Critique

1 January 2017

The use of shame as a punishment seems to be contagious through the United States court system as an alternative to incarceration of non-violent crimes. When considering the effectiveness of this act, reading the effects of shame as a punishment for criminals’ calls for analytical comparison. Dan M. Kahan’s “Shame Is Worth a Try” argues that shame is cheap and effective. Kahan’s belief in shameful punishments has support from evidence alluding to the cheapness and effectiveness of the punishment.

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In contrast, June Tangney’s “Condemn the Crime, Not the Person,” argues that a punishment based on shame does not get the right message across to the criminal. Tangney suggests that punishment based on guilt will bring out regret over the crime committed. Although both articles present valid points about using shame as punishment, Kahan’s article lacks professionalism and evidence, while Tangney gives a more credible argument. Both authors give valid arguments on why shame as a punishment can be an alternative to incarceration of non-violent crimes.

Kahan believes that shame is worth a try. He states, “shame is cheap and effective and frees up scarce prison space for the more serious offenses” (Kahan 573). He sees shame as an alternative to incarceration. Kahan states, “Nor do we condemn offenders to educate the retarded” (572). When Kahan uses the word “retarded” it shows some unprofessionalism in his article. It can also steer readers away from his point of view because some may find the word “retarded” to be offensive. Kahan also believes that using shaming punishments has better effects than community service.

He states, “indeed, saying that such community service is punishment for the criminal insults both those who perform such services voluntarily and those whom the services are suppose to benefit” (Kahan 572). Kahan statement makes a valid point. Those who put forth the effort of serving their community should not have to work with someone who committed a crime against the community. Therefore, they should not have to feel uncomfortable for their generous deed. In contrast, Tangney argues that using shame as a punishment gives the criminal the wrong feeling.

She states, “Feelings of shame involve a painful focus on the self-the humiliating sense that “I am a bad person”” (Tangney 567). Tangney then goes on to argue, “Such humiliation is typically accompanied by a sense of shrinking, of being small, worthless, and powerless, and by a sense of being exposed” (567). This shows that shame can have a damaging negative effect on the criminal. Tangney clearly believes that using shame, as a punishment will not make the criminal learn from their mistakes. The risk of using shame could teach them the wrong lesson.

Tangney suggests targeting guilt rather than shame. She argues, “Community service sentences can do much to promote constructive guilt when they are tailored to the nature of the crime” (Tangney 568). This statement help prove that the proper use of Community service can be effective to the criminal. Tangney believes that guilt gets the right message across. She states, “guilt which involve a focus on a specific behavior-the sense that “I did a bad thing” rather than “I am a bad person” (Tangney 567).

Tangney argues that guilt gives the sense of tension, remorse, and regret over the crime (568). She states, “The sense of tension and regret typically motivates reparative action without engendering all the defensive and retalitive responses that are the hallmark of shame” (Tangney 568). This point shows the flaw in shame as a punishment and strengthens her argument. Overall, Kahan gives valid arguments, but hurts himself when he uses the word “retarded. Tangney provides reasonable answers to why shame as a punishment can hurt more than help the criminal.

Evidence is crucial when giving an argument. Both Kahan and Tangney provide examples to support their claims. Kahan believes shame as a punishment works because “People value their reputations for both emotional and financial reasons” (573). He starts by stating, “Drive drunk in Florida or Texas and you might be required to place a conspicuous “DUI” bumper sticker to your car” (Kahan 571). Just using a bumper sticker cannot teach the driver the lesson not to drink and drive; it is simply just a sticker. Kahan then goes on to give an example of Virginia’s shaming punishment.

He gives the example, “refuse to make your child-support payments and you will find that your vehicle has been immobilized with an appropriately colored boot” (Kahan 572). Putting a color-indicating boot on a car is indeed a shaming punishment, but does not help the criminal learn. The boot can prevent the criminal from the ability to go and fix the problem. It does not teach the offender a lesson to pay child support because there are many ways to get around that punishment. That punishment is ineffective.

Even though Kahan argues using shame as a punishment is effective; he fails to give the evidence to support his claims. Tangney in contrast gives powerful examples to strengthen her argument. She states, “Drunk drivers, for example, could be sentenced to help clear sites of road accident and to assist with campaigns to reduce drunken driving” (Tangney 568). Drunk drivers will be able to see what would happen to them if they were to repeat the offence. They also have the chance to give back to the community by being involved in campaigns.

This example helps Tangney prove the effectiveness of community service. She then states, “Slumlords could be sentenced to assist with nuts and bolts repairs in low-income housing units” (Tangney 568). This example also shows how the offender will be working first-hand with the crime they committed. Kahan provided weak evidence to support his argument. While Tangney gives strong supporting evidence to prove the effectiveness of community service.

The credibility of an author helps make the material they wrote believable. Both authors have a significant educational background. Dan M.Kahan graduated from Harvard Law School and was the president of the Harvard Law Review. With this being said Kahan has the knowledge of the law. One of Kahan’s interests was punishments. Just because he learns, the law of punishments does not mean he has the credibility to say what punishment is effective to a criminal. Whereas, June Tangney received her PhD in psychology, and is a co-author for two books dealing with shame and guilt seems to be a more credible author. Since she has, a PhD in psychology it is easy to say that she can make the judgment on whether a punishment is effective for a criminal.

Although Kahan gives a decent argument, he lacks the credibility to support his claims. Both articles give valid points for the use of shame as a punishment; Kahan lacks evidence and professionalism, while Tangney credibility makes her argument stronger and believable. June Tangney’s “Condemn the Crime, not the Person” suggest the use of guilt and community service. She believes shame will not get the message to the criminal. While Dan M. Kahan’s “Shame is Worth a Try” argues that shame is effective and inexpensive.

After comparing both articles, Tangney made it easy to believe guilt and community service are more effective than shame and therefore it should be the alternative for incarceration.

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