A wise man once said that if you want justice you'll have to wait for the next world — in this one, you have the law. And the law can be an unpredictable force, particularly if the judge has a few ideas of his own when it comes to meting out punishment. From snipped ponytails to enforced Barry Manilow listening, idiosyncratic judges around the world have put their peculiar stamp on sentencing over the years. Here, seven bizarre punishments:
1. Write a Biblical book report
After South Carolina resident Cassandra Tolley was tried for seriously injuring two people while driving drunk, she was sentenced to eight years in the slammer. But the judge also assigned some jailtime homework for Tolley, requiring her to read the Old Testament and write him a report on Job as part of her punishment. "Job made it through," Tolley's pastor told CBS, "and [the judge] wants her to know she can too."
2. Cut your hair
In a classic Mean Girls moment, 13-year-old Kaytlen Lopan and her friend started chatting up a 3-year-old in a McDonald's play space in Utah, and then suddenly decided to chop off the long blonde hair that fell down the toddler's back. Kaytlen was hauled before a court, where Judge Scott Johansen ruled that he would reduce her time in detention if she chopped off her own ponytail. Her mother, Valerie Bruno, proceeded to snip it off, but the 3-year-old's mother said it wasn't short enough. Johansen ordered Bruno to keep hacking away. Bruno is now suing Johansen.
3. Tweet an apology 466 times
In May, two French politicians won a novel conviction against a critic who had been calling them names on Twitter. In addition to paying a fine and court costs, the critic was ordered to tweet the same message 466 times over 30 days: "I have severely insulted Jean-Francois Cope and Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet. I regret and apologize."
4. Apologize on Facebook
After Mark Byron, a photographer from Cincinnati, Ohio, called his estranged wife "evil" and "vindictive" in a Facebook post, Judge Paul Meyers ruled in January that Byron had broken the law by violating a temporary protection order that had been granted to his wife. Meyers said Byron could face 60 days in jail and a $500 fine — or he could catch up with his child support payments and post an apology to his wife for 30 straight days on Facebook. (Byron ended up only posting the apology for 26 days, but another judge said it was enough.)
5. Go straight to the kiddie pool
In 2011, a young Ohio couple decided it would be fun to ride a flood-swollen river on a raft, prompting an hours-long search by emergency workers. The couple did not wear life preservers, and the pair were found guilty of misconduct during an emergency. Their punishment? Standing in a kiddie pool at a town festival, where they wore life jackets and handed out water safety brochures.
6. Confess publicly once a week
Public confessions are normally associated with the Spanish Inquisition and Communist Party purges, but Daniel Mireles of Texas is now intimately familiar with the punishment. After stealing $250,000 from a crime victim's fund, Judge Kevin Fine in 2010 ordered Mireles to stand on a busy city street holding a sign proclaiming his crime — every weekend for the next six years. Mireles claims that while some passersby heckle him, others express sympathy for his humiliating ritual.
7. Listen to Barry Manilow
Judge Paul Sacco of Colorado, tired of doling out ineffective punishments for people playing their music too loudly, in 2008 decided to fight fire with fire. Instead of the usual fine, he ordered repeat offenders to listen to his music selections for one hour at high volume. Sacco's eclectic collection included easy-listening maestro Barry Manilow and the theme song from the children's show Barney and Friends. "This is a way, when I look back, of teaching manners to people," Sacco said.
This article — originally published on June 26, 2012 — was last updated on July 5, 2012.
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- 7 grammar rules you really should pay attention to
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
Subscribe to the Week