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OT: SOMETIMES THE SYSTEM WORKS

Filed at 7:10 am under by dcobranchi

The store manager deserves a medal:

When Sherelle Purnell sped away from Gordy’s Tiger Mart in Salisbury, Md., without paying for $4.52 worth of gasoline, she probably didn’t think the punishment would be three hours of court-ordered public humiliation.

But from noon to 3 p.m. today, the 18-year-old will be standing in front of the convenience store near the Centre at Salisbury on U.S. 13 wearing a sandwich board sign that reads: “I was caught stealing gas.”

Though Wicomico County District Court Judge D. William Simpson ordered the punishment, the unconventional sentence was the brainchild of Tiger Mart store manager Jan Phipps.

Public oppobrium can be a powerful thing.

29 Responses to “OT: SOMETIMES THE SYSTEM WORKS”


Comment by
Rikki
July 30th, 2004
at 9:27 am

It’s funny how I feel about theft. I don’t like it at all, but there are certain items that give me more sympathy for the thief. For example, I’d feel a bit more compassion if a person was caught stealing food than I would for someone that stole cigarettes, or beer, or the latest Prada bag. I’ve never thought about anyone stealing gas though, even though I’m sure it happens alot. I know it’s rather annoying to have to pay first if you are filling up and paying cash due to people driving off. That sort of behavior makes everyone a suspected criminal. I think the punishment is appropriate, it’s really too bad it doesn’t happen more often without someone claiming it was cruel and unusual.


Comment by
Eric Holcombe
July 30th, 2004
at 11:44 am

That is awesome! Having to serve it out at the particular store is even better. I think I’d make her pump gas too… ;O)


Comment by
speedwell
July 30th, 2004
at 4:18 pm

Eric, think about that last… if you were a store owner, would you really want an angry, disgruntled thief waiting on your paying cutomers?


Comment by
Betsy
July 30th, 2004
at 11:09 pm

What is wrong with you people? Public humiliation as a punishment for a miniscule infraction of the law? Do you folks also believe in putting dunce caps on your kids in school or scarlet letters on women who don’t behave the way you want them to? Are you all stuck in the 15th century or what?


Comment by
Brian Sassaman
July 30th, 2004
at 11:52 pm

Betsy,

I’d say that stealing is far, far from a miniscule infraction.

If the offender *behaved* badly, then the punishment would be questionable. Stealing is not a behaviour issue. It is wrong. It should be punished.

I think the offender should go to jail for 30 days. She got off easy.

By the way, I do not not believe in dunce caps or scarlet letters.


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
July 31st, 2004
at 9:01 am

Which is worse, wearing a sandwich board for three hours or going to jail for 12 months?


Comment by
Penguina
July 31st, 2004
at 10:10 am

This woman was order to serve three hours of punishment, wearing the sign from noon to three-thirty. Then she is an hour and a half late showing up to serve her sentence (which should in itself be grounds for further punishment) and displays blatant attitude. She didn’t learn anything. It was a fun time for her. She should have gone to jail. Let her laugh there.


Comment by
penguina
July 31st, 2004
at 10:13 am

This woman was ordered to serve 3 hours of punishment, wearing the sign in front of the store, from noon to three on the appointed day. She didn’t even show up till an hour and a half after the scheduled time to start, then displayed blatant bad attitude and disregard for the intent of the punishment. She didn’t learn anything from this. It was a joke to her. She should have gone to jail. Let her laugh there.


Comment by
scooter
July 31st, 2004
at 10:36 am

When I was 8 years old, I stole a roll of candy. My friends stole something bigger (knuckleheads), and were caught. By that time I was out of the store.

10″ later, on a very crowded beach, the PA announced “Will John Doe come to the beach office”. (they had ratted me out) I was terrified, and ignored it. Then 5″ later, out boomed “Will the mother of John Doe come to the beach office”. At that point I knew I better turn myself in.

That public “humiliation” permanently cured me from shoplifting. Let’s see how Sherelle Purnell behaves going forward.


Comment by
Totinsky
July 31st, 2004
at 12:26 pm

Well I can see there are many behavioral Psychologist in here ( Cynical). Is this the concept of education in the United States of America? Its the year 2004 and humilation is thought to be a good way to educate in the U.S.
The problem in the U.S is that eventhought there are many experts in different fields ( including education and social justice) they have almost no word on community decisions and everything seems to come down to politics.

The reason why many of you feel positive about the punishment of Mss. Purnell is because it makes her look bad which in turn it makes you feel good. You have no scientifc proof that such punishment would result on permanent change on behavior from Mss. Purnell.

Politics does so much harm to society, is like if a medical doctor took decisions based in making you feel good regarless of your health consequences.


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
July 31st, 2004
at 12:35 pm

OK, I’ll bite. How would you handle the problem of petty theft? And, letting her get away with it is not an option.


Comment by
Anon
July 31st, 2004
at 2:18 pm

Wow. I’m astounded at the cheering for public humiliation here. What’s next? Stocks and pillory? Dunking booth? Ever read “The Scarlet Letter,” people?

This is unbelievable. For $4.52 in gas? I think a stern warning from the judge would have sufficed.

By the way, she’s black. I wonder if the same sentence would have been given if she had been white.


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
July 31st, 2004
at 2:24 pm

Anon,
Do you have reason to believe it wouldn’t have? If not, why bring race up?


Comment by
Anon
July 31st, 2004
at 2:27 pm

Whether it mattered or not is irrelevant. That isn’t the point. The point is that this sentence is clearly inappropiate, especially for such a minor crime.


Comment by
Anon
July 31st, 2004
at 2:32 pm

By the way, when is Ken Lay going to be paraded through the streets of Houston? How big of a sign we he be forced to wear?

That’s never going to happen. This will only happen to people like Sherelle Purnell, young people who probably have lower incomes.


Comment by
Brian Goodrich
July 31st, 2004
at 4:25 pm

Hello people: Sherelle Purnell is a criminal. Yes, a criminal. When you steal goods/services from another person who owns those goods/services — we call this stealing. It is not ok to steal, no matter how insignificant the value of the goods/services involved are.

Sherelle Purnell stole gasoline, and she was therefore punished for her crime. How would any of you up there feel if Sherelle Purnell had stolen a bracelet worth $5 that your grandmother had given to you before she passed away?

Of course, when circumstances changed, people’s views of how to deal with them change. All of us should be outraged at the criminal act of Sherelle Purnell. Accordingly, she should be branded a criminal, and face public humiliation that the law deems appropriate.


Comment by
BasicCruelty
July 31st, 2004
at 4:42 pm

I agree with Anon, I don’t believe that we would ever see a white woman having to do this kind of “penance” in this day and age. It just would not occur to anyone. (Try to imagine it and you’ll see that you cannot.) Black people have always been the easy targets of public humiliation and this is no exception. I feel saddened and outraged that our society continues to endorse degradation as legitimate justice. Surely, you can all see that the oil companies will hardly suffer from a $4.52 loss to someone desperate enough to steal that amount of gas. Most of the posts here and the sentence given to Ms. Purnelle show only a self-righteous and cruel view of society. I would wish for all of you a touch more compassion and a bit less self-serving indignation. There are “real” crimes happening in much more profound ways that all too many of you probably ignore every day. Where is your outrage for the poverty and ignorance we continue to see? Please think and read more.


Comment by
Rikki
July 31st, 2004
at 4:58 pm

I don’t see the connection between this punishment and “The Scarlet Letter”. Now of course, if she’d been forced to wear the sign for the rest of her life, live on the edge of society, and deal with her car mocking her status, then we could compare perhaps.

There is a law against stealing, there is no law against being a dunce or having promiscuous sex. Slight difference there, regardless of whether you stand on the ‘morality’ of it. Frankly assuming any on of us in agreement with the punishment would subject our children to such items as a dunce cap equals accusing us of being capable of child abuse.

If it’s a grown woman, who broke a known law, she’s lucky she didn’t have to serve jail time and risk losing a heck of a lot more than 3 hours of her time and a little bit of her attitude.


Comment by
Daryl
July 31st, 2004
at 5:21 pm

Let me turn it around on the bleeding hearts– if she weren’t black would you be so upset at the punishment? Racism cuts both ways, you know.


Comment by
Daryl
July 31st, 2004
at 5:26 pm

And one other thing– I can honestly say that I did not even imagine her race (black or white) when I posted the original.


Comment by
Daryl
July 31st, 2004
at 5:30 pm

And another thing (actually 2)–

First, it’s irrelevant from whom she stole.

Second, she stole from a convenience store. Probably owned by an individual. Perhaps an immigrant. Maybe an African-American. Almost assuredly not wealthy. Still think this was a vitimless crime?


Comment by
Nickygrack
July 31st, 2004
at 5:30 pm

It was useless. If you can find it, there is a picture of Sherelle Purnell, a young black girl, with her sign…and she is laughing. For low class scum opprobrium won’t work – lock-em up.


Comment by
BasicCruelty
July 31st, 2004
at 6:12 pm

Daryl:
Why does it disturb you to question whether racism might be involved in this punishment? It’s always interesting to me how the “issue” of race will become the center of any argument, no matter what the context, once it is brought up, by people who insist that racism does exist, but never in any specific case.

In answer to your question, I was shocked at the news that a person was punished in this medievally backward way. What I read did not indicate from what race Ms. Purnell sprang. Once I saw that she is a black woman, it did not make the story more shocking, unfortunately, because, as I said, it has been historically a given to publicly humiliate black people. I am upset with the obvious ignorance of our history that this punishment displays and with the lack of humility and evolved-thinking in these posts. I am responding to your last post because you obviously need some dialogue on race, whether or not the punishment was given with that in mind (subconscious or not), but this is only a part of what should be a broad conversation of this pitiful event. And as far as the mention of “bleeding hearts”, (another easy label to encourage offensive repartee), I find it almost amusing how my mentioning oil companies, poverty and ignorance should have brought that label to your mind. Or was it the word compassion that was so upsetting to you? I’m sure there is no room in your conversations for that possibility. Maybe that is also only a “word” to you, not something you might sometimes adhere to in your life. Finally, this conversation should be about how little our society has evolved over time, if this “punishment” can be doled out and so applauded here. For me, my part of it ends with this post.


Comment by
Greg
July 31st, 2004
at 11:08 pm

It seems to me that a system of restitution would be appropriate for things like this. I don’t think Ms. Purnell should get away with taking $5 worth of gas, she should have to pay court costs , the lost time of the business owner, and gas cost. If people want to break the law they ought to have to pay for justice to be implemented.

Doesn’t it seem like we need to rethink the way justice is applied in this country?

Why is it that 1 of 36 americans is in jail?


Comment by
JJS
August 1st, 2004
at 5:45 am

The question is unfair to ask and simply answer. You first have to ask, “Is this Ms. Purnell’s first offense”? If so, then she should be given a “slap on the wrist”. Meaning that restitution (store owner, fine) would be appropriate and some community service. The owner could have even recommended that she “pump gas” and wash windows for a day. (Teach her what it means to work.) For those who believe “jail time” is an alternative sentence, “do you know the approximate cost to keep her incarcerated for a year”? For such a crime, this makes no sense and you would be upset because your taxes would be raised to offset these types of cases. Had Ms. Purnell had a history of breaking the law or was being defiant to the court (Judge Simpson), then I would have sent her to jail for immediately, let her cool her heels and then given her community service. You must also look into similar crimes and their sentencing. Is this the normal punishment for the crime and if not, “what justification warrants this unconventional sentence”? Humiliation is not a proven deterrant, it’s plain and simply revenge and it does not belong in the Criminal Justice System. Not to mention the fact that this punishment put her in “harm’s way”. (traffic)

Another issue, “having the victim determine the punishment”? This is basically, vigilante justice. You’re leaving the sentencing up to an individual who is not bound by the “rule of law” and could be thinking “revenge” which potentially means prejudice against that person because of race, gender, age or sexual preference. (Just fascinates me) Are those not violations of one’s rights? This is one reason why we have the current system, to be fair and just without prejudice. The “Lady of Justice” is said, “to be blind” to prejudice. (She must have peeked) I’m also wondering, “what was her attorney (probably a public defender) thinking? Did he/she file an appeal? Did he/she agree w/ the sentence?

Funny, when I first heard the story, I knew it was an African American. For those of you people who believe the Criminal Justice System applies the law without bias and evenly, you are very mistaken. Remember, we are humans and not machines. Which means our interpretations or opinions are subject to emotions. There are Criminal Justice Professionals who are bound by their oath and their strict belief in law (very honorable people), while others bend it to suit their needs. Would this same sentence have been applied to a relative or friend of the D.A. or Judge? Probably not. Before you say, “they wouldn’t commit and act like this”, rememember, these people do and have gotten away with more serious offenses and never been punished. It’s called, “being privileged” and these offenses are handled behind closed doors. Do I think race played a role? Let’s just say, “it can’t be ruled out”!

For people who believe that, “a criminal is a criminal”, please look in the mirror. Have you ever gone just 1 mile over the speed limit? Ran a red light? Borrowed a co-workers pen and not returned it? Purposely or accidentally, it doesn’t matter, you broke the law and the law makes no distinction. How would you feel if you were made to stand in front of your peers with a sign that read, “I was caught speeding”? Would you find that appropriate? Or would a fine and maybe some community service fit the bill?

I have to believe that Judge Simpson felt that this was an appropriate punishment and only he knows the answer. Yet, with all his wisdom and experience, I am in awe that he could not have found a more suitable punishment. In my opinion, Ms. Purnell, The Store Owner, D.A., Judge Simpson and all you folks that believe this was a proper punishment are/were wrong. The next time your child does something wrong (as all children do), why don’t you humiliate them in public? I’m quite sure it will do wonders for their confidence and self-esteem and you might just teach them a lesson. Just be careful of the lesson you’re teaching.

Did the crime fit the punishment? The punishment was the crime!

Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster.

(excerpt from Nietzsche)


Comment by
Greg
August 1st, 2004
at 6:19 am

I agree with JJS. Somehow in our outrage we’ve begun to place more value on our “things” and less value on “human life”. We’ve become more intolerant of the thief (Martha Stewart) and more patient with the murderer (OJ).

Frederick Douglass:
Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.


Comment by
Daryl Cobranchi
August 1st, 2004
at 6:32 am

Someone please call me a Nazi so we can end this. 🙂


Comment by
Tim Haas
August 1st, 2004
at 7:10 am

The Nazis made people wear signs too — so you’re a Nazi sympathizer!

(Close enough?)


Comment by
Greg
August 1st, 2004
at 10:35 am

Another argument for humiliation…

I’d be curious how many people in the USA would go along with cutting off a hand for stealing.

Humiliation? Yes, you’d have to try to explain to your neighbor why the government had to lop off your hand. It’s a little harsh, but hey… the price of gas would go down because, no doubt, everyone would be paying for that $5 of gas instead of stealing it!