- Special Sections
- Public Notices
I’d like to add my voice to those in opposition to the Monitor’s publishing of police arrests — along with photos of those arrested — on the front page of the paper. My opposition is not to printing the information. That’s an entirely different discussion. My opposition is to printing the information with photos on the front page.
Why the change? Some might argue that it acts as an incentive to change the ways of those accused by increasing the chances of those arrested feeling humiliated. Public humiliation is a powerful emotional motivator.
Of course, this form of punishment doesn’t weigh in the possibility of innocence nor does it consider the additional burdens placed upon the family and friends of the accused. More importantly, it doesn’t consider
the potential disastrous effects that can easily arise from using this form of punishment.
Humiliation works through an emotional system that creates a mental state that we know as the pain of separation or abandonment — the pain of loneliness and despair. According to the neurophysiologist Jaak Panksepp, its main purpose is to drive us back to our social group. But it also has another purpose. If the possibility of reunion is not great, it helps prepare us to survive alone. The problem with this backup plan is that the defenses we employ to help us survive without others only serve to further alienate us from others. Instead of acting in ways that enhance our
community, we behave in ways that create further discord.
While public humiliation was a common form of punishment in our past, advancements in the understanding of how our brain functions suggests that
we take a different approach. With the use of such practices as restorative justice, our judicial system is beginning to incorporate approaches to the problem of justice that have greater potential for long-term benefits to both the victim and victimizer.
Whatever the motive, I hope that our local paper will reverse its recent change of policy.