Branding, Labeling, and Public Humiliation
Throughout history, people have been labeled, branded, and tortured as a form of punishment and public humiliation. Humiliating the person who committed a crime was meant to serve as a warning and to scare people away from committing the same crime. Petty crimes that happen commonly today received the worst punishment back when the branding and labeling of criminals was popular. The punishment criminals received was often cruel and torturous. Early Puritan villages had a strict law and anyone who refused to follow was punished accordingly. (“Colonial…” 1) If a person was caught stealing, “’T’ for thief was branded on the light-fingered criminal’s hand.” The Puritan law revolved greatly around religion and it was often that people were punished for some crime against religion. “In the early seventeenth century, Boston’s Roger Scott was picked up for ‘repeated sleeping on the Lord’s Day’ and sentenced to be severely whipped for ‘striking the person who waked him from his godless slumber.’” (2) Even children were the victim of such ridiculous charges, such as “Abiel Wood of Plymouth who was hauled before the court for ‘irreverently behaving himself by chalking the back of one Hezekiah Purrington, Jr., with Chalk, playing and recreating himself in the time of publick worship.’” (2) People were even punished for committing “sodomy” or homosexual behavior. “Edward Preston was sentenced to be publicly whipped at both Plymouth and Barnstable ‘for his lewd practices tending to sodomy with Edward Mitchell…’” (2)
In England, prostitution was widely punished with branding, labels, and even public whipping. (“Punishing…” 1) The women who were selling their bodies were labeled as “Winchester Geese”. The men who employed prostitutes were even punished by “…branding them on the face.” (1) The prostitutes themselves were also punished. The “Branding Act” passed in 1623 said that “any woman convicted on taking goods valued at more...
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