There are several competing but compatible theories behind punishing criminals. One is deterrence -- the idea that if we punish someone for his misdeed, he will be less likely to reoffend. Another is retribution, meaning that if we punish a criminal, it will be sort of a payment for the wrong she committed against another.

But what about shaming? The philosophy behind shaming is that an offender should be humiliated to "pay" for what he or she has done and that others who see this display will act to avoid the same fate.

Recently, a convicted drunk driver in Texas was ordered to wear a sign that read, "I Killed Aaron Coy Pennywell while driving drunk." The sign was made by the mother of Pennywell, a 20-year-old man who was killed last June when the 39-year-old convicted drunk driver ran a red light when he was drunk.

The man must wear the sign on his person at the scene of the accident for four consecutive Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Besides wearing the sign, the man served 90 days in prison and will be on probation for two years.

What do you think of this punishment? This man was irresponsible and because he was not careful or dutiful, an innocent 20-year-old is dead. No one is saying he should not be punished, but does this penalty make sense? Would it accomplish anything, or is it just vindictive? To be sure, reasonable minds can disagree on a topic like this.

Source: The Syracuse Post-Standard, "Texas drunk driver ordered to wear 'I killed Aaron Coy Pennywell" sign," Matt Harrigan, April 23, 2012