The Pillory

What are people’s objections to using the pillory where the only physical element is the plainness of eating just bread and water and the discomfort of standing or kneeling? The device need not involve starvation, whipping, stoning or any of the like, especially if such abuses are forbidden and sealed with punishment. There is one problem with the punishment:

From a modern penological standpoint, the interesting thing about the pillory was that it confused deterrence and vengeance with retribution. Retribution, as Ernest van den Haag points out, ‘is not inflicted to gratify or compensate anyone who suffered a loss or was harmed by the crime — even if it does so — but to enforce the law and to vindicate the legal order.’ Furthermore, ‘retribution is to restore and objective order rather than to satisfy a subjective craving for revenge.’ (Carolyn Strange, Qualities of Mercy: Justice, Punishment, and Discretion, 35)

Those who wanted the pillory to fall out of use, then, cited primarily “the very real opportunity it afforded for the kind of proletarian usurpation of judicial authority that could occur when a ferocious mob nearly killed an offender for a non-capital crime” (ibid.).

But certainly there are ways to protect criminal punishment, and criminals themselves, from the irrational temper of the crowd. For any punishments we have in the United States there are measures against abuse. Thus the primary characteristic of the pillory can be public shame for a crime, which in my book is entirely appropriate for penal justice, if those present will treat it gravely and soberly.

If, therefore, the only issue is that the use of the pillory seems archaic and too traditional, then I do not see that as a strong case against using it as a punishment in different degrees for insobriety, fraud and other crimes. Do you think the pillory should indeed have become a relic of the past? Why?

Advertisements

4 responses to “The Pillory

  1. “But certainly there are ways to protect criminal punishment, and criminals themselves, from the irrational temper of the crowd. For any punishments we have in the United States there are measures against abuse.”

    How will you protect the criminal from the crowd then? It might well be that protecting the criminal will need more effort and expenditure than the punishment itself. Post guards 24/7 or maybe put the pilloried criminal in a bulletproof, air-conditioned glass cage? The thought is teasing. There’s also the question of what crimes will be punishable through the pillory. But what if the crowd sympathizes with the criminal rather than the authority? And what if the next generation blames their inadequacies on you because you subjected them to inhumane humiliation during their formative and self discovery years?

    Like

  2. »It might well be that protecting the criminal will need more effort and expenditure than the punishment itself.«

    The issue, then, is a practical one, and people should stop making it sound like a pure issue of cruelty.

    »There’s also the question of what crimes will be punishable through the pillory.«

    That’s a matter for people to hash out.

    »But what if the crowd sympathizes with the criminal rather than the authority?«

    This has, of course, happened in the past. Sometimes it was a good thing. But unless the state is clearly in the wrong I suspect that the visual nature of the punishment would at least make people think twice about it.

    »And what if the next generation blames their inadequacies on you because you subjected them to inhumane humiliation during their formative and self discovery years?«

    Do we expect that many juvenile-aged criminals? Perhaps we can, but I take issue with the characterization of shameful punishments as “inhumane humiliation”. It’s merely display for the crime, not one that involves the gratuitous, dehumanizing shame of, say, being stripped. But there’s no merit in nice penalties that are neither shameful nor painful nor costly.

    Like

  3. Het gaat om het afschrikeffect van de schandpaal. In deze tijd past een kooi van kogelvrij glas. Spiegelend glas zal het strafgevoel verhogen.

    Glashard tegen zijn spiegelbeeld vastzetten waarbij hij tegen het glas staat gedrukt zal zijn schaamtegevoel verhogen. Dit effect krijgt men ook met gewoon glas waarbij dit aan de binnenkant gaat spiegelen als het donker wordt en binnen het licht fel brandt.

    Vooral bij jongeren na een licht vergrijp zal deze straf een indruk achter laten waarbij hij zich wel tweemal bedenkt voor hij opnieuw de fout ingaat.

    Like

  4. Sorry, I don’t read Dutch, although Babelfish has told me enough for me to know it wasn’t a spam comment.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s