By LU ANN STOIA, WSYX/WTTE
CHILLICOTHE, Ohio (CIRCA via WSYX/WTTE) — A municipal court judge said she's looking for innovative sentencing alternatives for some offenders, and recently she's found her answer by having people some criminals wear a sandwich board-style sign that says "I am a thief."
In the past few months, Toni Eddy has sentenced seven people to wear the sign. Destinee Keels is one of those who hit the downtown sidewalks in Chillicothe with the sign last week.
“To sit there and have to wear a sign that says, 'I am a thief' is no one’s business. And it’s humiliating, and I would not wish that on my worst enemy," she said.
Keels, 20, said she thinks public shaming is a bad idea.
“The goal here is to protect and punish. That is the statutory requirement.”
”There was other people who would honk and flip me off and scream out, 'I hate a thief,'" Keel said.
Keel said she was accused of shoplifting tampons at Walmart after being on probation for another underage consumption charge.
“It’s not a punishment. You are just trying to laugh at someone," she said. "You are giving the whole community a chance to laugh at someone. You are putting a target on their back.”
“Our jail has been under renovation for some time now, so our jail space is limited. It has us thinking outside the box a little bit,” Eddy said, defending her new sentences. “The goal here is to protect and punish. That is the statutory requirement.”
At Chillicothe Antiques, owner Brian Field has seen people walking with the signs past his business. Field said he is OK with the sentence, which saves taxpayers money.
“And maybe a person thinking about committing a crime or doing something they shouldn’t will look back on this and say, 'I don’t want to end up like her in front of the courthouse; maybe I should behave myself,'" he said.
The judge said the court will see how the idea plays out and if there is recidivism.
“If you are gonna go out and steal, don’t do it in Ross County,” Eddy said.
Keels' mother, Jennifer Cousins, said she would rather see community service that benefits the community.
“Work in the courthouse. Mop the floors, scrub the toilets, clean the jail," she said.
Keels said some people might not be able to stand the humiliation from passers-by or on social media. But she will finish her sentence or face 190 days in jail.
“I laugh at things all the time that probably weren’t supposed to be laughed at," she said. "So I forgave everyone, and I am going to go back, and I am going to finish my seven hours I have left to do.”
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