Wednesday, November 7, 2007

a globalization of public shaming?

in crime, shame, and reintegration (1989), john braithwaite contrasted the stigmatizing punishments typical of nations such as the united states, with the reintegrative shaming practiced in nations such as japan. in particular, he cited the public displays of repentance shown by corporate representatives in the east.

the l.a. times reports an incident of such public shaming in the u.s. congress:

WASHINGTON -- They sat just two feet apart, the mother of a journalist confined to a Chinese prison and the wealthy head of the giant U.S. company that helped put him behind bars.

But before Yahoo Inc. Chief Executive Jerry Yang took his seat to testify on Capitol Hill Tuesday, he bowed deeply before the woman.

The hearing by the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Yahoo's conduct in China was a rare public shaming of the Internet leader, whose actions led to the imprisonment of journalist Shi Tao.

this is just one incident, of course, but i would not be surprised to see more american politicians and executives bowing long and low in the halls of congress. beyond capitol hill, my sense is that public shaming is occurring with far more regularity in the american criminal justice system of 2007 than it had twenty years earlier. in my view, this is partly a globalization effect and partly a braithwaite effect, as professor braithwaite offered a practical and flexible conceptual framework for restorative justice programs and reintegrative initiatives.

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