Cruel and unusual punishment is forbidden by the Eight Amendment to the U. S. Constitution. Is the following story cruel and unusual, or creative and justified? You be the judge.
Daniel Mireles and his wife Eloise were convicted of stealing from the Harris County Texas crime victims fund. Eloise Mireles was a public employee and the brains behind the scheme, reports TalkLeft.com. The judge in their case must have spent some real time thinking about how best to punish the Mireleses, because the terms of probation sound like something right out of the Scarlet Letter. As a condition of avoiding a prison sentence, they were given rather uncommon terms of parole. In addition to community service, Daniel and Eloise Mireles will each have to stand in the road with a large sign detailing everything they did.
Shame is an emotion that seems to be going out of style these days, (have you seen even one episode of any of the Real Housewives franchise?) but the judge in the Mireles case seems to be trying to bring it back. Daniel Mireles must now walk back and forth in front of the local Galleria holding the sign which reads: "I am a thief. I stole $250,000 from the Harris County crime victim's fund. Daniel Mireles." Please note that the mall is now a stand in for the town square, formerly the scene of criminal retribution.
The sign holding will go on for five hours every weekend for the next six years.
Eloise Mirales, a 16 year veteran of the District Attorney's office according to TalkLeft, will face much the same fate when she finishes her jail sentence. The Miraleses will also have a sign posted outside their home reading: "The occupants of this residence, Daniel and Eloise Mireles, are convicted thieves."
Jail time and 400 and 600 hours of community service (respectively) also await Daniel and Eloise. However, they will avoid 10 years in prison. The prosecutor in the case has volunteered to do "random drive-bys" to make sure the shaming is taking place in a consistent and orderly manner.
Public shaming as a punishment has a long and continuing history in our country (N.B. again, that Scarlet Letter). In 2007, Phoenix, Arizona, put the faces of those convicted of drunk driving on billboards.
So, is this shaming a fair sentence for criminals who would steal from those who were already victims of a crime, or just more bullying, propped up by the judicial bench? What is your verdict?
- Texas man sentenced to public humiliation for stealing from victims (NBC)
- Have We No Shame? (American University Law Review)
- Bullying (FindLaw)
- The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Upholds a "Shaming" Penalty (FindLaw's Writ)