Public humiliation as judicial punishment

A case in Cleveland raises the issue of the appropriateness of using public humiliation in place of incarceration or fines as a means of punishment for certain crimes. In the distant past, public shaming and discomfort, in the form of the pillory stocks, was a prominent feature of American justice, often for crimes like adultery that today are not considered criminal.

Adam Ferrise of reports:

The man accused of bullying his neighbors for 15 years, including children with developmental disabilities, carried out part of his punishment on Sunday by sitting at a busy intersection with a large sign that says he’s a bully.

Edmond Aviv, 62, endured five hours of people yelling at him from passing cars while holding a sign that said: "I AM A BULLY! I pick on children that are disabled, and I am intolerant of those that are different from myself. My actions do not reflect an appreciation for the diverse South Euclid community that I live in."

While I usually experience a gag reflex when the word “diversity” starts getting thrown around, the fellow sounds like a nasty piece of work:

One neighbor, Alex Simmons, the 21-year-old son of South Euclid Municipal Court Bailiff Isaiah Simmons, said Aviv yelled racial slurs at him while growing up in the neighborhood.

“He called me porch monkey a couple times and the N-word,” Alex Simmons said. “I told my parents at the time and they said to avoid his house and be the bigger person. This punishment is great. Justice has been served.”


Court records say Aviv harassed Sandra Prugh’s family for 15 years. Prugh has two adult adopted children with developmental disabilities, cerebral palsy and epilepsy, a husband suffering from dementia and a paralyzed son.

Records say the most recent case stemmed from Aviv being annoyed at the smell of Downy coming from Prugh's dryer vent when she did laundry.

Court records say Aviv tried to sue the family in 2010 because the smell bothered him. The case was thrown out. Shortly after, Aviv dumped fabric softener on Prugh's lawn, the letter says.

Court records say Aviv later made a device that linked kerosene to a fan in his garage. The fan blew the fumes onto Prugh's property, reports say. One of Prugh’s children became ill because of the fumes, Williams-Byers previously said.

Prugh called police on April 9 and April 11, 2013, reports say. Firefighters and police discovered the kerosene contraption and made Aviv dismantle it, reports say.

Quite obviously, incarceration today has many serious problems, among them cost (unionized prison guards in California often make six figures a year) and the inability of authorities to control rape and other violence among males and females, to a lesser but still serious degree.

But is pure humiliation a tool we want to expand the use of? The Aviv case has an eye-for-an-eye character to it, given that he was dealing out humiliation to others, and needs to take a taste of his own medicine.

Is it time to develop something akin to high technology stocks, devices that are not physically harmful but exact public humiliation?