I try not to be cynical, but my perception is that for every one of these judges who can think up positive punishments, there's at least one who's creativity ends up in a more sinister place. And regardless of a judge's talent in this regard, they have the position and the incentives to make their outcomes seem better than they are.
On one hand, making a nanny who hit a child research and write a report on the effects of child abuse seems like an extremely good way to deter recidivism, and make an impression on the defendant.
On the other hand, making someone do an embarrassing public stunt seems like it would make them famous for the wrong reasons, severely handicapping their ability to find work in the future, to the point that it's ultimately worse than a short jail sentence. Embarrassing someone doesn't fix anything for them.
At least in the examples in Wikipedia, the punishments seem to focus more on making the defendant feel bad (in a hopefully educational way, not merely suffering), which is less good than making some form of reparation or restoration. The legal system already has a notion of community service as an alternative to jail; there is a lot of room for community service that uplifts victims while educating perpetrators.
For example, a nanny who hit a child could be sentenced to XX hours of sewing blankets for children in hospitals and orphanages.
Having the freedom to issue unusual punishments can be beneficial when the judge is positively motivated, but the same powers in the hands of a cruel or vindictive judge offer enormous potential for abuse.
The unusual punisments can be beneficial when the judge and also the defendant, and victims (or their representatives) agree agree that the punishment is restorative.
For example, give judges the power to issue unusual sentences, or ones violating the minimums, but have those sentences trigger an automatic review by an independent panel (perhaps a couple of appeals judges or something).
From the list, it seems that many belong to the "an eye for an eye" category rather than to the "repairing a problem" category.
That’s why in the end we are in the long run probably better off with a set of rules that make sure that things are predictable and the same for all people.
See the Five Good Emperors for examples of this.
From the article you linked:
> The rulers commonly known as the "Five Good Emperors" were Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius. The term was coined based on what the political philosopher Niccolò Machiavelli wrote in his book, The Discourses on Livy
Machiavelli isn't really a great foundational source for modern government.
> The concept of "The Five Good Emperors" reflects the internal Roman point of view. [...] It is, however, not necessarily the point of view of provincials and of Rome's neighbors – particularly, of those targeted by one or more of these emperors in a war of conquest or in the suppression of a revolt."
It very much depends on one's point of view, and if you happen to be the right type of citizen to fall on the right sight of autocratic rule.
Don't defend tyranny.
The opposite of tyranny is not democracy. That's why the US Constitution has a Bill of Rights (which, despite its efforts, was still a massive failure for millions of Americans for over century).
It very much depends on one's point of view, if you happen to be the right type of citizen to fall on the right sight of democratic rule.
Autocracy != tyranny.
Anyway, I merely linked examples of good leaders. It's weird to view a historical factual observation as a kind of defence of/desire for that political structure. The context in the Roman Empire was totally different from the world as it is today, of course I'd prefer democracy.
Apart from that: one size fits all rules are exactly the problem. You can NEVER define a set of rules that are even close to being a good model for justice.
People should focus on people instead of code and aim to only put people like the judge in the article in positions of power and decision. An twisted person can twist any law into doing evil.
He's a judge. He gets elected. His power is regulated by his constituents. According to the article, this judge has continually been elected since 1996.
I kinda find that more horrifying, really. It introduces a whole bunch of perverse incentives to the system. (Doubly so in the localities that don't require any legal experience, degree, or certification to be elected as a judge.)