For days, Joshua Hill has circled a courthouse in High Point, North Carolina, carrying a handwritten sign that reads, “This is the face of domestic abuse.”
“It’s embarrassing really. I don’t know how to explain it,” Hill told CBS affiliate WFMY on Tuesday. “It’s crazy.”
But to Guilford County District Court Judge Mark Cummings, it’s anything but.
Hill pleaded guilty to assault on a female and domestic criminal trespassing back in 2014. He was sentenced to probation for 12 months and ordered not to have contact with the victim.
Last week, he violated that probation and pleaded guilty, which is when Cummings came up with the creative punishment.
The North Carolina judge sent Hill to jail for 3 days and added the poster as additional punishment. Hill must carry it around for 4 hours a day for 7 days.
Hill maintains his innocence, telling WFMY he only pleaded guilty to end the drawn-out court process. However, according to an arrest warrant, he “placed his arm around the victim’s neck” and pushed her back.
While some have criticized Cummings for what they consider a humiliating punishment, others have praised his unique approach —like retired Guilford County District Court Judge Lawrence McSwain, who says public shaming can be a useful tool toward rehabilitation.
“A judge has a lot of power to create unusual sentencing because the statue says that a judge may impose any other condition that reasonably relates to the crime and the purpose of which punishment is imposed,” McSwain explained to WFMY. “It’s the shame effect. There’s research around the world and countries that tend to impose a shaming effect tend to have less recidivism and less crime.”
People quickly took to social media to weigh in on the issue — some agreeing with McSwain and others slamming that theory.
“You have always thought outside of the box and the moves that you are making to better our community and the people in it is amazing,” one woman, who says she graduated with Cummings, posted on Facebook. “Continue to be great.”
“This will only embarrass him for the moment,” another Facebook user replied. “What about the rest of his time? Find another punishment.”
“You know he is to take his punishment, but they should not shame him,” another commented.
But even Hill admits McSwain may have a point.
While he continues to claim he’s innocent, he also said the public shaming taught him a lesson.
“I won’t be in anymore confrontations. Just... walk away,” he said.