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‘Pure hell’: Judge orders public humiliation for domestic abusers

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- A North Carolina judge has sentenced three men to public humiliation after they pleaded guilty to domestic violence.

District Court Judge Mark Cummings ordered the men to carry signs outside the Guilford County courthouse that read "This is the face of domestic violence."

"It's pure hell, that's what it's like," said Melvin Southerland, one of the men carrying the sign outside the courthouse. "It's hell, it's embarrassment."

Southerland joined Josh Hill, who also plead guilty to assault on a female last week, in standing outside the courthouse Wednesday.

"My friends now think I beat on women," said Hill. "And I don't."

While both pleaded guilty in court, they both say they didn't do it. They claim they pleaded guilty so they could get out of jail and move on.

"[The judge] said I could do 15 days in jail or stand out here," Southerland said. "So I chose to come out here."

Southerland told WGHP he chose to carry the sign so he wouldn't miss class for his associate's degree. Hill said he opted for the public humiliation so he wouldn't have to spend 150 days in jail.

"It's a punishment but its not very effective," said Southerland, who was sentenced to carry the sign for three days. Hill was required to carry his sign for seven days.  Both men were ordered to hold their signs from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m..

"I think the court system should be set up as a form of punishment and a form of re-educating an individual," Southerland said. "I don't see much (re-education) in being made to walk around and carry a sign."

Hill says he's now received threats online since standing outside the courthouse.

"Domestic violence thrives in secrecy and in the dark so this has people talking," said Shay Harger, director of victim services at Family Services of the Piedmont. "We need to make sure we are getting proper treatment for behavioral change for these men."

Victim Services offers a 26-week program for people who have been convicted of assault on female.