Flogging in place of imprisonment

So I read this in The Washington Post today:

In Lieu of Prison, Bring Back the Lash by Peter Moskos

To sum it up Moskos posits that, given the high rate of imprisonment in the United States, there’s a space to replace imprisonment as a punishment with flogging. (Note that after saying ‘flogging’ early on he uses ‘caning’ a la Singapore and such later in the piece.) Moskos argues that the concept of imprisonment as a means towards rehabilitation has failed and that we face a serious problem with the rate of incarceration, the impact of incarceration, and prison overcrowding.

Note, also, that he posits that the decision whether to be flogged or imprisoned is left to the convicted. That, to me, is an interesting choice. Moskos also limits the option to those who are not in the ‘truly dangerous’ category. He mentions:

I, myself, am uncertain how I feel about it. I have little doubt that a flogging would drive a lesson home in a much more straightforward way that several years of imprisonment. It would also return the convict to the world faster and allow them to straighten out (if possible) without the lost time that incarceration entails.

On the other hand, I understand the argument that it is barbaric. But we do have the death penalty in place in many states and it doesn’t get much more barbaric than that, in my opinion.

So I just don’t know. But I was intrigued enough to want to share it here and see what you fine people thought about it. It would certainly end prison overcrowding brought about my mandatory sentencing guidelines. And it would stop the certain amount of ‘indoctrination’ that some young people experience when exposed to other convicts in a general prison population.

We’d have to flog the constitution first. Or are you suggesting an amendment?

The way to solve the prison problem is to quit the war on drugs.

I’m not sure you would, Mace. As the article points out Delaware didn’t dismiss it from the books until the 1970s, though the last flogging was 20 years earlier. I think you could make an argument that the ‘cruel and unusual’ clause allowed for flogging due to its existence following the adoption of the constitution. It would be an interesting case for original intent believers.

Politically, however, (a space where I do feel qualified to opine) it would be a LOT easier to introduce flogging into the discussion and get it past the public right now (and likely for another decade or two) than end the so-called war on drugs.

First, it’s a form of torture. Second, all you’ll do is create a population of violently angry people who aren’t restrained in prison. Rage and a desire for vengeance is after all one of the primary responses people have to the infliction of pain.

This isn’t the best example but wouldn’t you get to the point like when a kid prefers to be spanked because it’s quicker to get it over with for a few minutes of pain.

Incarceration at least protects others. I don’t think flogging would be that effective of a deterrent to future crimes.

I don’t think its cruel and unusual to “cane” people for certain crimes. Neither did the Founding Fathers as flogging was legal in some states well into the 1950s.

They were slaveowning genocidal scum, and I’d never use them as an example of good behavior.

The problem is what do you do if you get a convict who, for sake of argument, has a weak heart or some other medical condition that would make getting the tar beaten out of them rather more risky.

Do you go ahead with it and risk killing him? Or do you let him off/give him an alternate, while a healthy man gets flogged? Neither seems like a reasonable application of justice.

By all means, we should then also bring back slavery.

You do understand that we’re trying to get better as a society, right?

I’m certain the SCOTUS would rule it to be unconstitutional.
Cruel? check
Unusual? check

Not if it involved passing a constitutional amendment. See above.

This is how I see it. A fine helps to mitigate the damage caused by their crime and incarceration makes a criminal physically incapable of reoffending, but all a flogging does is inflict pain on someone who has already proven they are willing to commit crimes despite the threat of pain.

They were the ones who designed the Constitution in the first place.

There has been no Amendment to the Constitution that says flogging is “cruel and unusual punishment”. Not to mention it is irrational to think that anyone who dares lays a finger on a criminal is torture.

As to the merits of caning itself it is far more effective due to its psychological benefits of causing humiliation to the convict than to simple fear of brute force.

And? They also put it into the Constitution that blacks were 3/5th of a human being. “Only rich white men can vote and they can hold slaves” is not some enlightened goal we should aim for.

:rolleyes: “Cruel and unusual punishment” isn’t laid out in some sort of list of specific brutalities. And beating someone bloody or to death (you do know that such beatings can kill?) goes much farther than laying your hands on someone.

It would certainly be cruel and unusual by modern standards. The men who wrote the constitution were smart enough to realize that our culture would change.

Cite? If I were the sort of person who would rob people I’d much, much, much prefer caning to prison.

Yet another problem on a long list of problems. And I ask this in all seriousness:

How would such a system deal with people who like that kind of thing (flogging, caning, paddling etc)?

Actually the Founding Fathers only did this to restrict the power of the slave states in Congressional representation. It actually helped the cause of abolitionism in the long run.


:rolleyes: “Cruel and unusual punishment” isn’t laid out in some sort of list of specific brutalities. And beating someone bloody or to death (you do know that such beatings can kill?) goes much farther than laying your hands on someone.

The canings or what not will be strictly regulated (if implemented) to make sure such things don’t happen by considering the convict’s health and the severity of the punishment.

Then two people, convicted of the same crime, could be dealt out uneven punishments based on their health?

I’m all for it. A good public ass-beating can actually do some good both for victims and for perpetrators.

I think we should bring back the stocks as well. I’m serious about that. It doesn’t kill anybody, and public humiliation is an underrated tool.

Similarly prisoners who are severely ill are treated different from healthy ones.

Perfectly healthy people can die from such beatings.

And what reparations do you intend for people who are wrongfully convicted and tortured like this? What about the ones that are wrongfully convicted and die?