Shaming as Punishment for Repeated Drunk Driving

Janesville, Wisconsin, has published information about repeated drunk driving offenders since 2010. The idea is that the public shame will reduce future incidents.

Posted on January 25, 2013 at 7:03 AM • 32 Comments

Comments

Steve FriedlJanuary 25, 2013 7:38 AM

You get included if you have had five or more convictions, the most recent being within the last 5 years, and if you're not currently in jail.

The curious thing: in this jurisdiction, after your second conviction, the blood alcohol limit for legal impairment drops from 0.08 to 0.02, so even one beer will may well get you arrested.

LinkTheValiantJanuary 25, 2013 7:39 AM

". . . we do the legwork to make sure we have the most accurate information."

And will they continue to do so when this sort of thing doesn't scale? Will they keep verifying everything, or will they put their trust in the "infallible" computer that does the work?

I have no sympathy for those who drive drunk, but this is not the way to handle it.

ShialJanuary 25, 2013 8:34 AM

In Minnesota people convicted of DUIs get special license plates that start with a W. It stands out since its not the normal pattern for plates but I think it is more to make it easy for police to identify them on the road. No idea how effective they are though, a friend at a DMV said shes been having to issue more and more of them over the years.

mishehuJanuary 25, 2013 8:43 AM

Shaming only works if the offender actually feels ashamed of what he did. A downright psychopathic offender will totally flaunt - and possibly even take pride in - the shame.

I'm sorry that in Minnesota they feel the need to force a different license plate onto a car. That is failed logic. Since when is there a 1:1 ratio between cars and drivers?

(Naturally I'm not commenting on the drunk driving itself, but keep this in mind: In Texas, you can have a BAC of *0* and no other controlled or impairing substances in your bloodstream, and YET still be convicted of DWI based solely on the whim and testimony of a police officer.)

ChristianJanuary 25, 2013 8:43 AM

I thought public shaming was a form of mob vengance .. like with tarring and feathering.

So nothing modern justice should partake in.

Peter MaxwellJanuary 25, 2013 9:08 AM

Does the US not have data protection laws in place to prevent peoples' information being used in such a manner, criminals or not?

It seems to me the Police are eschewing their job by publishing the names and addresses. All it will take is the child of someone in Janesville to die in a road accident and there's the setting for some vigilante "justice".

The record for the state seems abnormally high in relation to their population. In my view they'd be better off looking to other jurisdictions with better records to see what they're doing differently or asking advice, e.g. by a very finger-in-the-air calculation the UK seems to have a death due to drink driving rate around 8.7 times lower than Wisconsin.

MeJanuary 25, 2013 9:56 AM

@Peter Maxwell:
"the UK seems to have a death due to drink driving rate around 8.7 times lower than Wisconsin."

That is because people in the UK don't have to live with being from Wisconsin.

Anderer GregorJanuary 25, 2013 9:56 AM

So far, I though rumors of US justice bringing back the pillory were an invention of Anti-American leftists -- but you guys are doing this in real? Honestly?

Bad Monkey ListerJanuary 25, 2013 10:16 AM

Shaming websites do work, the only question in how well. In a corporate setting at a former beltway bandit employer we had what we called the 'bad monkey' list created after our company wound up on the top 10 IP blocks visiting playboy's site.

Vice presidents mandated that the IP/Names of people visiting playboy during business hours automatically get placed on a website, and several ex-general vice presidents started calling the supervisors of those folks to ask why they were popping up on playboy during hours we were billing to the government.

Worked extremely well. Even funnier is when we redirected playboy and penthouse URL requests to disney.com and then waited at the helpdesk for the mickey mouse calls...that day was hilarious...

Impossibly StupidJanuary 25, 2013 10:22 AM

That article is hilarious. They had so many offenders that they had to keep narrowing down the criteria to reach a manageable number. Then they stuck the info on a map showing each person's home, which essentially just shows that they've got drunk drivers all over Janesville. On top of it, you only know who to "shame" if you mouse around to all the points. You be hard pressed to think of a more boneheaded way of presenting this kind of data.

Here's a radical idea: if you want people to stop doing something, enact laws that allow you to stop people from doing it. Shame is not a substitute for a system that keeps the repeat DWIs from happening in the first place. What is with the government always imposing ineffective punishments instead of using a little bit of science to actually eliminate the root problem?

Joe BobJanuary 25, 2013 10:27 AM

It is really done with a retributional mindset, and it is a retributional tactic. Not a reforming tactic. That is the same motivation a great amount of criminal activity comes through.

If they were focused on fixing the problem, they would be studying the stats and studying how provinces (states, cities, other countries) successfully lower drunken driving.

Innovation can be fine, if it works. But there is no evidence it is working, and the foundational assumptions are clearly flawed.

Alcohol is the only legally approved substance for recreation, and it lowers the ability of people to ascertain risk. Which is horrible for driving. If they legalized marijuana drunk driving would go down. But, that would also just be a band aid.

AlexJanuary 25, 2013 11:32 AM

Lovely, so as implemented, it's going to show an address rather than a person. What happens when the person moves? How are insurance companies going to use this data to blacklist neighborhoods/subdivisions/houses?

Drink driving is far out of control in the US. Chances are that if someone has multiple convictions, they have a serious addiction problem, not a criminal problem. Addiction (both drug & alcohol) should be handled through the medical system, not the courts & jails. These people can't stop themselves. They need help, not more stress that will only cause them to drink more.

BadMonkeyList: I did something similar when the majority of one user's traffic was Facebook and he still somehow was billing 8-10 hrs a day to clients. I just posted a URL summary log from the proxy for their IP for one day on the break room bulletin board, sanitizing anything that was identifying of him. The comments from coworkers were quite fun. Instead of doing the expected behavior, he kept on using it. So I blocked Facebook and redirected it to Barney.com The idiot complained he needed Facebook for work purposes (bullmanure). He then brings in his own laptop w/aircard. Took long enough for management to do something about it, but he's finally no longer working here. Some people have NO shame. He was one of them.

Michael BradyJanuary 25, 2013 12:10 PM

Screw shame! When one of these beer guzzling cheeseheads feels a sense of shame he'll just have another beer to make the bad feeling go away. A serial DUI offender is almost certainly someone with an unresolved alcohol addiction. He is a public safety hazard with whom we should not be required to share the road. Yank his driver's license on the second offense and make it a felony to be found operating a motor vehicle - whether intoxicated or not. I don't care if you drink too much, but if you are going to drive drunk please just stay in prison. Why play patty-cake with people who are willing to play Russian roulette with our safety? Grrr!

Clive RobinsonJanuary 25, 2013 2:19 PM

Whilst I would agree repeate DUI drivers have issues with addiction, I don't agree with shaming them as it will either have little effect or as others have noted cause them to re-offend.

The next problem is banning convicted drivers is often counter productive as well, as the knock on effect quite often is for loss of livelyhood etc which has knock on effects on other people (family etc).

A better way to deal with the issue is to try and resolve the issues that underline the ediction. However that is in reality impossibly expensive.

One country actually tried aversion therapy, where the offenders were injected with a drug that caused very unpleasant side effects (nausea and vomiting) if alcohol was ingested. It was shown to have little effect longterm and was expesive to setup and run.

There is technology available that can detect exhailed alcohol that has been experimentaly connected to a vehical ignition. Basicaly it prevents an intoxicated person driving but has the downside of not allowing a sober person to drive if a passenge is sufficiently drunk.

Over time I've come to think of the solutions as being longterm and thus expensive to the state or short term and ineffective.

I don't know what the answer is but with DUI I suspect we may be asking the wrong questions.

jdgaltJanuary 25, 2013 3:46 PM

A good idea (and not new), but almost certainly not enough to deter.

One of the problems with it is that when the newspapers or TV pick up these stories, they do it upon the initial complaint or arrest, thus shaming accused people pretty much at random, whether they're guilty or not. I'd like to see that changed. Accusations of crime ought to be kept secret by the police until the person is convicted, on pain of having to compensate him (for the likely loss of his job, home, marriage, etc.) out of the police budget if found innocent. Then shaming will work better.

It would also help if government cleaned up its own act by not banning behaviors that most people don't consider to be wrong (for example, drug use). Until that change happens, the government is at war with the people; and most people are not going to take an enemy's word that a third party deserves shaming.

@mishebu: You're missing the point. The bad guy won't feel ashamed; if he felt that way he would have behaved. The point of shaming is to impose social consequences (in the form of reactions by third parties) against the bad guy, not to change his feelings (since that won't happen).

@Cerebus: Sex offender registration is about enabling neighbors to protect their kids, not about shaming the bad guy. (But like shaming, this tactic is also being rendered much less effective by the fact that registration is so broad, it covers a huge number of people who aren't dangerous to others and never were. I'm just glad the present legal regime wasn't around when I "streaked" in my college days, or I would qualify.)

MingoVJanuary 25, 2013 4:27 PM

I've been to Janesville. Many of its rowdiest men would not be shamed by publication of their arrest for public drunkenness. They might even brag about it.

John CampbellJanuary 25, 2013 5:17 PM

I recall laughing back in 1998 seeing plates in Dallas with letter combinations like XXX, DUI and even DWI.

Perhaps DUI and DWI combos should be reserved for those who have had 1 or more DUI arrests...

Though, with the use of mobile technology, I am starting to think that MADD may seem less and less relevant since Drunk Driving dims in comparison with Texting & Driving.

JonJanuary 25, 2013 8:45 PM

There's another issue, and that it treats all such convictions as the same.

They're not. You can be found guilty of DUI/DWI if you were asleep in the back seat of a lawfully parked car. You can be found guilty if your car is parked in your driveway and you're merely sitting in it.

And it's just the same crime, according to the Vehicle Code, as the blind drunk who runs a traffic light at 70mph and T-bones a minivan full of soccer kids, and wakes up in jail with no idea where s/he is.

The punishments may vary, but the crime record is the same.

J.

PubliusJanuary 25, 2013 11:09 PM

Why aren't they posting any of the career (non-elected) government officer's past violations?

You can't convince me it's good therapy for mundanes only.

Michael BradyJanuary 26, 2013 2:03 PM

Clive

"The next problem is banning convicted drivers is often counter productive as well, as the knock on effect quite often is for loss of livelyhood etc which has knock on effects on other people (family etc)."

Think of a drunk driver's addiction as a disease with lethal consequences for non-consensual innocents. Would you let a nurse with a case of influenza care for patients because she won't be able to pay the rent if she doesn't work this week? A convicted drunk driver can walk or bicycle or take public transportation to work without endangering others. If transportation issues create a hardship for his family it should be seen as his issue to resolve rather than a reason for us to relax public safety protections. As for graduated responses and - one hopes - the possibility of long term recovery, such a ban need not be lifelong, unless the serial offenders insists it be so.

Impossibly StupidJanuary 26, 2013 4:28 PM

@Michael Brady

A convicted drunk driver can walk or bicycle or take public transportation to work without endangering others.

If alternative forms of transportation were viable for even just one particular trip, you wouldn't have a drunk driver in the first place. Are the Janesville police offering to drive these drunk people home at any point? Is there a "sober cab" program of any kind in the city? Are the businesses they purchased and drove from shamed or punished in any way?

It's cute and all to be a jerk after the fact to people who have broken the law, but maybe the reason it gets broken is because it was made broken in implementation. As I said before, there is nothing at all scientific about this "shaming" business, or most other kinds of laws that have been enacted.

simple simonJanuary 26, 2013 6:59 PM

Simple fix. The worst, blind drunk, multiple re-offenders have already proven themselves shameless. Revoking their licenses doesn't work, they just continue drive without insurance, giving them more money to spend on booze, so ...

... kill them all and let god sort it out ...

toetruckJanuary 27, 2013 1:13 AM

@ joebob..."It is really done with a retributional mindset, and it is a retributional tactic."

A point worth more consideration...leads to discussion of restorative vs retributive justice.

Our systems are appallingly overbalanced towards revenge not resolution - one of the evil consequences of much religion/ controversy, imho

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Restorative_justice

Michael A. Wolff Chief Judge State Supreme Court
Alternatives to Prison Protect the Community
St. Louis Post-Dispatch Editorial
http://tinyurl.com/bz94ex
http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/01/23-3

Clive RobinsonJanuary 27, 2013 7:48 AM

@ Michael Brady,

Think of a drunk driver's addiction as a disease with lethal consequences for non-consensual innocents.

Sorry the analogy does not work for me, especialy with the example you chose of viral infections.

Firstly because during most viral infections if the person has not had that strain befor, it is the early stages where they are most infectious to others. And as such quite often they don't know they have it at that point because the symptoms are minimal [1]. It's generaly only at the point when the virus has done quite a bit of damage that the body starts producing the new antibodies etc that fevers, chills and severe muscle aches start. And as is fairly well known most annual flu strains are different each year which is why "flu shots" are so "hit and miss" [2].

Further unlike those who consume alcohol most people do not willingly chose to get themselves infected with flu or other viruses. Which is why many take the "technology route" of vaccination and anti-viral drugs to try and avoid it (even though they are either "hit or miss" or ineffective).

Now as I indicated in my post above there are technical solutions to the problems with DUI, and there have also been other measures put in place such as denying certain kinds of health care to those who do not moderate or stop their alcohol intake as there have been with those who have BMI's over 30.

So the roots of a technical denial system for those who Drink and Drive are already becoming accepted in society.

Admittedly this is because it is easy to portray the person using negative stereotyping and thus take the "moral high ground" to "look down on them" and claim it's their degenerate behaviour etc thus their own fault. Which is kind of what you are doing with,

If transportation issues create a hardship for his family it should be seen as his issue to resolve rather than a reason for us to relax public safety protections

There are two points to note first I was by no means calling for further relaxation in public safety protections.

Secondly I actually think a major part of the problem is that the protections are way to relaxed or weak, as it can fairly easily be shown that getting a DUI is a game of chance where the probability of actually being caught or convicted is actually very low compared to the offending rate. [Some estimates put the actual offending rate as above 90% and others a lot closer to 100%, for people during their driving career have been Driving Under the Influance of a "Social Drug" sufficient to be a danger to themselves or others.]

So realisticaly DUI is a socialy accepted norm engrained into society of which "only the unlucky / careless get caught".

With such endemic problems there is the so called "Chinese Solution". In China they had a significant drugs problem which those in power considered endemic and had to be removed from society (even though many of them indulged). The solution they came up with was to shoot those who grew, processed or used the drugs in the town square and then bill the family for the bullet and disposing of the body as rubbish.

You can see from a couple of comments above that this is not going to be a popular solution no matter how effective.

Further we know from the US experiment with "Prohibition" that there are strong causal effects with significant secondary effects related to the use of this particular "social drug" (as there are with other legal social drugs such as caffine, tabbaco and various prescribed medications). Which get considerably worse when they become non-legal causing significant harm to society at levels that dwarf those of the legalised use.

The only thing that can be realy said about alcohol DUI is all that has been tried in the West so far has either been ineffective or very expensive. Thus we either live with it, spend the money or try alternatives. Such as technical preventative measures where the offender knows that every alcohol consumption offence is going to be caught and prevented by their vehical not starting and thus the cost can actually be put back onto the consumer through the purchase price of the vehical via legislation not taxation (as with exhast emmissions and safety features).

And yes I'm aware that some percentage of the population will either "hot wire" around the technical measure or switch to other social drugs legal or otherwise...

At the end of the day it's societies call...

[1] There is published information that results from some neurological research which suggests that "Man Flu" is not actually a myth, even though it's "in the mind" not the body (as all pain is). Basicaly men feel the effects of a rise in body temprature more quickly due to a different relative structure in the brain caused by puberty,

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/...

And as a result take to their beds more quickly and are thus less likely to spread viral infections to as many others as women are. And yes there are good evolutionary reasons as to why these structures differ in men and women.

[2] The US is way more susceptible to failurs to deal with flu epidemics than many other Western nations due to hospital bed shortages. The US is now something like 43rd on the list of hospital bed to patient ratios behind some nations that are regarded as 3rd World. Various people have looked at this and have concluded it's as a direct consiquence of the Health Insurance Industry. Obviously come flu season this lack of beds has a knock on effect on other areas of health care and some have argued that this causes secondary deaths and a greater cost to society as it is the economicaly productive not the young or infirm that tend to suffer the secondary deaths [3].

[3] Some US based "journalists" have actually posed the US bed criticality issue as one of people not getting [4] or paying for flu vaccination in ways that blaim those who don't get a shot each year as being responsible for these secondary deaths. Thus apparently trying to pass the "hot potato" from the Health Care industry and it's low re-investment rates in hospitals etc.

[4] Flu vaccination and the use of anti-viral drugs is a controversial subject. In the US even though there is body of evidence that flu vaccination or use of anti-virals in the economicaly productive is ineffective due to the "hit and miss" results of new strains etc, there is considerable peer preasure to get one [5].

[5] Of interest to those who are more susceptible to the effects of viral infection, more recent evidence suggests that the anti inflamatory effects of the newer heart related medications such as statins are actually more effective than the vaccinations or anti-virals. Further in other countries where the vaccines are subsidized from taxation they prioritize the infirm, the elderly, children over the healthy economicaly productive as this is where the evidence suggests the spending is best placed for society in general. It has been sugested that actually getting "down and dirty" and having various infections is actually good for us due to the way the bodies immune system works. Which might account for why an increasing number of GP's don't actually get vaccinated.

ModeratorJanuary 27, 2013 4:10 PM

William O. B'Livion, feel free to try your comment again when you have calmed down. If you can't calm down enough to post on this topic without insults, then you need to leave the thread.

JonJanuary 27, 2013 8:16 PM

And here I was hoping to start a discussion about absolutism in law.

eg. "Sex offenses" can be as simple as urinating in public, completely consensual sexual relationships between an 18 and a 17 -yr. old, and as complex as a mentor figure raping a pre-pubescent child.

They're all listed as 'sex offenders', under the law the same, and I think people are starting to see there's a "dig bifference" in those offenses.

The same applies to those convicted of 'driving under the influence'.

J.

Jason T. MillerJanuary 27, 2013 10:56 PM

Seems to me that publishing the names of the individuals and establishments who served the intoxicating elements of the crime (when this information is available to the police) would have more significant long-term effects.

Clive RobinsonJanuary 28, 2013 12:57 AM

@ Jason T. Miller,

Seems to me that publishing the names of the individuals and establishments who served the intoxicating elements of the crime

The problem with this is how do you know who's name to use...

First of the person getting drunk may not have be purchasing the alcohol drink by drink, they might have been round at a friends house, or gatecrashed a party. I've also seen people bring their own drink to a bar and top their drink up from a bottle of cheap vodka etc under the table where the bar man/keep does not see them do it.

Secondly it's unlikely that the drunk person has "gone to the bar" to get the drinks, it would been more likely one of their more sober companiions who will A, get served and B, not spill the drinks on the way back.

Thirdly the drunk might have visited several different places so who do you shame, the bar where the first drink was purchased and the drunk was actually sober or the bar where the person cannot even remember purchasing a drink...

The simple fact is places that sell alcohol are in the business of selling a legal product.

Depending on the jurisdiction the places are licensed to do so by license or permit. The local civic authorities are responsable for issuing and revoking licences. Therefor (in theory) if a bar gets to many complaints made against it to the civic authorities it loses it's licence/permit and goes out of business. So (again in theory) there is already a workable remedy against places that repeatedly sell drink to those already past their reasonable capacity.

But as I've indicated above your drunk may not be visible to the bar man/keep as they may not have served drink to the drunk.

Stoping people drinking to excess is difficult at the best of times, but trying to stop a person who has decided to be sneaky about how they do it is well neigh impossible. Shaming those around them is unlikely to work in either the short or long term as the drunk will just go some place else or change the way they go about getting drunk.

A perhaps sobering statistic is that the US transportation agency figures show deaths due to alcohol in 2010 as 10,288 and slightly under one third of all road fatalities. They also showed that for economic calculation a human life was worth 6million USD* which means that according to the transportation agency the economic cost of alcohol was a fraction under 62billion USD or 205USD out of every living US citizens pocket...

* I'd take this figure as being quite variable as it's about two thirds of another US Gov agency (EPA) figure for the value of a human life and other figures put a human life as little as 1.4million USD.

Impossibly StupidJanuary 28, 2013 12:09 PM

@Clive Robinson


The problem with this is how do you know who's name to use...

You enact laws that allow you to determine negligence before the more severe law is broken. If drunk driving is so bad, why not force drinking establishments to more closely monitor their sales of the "legal product"? All your points are essentially non-issues if bars simply kept a record of who was drinking what (privacy concerns abound, but consider that much of that information is already being stored for people who pay with credit cards). There are all sorts of measures that could be put in place long, long before the drunk drivers is on the road. Instead of trying so hard to place blame after the fact, everyone would be better served by proactive measures that prevent crimes in the first place.

JonJanuary 30, 2013 3:14 AM

@Clive Robinson

"the economic cost of alcohol was a fraction under 62billion USD or 205USD out of every living US citizens pocket..."

So a mere pittance beside the military budget, interest on the national debt, and TARP payouts?

J.

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