Public Forms of Punishment

Introduction

Experimental studies of societal predicaments have shown that while the existence of an authorisation institution develops teamwork within groups, it has disadvantageous impact on group revenues in the short run. For a long time, there has been a raging debate on whether the introduction of public punishment has a positive or negative impact on those being punished. Over the years, punishment has been a part of life both at home and in organisations but it has always been done in private.

In the recent past, this has however changed and most punishment is now administered in public limelight. While this might improve cooperation, the administration of punishment is usually a costly affair to both the administrator and the recipient. In most cases, public punishment tends to have negative effects in the short-term but it has positive attributes if it is viewed in the long term. (Gachter & Sefton, 1510)

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Punishments are common in everyday life and often pave the way for embargoes or allow sanctions to be avoided. In most cases, parents use punishments to influence the behavior of their children. In the school setting, bullies hand out punishment to ensure that their classmates remain submissive.

In the national level, the state imposes fines and imprisonments for legal infractions. Even in the international level, opposing nations punish each other using either the economy or the military. Despite the presence of public punishment in almost every sphere of life, there is very scant scientific investigation on the role of punishment in behaviour change. Beginning from organizations to personal life, very little study is available on the behavioral impact of public punishment. (Gachter & Sefton, 1510)

All throughout history, people have been known to rise to great heights due to the positive support of their contemporaries. In fact, there exists an entire industry whose sole purpose is to make people better in the public eye. This shows the importance of image and goes ahead to prove that some official punishments should only be handed out in a manner that bruises the ego of the offender. From the colonial days, public humiliation has been administered as punishment for some forms of crimes.

While those crimes are not necessarily punished in the same way in the current society, a lot can be achieved if we reverted to the olden ways of punishment. Perhaps this explains why having illegitimate children, which was punishable by public humiliation, has become rampant in the modern society. (Nikiforakis, 92)

In the recent past, Thailand has gone ahead to set up a form of public punishment where police officers who are believed to have committed petty offences are forced to wear a kind of armband that identifies them as offenders. While this might sound like a childish way of punishment to some people, it goes a long way in ensuring that the affected party does not repeat the same offence.

This might arise from the fact that spanking only serves to inflict physical pain while public humiliation bruises the ego of the involved party thus deterring him from repeating the same or similar offence.

Again, this goes ahead to the issue of people wanting to receive the positive encouragement of their peers and not their condemnation. Simply put, this form of punishment is psychological and it always brings results in the end. In fact, Thailand officials have recorded a significant drop in the number of petty offences committed within the police force since the introduction of the public punishment. (James)

Crossing over to the workplace, giving warnings to an individual employee does not really help in deterring the worker from repeating the same offence. In fact, it is rather obvious that workers who receive individual warnings in the workplace end up exhausting the maximum number of warnings and probably end up facing the sack. On the other hand, a non-performing employee who is reprimanded in the presence of his colleagues will most definitely have to pull up his socks to ensure that his input matches that of his fellow employees.

This is because people find it more important to protect their self-image among colleagues than they even care about their job. Since work is supposed to be done in teamwork, reprimanding an employee who is not performing in the presence of his colleagues makes him to work harder to ensure that the organisation does not fail because of his incompetence.

This is indeed the same psychology applied when a player is warned in the middle of a game for rough play. In essence, the player tends to better his game for fear of condemnation from the team’s supporters and the players who would without doubt blame him for the team’s shortcomings. (Bohm, 335)

In the recent days, the media has been doing a superb job of publicising the private lives of U.S celebrities who have been living double lives. This was seen in the publicity that surrounded the arrests of Nicole Richie, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan for various misdemeanors. Given the nature of the charges, these celebrities were only released after paying a small fine but the negative publicity had dented their image in a big way.

While the offences committed by these celebrities could have occurred in numerous other occasions, the virtue of the American media publicising them must have led to change of behaviour on the part of the affected parties. This form of “media exorcising” is obviously a good thing since it helps in returning the much-needed sanity that has been lacking in the lives of the so-called celebrities. (James)

Unlike in the past, people have realised that spanking does little to bring about the much-needed change in schoolchildren. This is why parents and teachers have resulted to public humiliations as an alternative to the traditional form of punishment, which was only performed in private.

Currently, we are seeing students who have failed their exams being stationed in major highways with their low grades hanging from their necks for everyone to see. Apart from the students, a spouse caught cheating is also subjected to the same form of punishment. Although the U.N Charter does not support this form of punishment, it obviously produces instant results to both the students and the errant spouse.

This alternative punishment should ultimately be supported by everyone who desires to bring instant results in the lives of those around them. Unlike in the past, the scenario where we praised in public and castigated in private has failed to give the desired fruits and public punishment has remained the only option of ensuring that people live straight lives. (James)

The death penalty has been around for as long as man has inhabited the earth. However, this kind of punishment has undergone various transformations throughout the course of history. At first, this form of punishment was only carried out in private but as the world moved in to the 21st century, it was transformed to take on the form of crucifixion and public firing squads.

Although it has been banned in most Western countries, the practice still goes on in many parts of the world. Despite the hullabaloo surrounding this form of punishment, it is obvious that it helps a great deal in deterring crimes from happening.

This happens in a twofold manner where the offender is “blocked” from committing future offences and acts as deterrence for people intending to commit similar offences. I strongly believe that this deterrence comes as an act of seeing people being executed in the public and the accompanying thought that one might be the next victim. While I believe that people need to be commended in public, I disagree with the notion of handing out punishment in private.

While the offender will obviously act defensive at first to save face, he will most undoubtedly be forced to change his/her ways to escape receiving such kind of punishment in the future. (James) This is the observation made earlier in the paper that public punishment may not necessarily show any short term changes but the offender undoubtedly demonstrates changes in the long run. (Nikiforakis, 100)

Conclusion

Different forms of punishment have been in existence as long as man has resided on the earth. In most cases, punishment that is handed out in private does little to deter offenders who might want to repeat the same mistake away from the place where they received the initial punishment.

However, offenders whose punishment is handed out in public limelight find it hard to repeat the same mistake in any locality since they have been exposed to the public. Although a U.N Charter has banned this form of public humiliation, it has amazing results in areas where it is still allowed. This should encourage everyone in the society to adopt public punishment as an alternative to private punishment, which has obviously been producing scarce results.

Works cited

Bohm, Robert. “Capital Punishment in Two Judicial Circuits in Georgia.” Law and Human Behavior, 18.2 (1994):335. Print.

Gachter, Renner, and Sefton, Michael. “The Long-Run Benefits of Punishment,” Science, 322. 5 (2008): 1510. Print.

James, Austin. Encyclopedia of Death and Dying, 2011. Web. Mar 28, 2011. < http://www.deathreference.com/Bl-Ce/Capital-Punishment.html>

Nikiforakis, Norbert. “Punishment and Counter-Punishment in Public Good Games: Can We Really Govern Ourselves?,” Journal of Public Economics, 92.6. (2008) 91–112. Print.

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