A Harris County, Texas, woman convicted this week of neglecting her horses was to be given only bread and water for part of her jail sentence, while a man convicted of illegally dumping hazardous waste was to drink a concoction of the toxic sludge. Sex offenders in Corpus Christi were ordered three years ago to put up signs in their yards and bumper stickers on their cars indicating their crimes. And a Michigan teenage rap fan was ordered in 2000 to listen to Wayne Newton for violating a loud-radio ordinance.
The use of unorthodox and attention-grabbing sentences has become more popular in recent years, as experts say judges around the country have begun seeking alternatives to simple incarceration, turning to humiliation, rehabilitation or punishments tailored to have an impact on a defendant. “People are saying, `Look, we are spending a lot of money in incarceration. Maybe now we need to get more creative and bring humiliation into the punishment process,” said one Texas law professor. But a political science professor says the action can be viewed another way: as smart politics. In Texas, all state and county judges are elected.