Hold a sign or go to jail

Nickalas Tabbert

Jose Gonzalez is spending some of his spring break holding a sign on a curb – as punishment for stealing.

The 12-year-old stole $100 from the wallet of his cousin at the family's Aurora, Colorado, home, the Denver Post said. 

His punishment is standing on the corner of 22nd and Larimer streets in downtown Denver with a bright yellow sign announcing: "I am a thief.  I took money from a family member."

Jose's father, Joseph Gonzalez, enforced the punishment after hearing about the missing money.  He tracked down his son while he was waiting for the school bus and questioned him.

After his son admitted to the crime, Gonzalez took his son to school so he could admit it to officials, including a police officer.

"It's something I don't condone, and I don't put up with it," Gonzalez said in an interview with the Denver Post.  "And so for that matter, that is why he is outside holding that sign."

(video courtesy of denverpost.com)

Jose spent five hours curbside Tuesday, standing across from his father's pawnshop, where Gonzalez could keep an eye on him, the Post said.

He thinks Jose, with drinks and bathroom breaks, could put in 10 hours Thursday.

Gonzalez thinks the punishment is adequate and "if more parents did this more often kids wouldn't be acting up all the time."

"I think it's fair," Jose said.   "I was kind of mad but sad at the same time because I thought I was going to be embarrassed alot."

Gonzalez said Jose is a good kid and that this is the first time he has done something like this.  He is not worried about his son's reputation.

"He's only 12 years old," he said.  "Everybody makes mistakes at that time in their life.  It's about being corrected."

Florida psychologist James Huysman doesn't totally agree with how Gonzalez handled the incident.

"The taking responsibility part is cool, but the rest of this is not cool," said Huysman, whose practice has included treating children publicly humiliated by reality-TV shows and other media attention. 

"This is about shame.  In the old days, we used to just shame people, hang signs around their necks in public."

Gonzalez said he is not afraid to punish his kid.

"He is my son, so I'm going to teach him a lesson one way or another.  It's either holding a sign or going to jail.  Jail is more harsh."