The Scarlet Letter of the Law: A Place for Shaming Punishments in Arizona

24 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2014

Date Written: May 24, 2013


Trends in penological methods come and go, changing as a society’s attitude shifts, knowledge increases, and experience grows. A recent trend in modern sentencing methods has demonstrated a renewed interest in shaming punishments. Supporters of this trend point to the apparent ineffectiveness of a general system of fines, probation, and incarceration; they see a need for more specifically tailored punishments as a reason to promote shaming punishments. Opponents argue that society was wise to abandon most types of shaming punishments.

The purpose of this Article is to further the discussion regarding punishment options available to courts and to consider a wider use of shaming punishments in certain circumstances. Shaming punishments may be particularly effective if they are tailored to criminals convicted of specific crimes, especially criminals having middle to high socioeconomic class status and who may lose social standing if their criminal activities are made public. This Article begins with a brief history of shaming as punishment, followed by examples of modern shaming. Next, this Article explains and considers the criticisms of judicial sanctions designed to induce shame in an offender, and it discusses penological justifications for shaming. Finally, the Article discusses potential uses for shaming punishments in Arizona and recommends that Arizona courts expand the use of shaming punishments — as an addition to current statutorily-available punishments — for criminals of mid to high socioeconomic status.

Keywords: punishment, shame, shaming, Arizona, DUI, probation, penology, sentencing, probation, incarceration, alternatives

JEL Classification: K42, K14

Suggested Citation

Dynes, Michael and Whitmer, Henry, The Scarlet Letter of the Law: A Place for Shaming Punishments in Arizona (May 24, 2013). Available at SSRN: or

Michael Dynes (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

No Address Available
United States

Henry Whitmer

Independent ( email )

No Address Available
United States

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