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Judge Orders Shoplifters To Wear Sign in Front of Store

Posted on July 6, 2010

This unique sentence handed out by a judge is proving to be very effective. First-time shoplifters are sentenced, by Judge Peter Miller of Putnam County, to sitting and walking in front of the store and holding a sign saying “I stole from this store.”

Miller decides to forgo incarcerating the thieves for 30-days. He believes this embarrassment may ultimately do more good. For up to four hours, the offender must sit in front of the store with his sign. So far, Judge Miller has imposed this sentence on up to 2,000 first-time offenders and he says it must be working because he doesn’t see too many of them coming back after a second offense. The State Attorney’s office believes the sign is a very effective deterrent.

But the assistant public defender in Putnam County, Mack Brunton, says his office doesn’t care for the sign. They have even looked at challenging the sign-carrying over the years. Even he admits it does have a deterrent effect, especially when parents walk by any Palatka store and can point out the offenders to their children.

Judge Miller believes this form of punishment works because Palatka is a small enough community where everyone knows everyone. It might not be as effective in a larger city. And he doesn’t let the offender show up with dark glasses. If they do, they have to repeat the sentence.

Miller knows it’s working as a deterrent to crime. He tells Florida Trend, “I’ve had people tell me, ‘just put me in jail instead,’ and that’s when I know it’s working.”