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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Gementera Goes To Prison

In part because of my academic interest in alternative sanctions, and in part because of my  representation in the Ninth Circuit of a bunch of prawfs worried about shaming punishments, I've blogged a bunch of times before about the Gementera case. 

Well, I have more sad news to report.  Notwithstanding Gementera's earlier shaming punishment -- in which he had to hold a sign for eight hours outside a post office that said "I stole mail. This is my punishment!" -- the defendant Shawn Gementera has now been sent to prison for violating his supervised conditions of release: by engaging in mail-related theft again.

Law.com has the story here.  (Hat tip to patent lawyer extraordinaire Ted Chandler.)   

Lest I be chastized by Greg Yair or the good folks at the Empirical Legal Studies Blog, I don't want to make too many generalizations from this one data point.  But those who have been pushing the specific deterrence angle regarding shaming punishments are going to have a tougher time pushing their case in the public sphere now that the most famous recent shaming punishment has appeared to have had no effect whatsoever on the offender.   Whether that's true for general deterrence, well, we'll have to wait until Jon Klick or someone from ELS devises some nifty experiment.  Anyone keen to assess the prevalence of mail theft pre- and post-February 2006 in the Bay Area?

Posted by Administrators on May 25, 2006 at 02:15 PM in Criminal Law, Dan Markel | Permalink


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Perhaps all the law professors complaining about the shaming punishment had the effect of making Gementera feel like a celebrity, undoing the benefits of the sign-carrying? It's not even clear that this is a single data point! (Exclamation point in lieu of smiley.)

Some people are just inherently incorrigible recidivists. Lock 'em up without regrets.

Posted by: Ted | May 26, 2006 1:59:05 PM

Guys, if U R going 2 continue using smilie faces with such frequency 4 our enjoyment, I will be more confused than ever be4! Not that it’s, like, a loss 4 any1 here, or something.

Posted by: Kate Litvak | May 25, 2006 3:34:51 PM

It's true Michael. My typical mode of thinking is the facts only get in the way. This datum should really be stylized a "case study." :-)

Posted by: Dan Markel | May 25, 2006 2:50:54 PM

Dan: At least your generalizations benefit from *one* datum (a perilously small sample size, to be sure--but a start). And such generalizations are usually better than those based on vapor ;-)

Posted by: Michael Heise | May 25, 2006 2:46:17 PM

Lesson to judge: Next time, make the punishment more shameful. Maybe it will work then.

Posted by: Stuart Levi | May 25, 2006 2:43:03 PM

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