Condemn the crime, not the perpetrator.

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Shaming Tactics and their Criticism

Shaming tactics have been criticized for shaming criminals rather than instilling a sense of shame that promotes substantive progress. June Tangney claims in Condemn the Crime, Not the Individual that the use of shaming strategies, in which punishments are deliberately intended to instill a sense of fear in the criminal, is on the increase (Tangney 566).

The Impact of Shaming Strategies

Though shaming and stigmatization have been lauded as a less expensive and more effective method of combating nonviolent crimes, Tangney contends that rather than fostering constructive change, shaming strategies humiliate offenders, making it nearly impossible for them to change their bad behaviors. In order to support his hypothesis, Tangney distinguishes the feeling of shame from the feeling of guilt, and how their respective emotions affect subsequent moral and interpersonal behavior (Tangney 567).

The Feeling of Shame

The feeling of shame creates a sense of being exposed, worthless and powerless, leading to the self-humiliating sense of being a "bad person", a feeling that does not motivate constructive behavior change (Tangney 567). Instead, the shamed persons become irrationally angry with others or indulge in more destructive behaviors.

The Feeling of Guilt

In contrast, the feeling of guilt elicits the feeling of remorse or regrets, leading to the realization that one committed a crime, rather than the feeling that one is a bad person. According to Tangney, the sense that one committed a crime compels the individual to change the bad behavior, in contrast to the sense that one has a bad character, which does not enlist the desire to change behavior (568).


Thus, Tangney proposes a return to sentences that aim at condemning the crime committed and not the person who commits the crime.

Works Cited

Tangney, June. “Condemn the Crime, Not the Person.” Trojan English News, n.d., Accessed Feb.19, 2017.

January 20, 2022

Social Issues


Human Rights

Subject area:

Public Shaming

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Expertise Public Shaming
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