Shame Is Worth a Try” – Dan M. Kahan
Dan M. Kahan’s essay promotes the use of shame as a punishment for crime. He argues, “shame is an effective, cheap, and humane alternative to imprisonment.” (572). This shame includes: (according to Kahan) drunk driver bumper stickers, failed child support tire boots, newspaper ads proclaiming wrong-doing by the criminal, and other public embarrassments for committing nonviolent crimes. Kahan believes that although “shame hurts” (573) it can also be used as an effective deterrent for crime. He even claims, “those who’ve served prison time are…less likely to regain respect and trust of law abiding neighbors.” (573). I disagree. Kahan’s argument provides no proof of the shame method’s effectiveness; I know from personal experience the effect shame had on my character: self-destructive behavior and low self-esteem.
In high school, for a year, I ignored my studies. I began to party and misbehave. My friends from years before noticed this and turned away from me. In an intoxicated state I cut my hair (long, blonde, and hard to miss) extremely short. This inch-long cut was my shameful badge. I walked around and felt the stares—everyone could see how much I had changed. I believed that my ex-friends and teachers perceived me as a mess, a worn out partier, a girl who’d lost herself. To them, I was going no where in life. I began to adopt their perspective. My grades plummeted. My behavior became more reckless. After isolating myself for a summer, I started anew in a private school. I got the chance to rediscover my studies and to start a new reputation—one that was positive. A sensitive person like me can not handle public humiliation. I felt isolated, self-hating, miserable, and angry. None of these foster positive character change. In fact, they only make a person more likely to repeat their crimes and act in a defensive (even violent) manner.
This type of punishment is not a new idea; it has been referenced in literature...