants to stop now.   

The person subjected to this public entertainment was smart enough not to engage the press, yet did something so dumb to end up a target in a pubic spectacle.  Not much of a guess for those of us that have actually worked with kids long enough on the school buses to know that intentional public humiliation can backfire somehow.

Hardin nailed it when she said to the media, “I don’t owe y’all nothing. I’m not getting sucked up into this. Go away from me. I’m gonna serve this sentence and get on with my life, like you all should have done a long time ago.”  ~ Driver Holding “Idiot” Sign Speaks About Sentence

Her terse defiance seems actually rejecting the entertainment value that some are getting out of this public spectacle at her expense. Suppose it's okay as long as we don't go medieval and colonial American with stocks and such.

The concept of public stocks ended centuries ago mostly because it didn't work very well back then. The concept is doomed to repeat in some form until history and human nature is understood and worked with rather than against.

Would have been more effective to stay with the brain science, ordered some jail time, and while in jail put to use earning her keep in supervised public service cleaning weeds from sidewalks and debris from ditches.

In this case, Hardin ended up the brunt of jokes, something a bully might do to a target, and a spectacle that effectively distracted away from the serious original offense, in my opinion.

  • News Video - CLEVELAND (WJW) — In addition to a license suspension and fine, a woman who was caught on video passing a school bus by driving on the sidewalk will have to make an unflattering declaration to the world.
  • Woman Sentenced to Wear Sign Declaring Herself an “Idiot” – Constitutional?  — Judges seeking their 15 minutes of fame are likely to use these shaming sentences as a way to garner a headline – or like Judge Brown – a TV show.

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