Reintegrative Shaming [...]

Reintegrative shaming is an idea proposed by John Braithwraite that suggests that shame that stigmatizes does more harm than good. Reintegrative shaming is seen as a viable alternative, pulling offenders back into the community rather than pushing them out.

Tomkins teaches us that shame is a basic affect occurring spontaneously in all human beings when confronted about their wrongdoing. John Braithwaite, in Crime, Shame and Reintegration (1989) advises that the experience of dealing with shame should be reintegrative, not stigmatizing.

Braithwaite’s sociological theory of “reintegrative shaming” suggests that Western society’s current strategies for responding to crime and wrongdoing may actually be doing more harm than good. Schools and courts punish and humiliate offenders without offering a way to make amends, right the wrong or shed their “offender” label. Instead, offenders are stigmatized, alienated and pushed into society’s growing negative subcultures. They join the others in their school or community who feel excluded from the mainstream and become a source of persistent trouble.

Braithwaite says societies that reintegrate offenders back into the community have a lower crime rate than those that stigmatize and alienate wrongdoers. Reintegration involves separating the deed from the doer so that society clearly disapproves of the crime or inappropriate behavior, but acknowledges the intrinsic worth of the individual. (Source)

Reintegrative shaming involves a process whereby offenders are asked to confront what they’ve done within an environment of respect and integration. Shaming happens, but under conditions which allow the offender a clear path into acceptance.


The biggest critique of reintegrative shaming is it may not be the shaming part that works at all:

Collectively, these findings do provide some support for
Braithwaite’s notion of reintegrative shaming: he
stressed the importance of invoking remorse and rejected
stigmatic shaming. However, the research does not show
that disapproval (shaming) was necessarily the
mechanism which invoked the remorse. Another way of
interpreting these data is that empathy or understanding
the effects of offending on victims was the trigger. If this
interpretation is right, the practice and policy implications
are very different from a continuing emphasis on
shaming (disapproval). (Source)