Faced with an unending stream of unrepentant crooks, vagrants and addicts who shrug off short jail terms and scoff at probation, a small number of judges are returning to an old weapon in the war on crime: shame.
From the South Carolina judge who forced a man convicted of battery to carry a sign that read "I beat women" to the Ohio judge who sentenced two men who tossed bottles at a woman's car to dress in women's clothing, jurists have tried a variety of punishments intended to shame convicts into contemplating their crimes.
"The idea is that you are trying to rehabilitate someone, if in no other way than by reminding them and the community what they have done," said Mark Bergstrom, executive director of Pennsylvania's Commission on Sentencing.
Central Pennsylvania Judge Charles Saylor of Sunbury drew mixed reviews last month when he ordered a man who had helped his girlfriend dispose of the body of her newborn baby to make monthly visits to the child's grave with flowers and a lighted candle.
County coroner James F. Kelley called the sentence "a slap to the memory of that child" and said Scott Kinney's presence in the cemetery would be disruptive.
"So far, he hasn't shown any remorse whatsoever," Kelley said. "The judge seems to feel that maybe having him go there and see the marker will make him think about what he's done, but I'm leery. I don't think it's going to happen."
Kinney, 28, also served 204 days in jail while awaiting trial. His ex-girlfriend was convicted of murder for drowning the baby after giving birth.
Pennsylvania gives judges the power to set almost any condition on convicts who are placed on probation, as long as they are "reasonably related to the rehabilitation of the defendant."
Last month, a Carbon County judge approved a plea bargain that required a man who fled from police to run in a 5-kilometer foot race to benefit a police union. Chad M. Eschbach, 21, completed the race Oct. 5.
"I was hoping it would be a deterrent," District Attorney Gary F. Dobias said. "I hoped that if he had a chance to interact with these officers, he would realize the danger he was putting them in when he fled."
Last month, Lebanon County Judge Bradford Charles tried to plant the seeds of remorse by sentencing a man who destroyed a field of crops with his Jeep to serve community service on a farm.
Some cases have grabbed headlines and won praise, but lawyers and some experts say trying to embarrass someone into reform can be risky.
Robert Sadoff, a psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania, said research has shown that prisoners subjected to shaming tactics often react by becoming more violent. Other people punished in humiliating ways can be left embittered and likely to re-offend, he said.
"I don't think you can really manufacture remorse," he said. "It has to come from within."
Charles has tried creative approaches before, once ordering a woman to wear a badge that said "convicted shoplifter." The Superior Court overturned the sentence in June, ruling the badge had no value in the woman's rehabilitation.
"In that case, it didn't really help to rehabilitate her. She had a drug problem, and that is why she shoplifted," said the woman's attorney, Scott Stein.
Temple Law School professor Edward Ohlbaum said those and similar sentences are following a long-established legal tradition.
"I remember hearing in the 1980s about judges sentencing drunken driving defendants to work as volunteers in hospital emergency rooms," he said. "It strikes me that shaming somebody like that is on some level an act of revenge . . . but it could also be a sign that the judge is saying, 'Can I do something that can turn this person's life around?' "