Raving Conservative


Monday, February 13, 2006

Crime and Punishment

The U.S. Constitution guarantees American citizens Protection from cruel and unusual punishment. The question then becomes “What is cruel and unusual punishment?”

The courts have increasingly ruled that physical punishment is cruel and unusual until now it is difficult to execute even the most deranged criminals like people who rape babies and mass murderers.

Don’t worry, this isn’t about capital punishment, it’s actually about corporal punishment.

Sending convicted criminals to a holding facility where they will be rehabilitated and retrained to become functional, contributing members of society is a wonderful idea, and it needed to be tried. We would have been remiss in our duties as a conscientious people not to. But the experiment has failed. All it has given us is a massive drain on the taxpayer and a facility where hardened criminals can become better criminals while getting stronger and more confident on the side. I don’t know about the rest of you, but the idea of a training ground for strong, confident, highly skilled felons is a frightening thought for me, and I fail to see how that rehabilitates people.

The prisoners become more hardened criminals in prison because they need to just to survive. A serial shoplifter is sent to prison for two years. He/she spends that entire time fighting some of the meanest, most violent people in America just to survive. After two years this shoplifter graduates from prison and becomes a mugger. Eventually a mugging goes bad and someone gets hurt, maybe even killed. All this at a cost of over $35,000 per criminal per year. Boy is that ever money well spent! NOT!

See the problem lies in the fact that prisons themselves are cruel. We take people with problems and put them in a place where they get victimized on a daily basis. How can this possibly happen you ask? How can it not? If you send a few thousand people to a special colony just for deranged and dangerous people it won’t take long for even the kindest and gentlest of souls to become deranged and dangerous. Sure there a few success stories, but these are fewer than the failures.

So what alternatives do we have? Corporal punishment of course!

I’m not talking about torture, or keelhauling, or crazy punishments like that. Such things are just sick and are rightly condemned by all people of good conscience. However, giving a thief twenty lashes with a bullwhip, or whacking the feet of a vandal ten or twelve times with hollow piece of bamboo is hardly torture, and many people convicted of such crimes would actually prefer this to being sent to prison.

But let’s have the punishment fit the crime. Kill murderers, castrate or kill rapists, seize a thief’s property, beat a wife beater, and so on. Not only are these punishments cheaper than long prison terms, they are quicker, easy to carry out, and have a long history of deterring people from performing such crimes. At the very least these people won’t become a tax burden for a few years then get out and become a worse menace to society than ever before, only to go back to prison and become a tax burden again.

I hope I have established that corporal punishment is no more cruel than prison is. I hope also that it is obvious that the cost of corporal punishment is far lower than prison as well. The question to deal with then is “Is corporal punishment unusual?”

Let’s define unusual as something that is rare, unheard of even on a global scale and throughout history. First, history reads like one long execution list when it comes to violent criminals, and like a heck of a beating for lesser criminals. Even prison was usually a death sentence by starvation and disease. Therefore, in a historical sense, corporal punishment is not unusual in the least, even in America. The modern world then becomes the next standard to look to for what is unusual. Okay, so many European countries and the US don’t use corporal or capitol punishment. Pretty much the rest of the world does though, with a few exceptions here and there. By that standard corporal punishment is quite normal even in today’s world. Therefore, corporal punishment is not unusual in the least.

So if corporal punishment is not really cruel and unusual why don’t we use it? Mostly because the courts are still convinced that prisons are actually more humane and productive than corporal punishment. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I propose an experiment. Let’s give convicted criminals a choice at sentencing. They can either take a severe form of corporal punishment, lashing, caning, and the like, or the normal prison sentence for their crimes. Those who choose prison will have the option of taking the full corporal punishment in exchange for an immediate release. Rapists and murderers just need to be executed. Let’s see what the criminals choose, and let’s see if crime goes up, down, or stays the same. Then let’s look at the costs involved and see if it doesn’t save the taxpayers their valuable money. If criminals are choosing the corporal punishments, crime doesn’t go up, and costs do go down, then we can eliminate prison and jail sentences for many crimes in America and replace them with various forms of beatings, fines, and community service. Some crimes are so severe that they may require several beatings with time to heal in between in combination with fines and service. Let’s let the criminals decide. They are the ones who get the punishments after all.


  • You said:

    "whacking the feet of a vandal ten or twelve times with hollow piece of bamboo is hardly torture, and many people convicted of such crimes would actually prefer this to being sent to prison."

    And you are exactly correct. They would prefer this. BUT would it make it less likely that they would cease criminal behavior? I don't think so.

    As you noted, inmates are often subjected to cruelties inside prison, and yet we have too high recividism rates. If time served AND cruelties inside prison don't deter folk, why would you expect that just the corporal punishment by itself?

    On the other hand, studies show that, for instance, inmates who complete a GED or learn to read or even get college courses all have a lower recividism rate. I don't think we can so quickly dismiss the notion of rehabilitation. It certifiably works sometimes (would you like for me to provide the data, or does it ring true for you/have you read it yourself?)

    We've a couple of church members in prison currently. They're both poor, black and have limited resources. In other words, the stereotypical prisoner.

    These are both lovely individuals who, for various reasons, have gone wrong. No one denies they committed crimes. But punishment has not worked for them (and, conversely, for society). Why not invest resources in programs that have proven themselves to help stop the problem?

    One very good reason TO invest the resources is that unless we decide to start lifetime imprisonments for fighting, burglary, drunk and disorderly sorts of crimes, these folk WILL be back out on the streets and, God love them and even with our help, they have a high likelihood of going wrong again if nothing changes.

    Why not help make the changes?

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 11:03 AM  

  • I agree with your experiment... the pansy treatment the cons are getting is doing nothing accept making better criminals out of them .. we didn't have all these problems until we lieberalized the justice system. People used to be afraid to go to prison...

    By Blogger ABFreedom, at 6:00 PM  

  • Interesting concept. On many of your points, the punishment would truly fit the crime.

    Humiliation is also another tool we should be using.

    By Blogger Nightcrawler, at 9:39 PM  

  • Dan T,

    The thigs regariding your argument is that part of the reason prisoners have such a high recitivism rate is that many of them become hardened and set as crimnals while in prison. Apparently many more people do this than get rehabilitated.

    Also, there is a large segment of the prison population that went there INTENTIONALLY so they can be cared for by the syste. To these individuals "Three hots and a cot" are a fair trade for what they must endure from the other prisoners.

    The third point I would like to make is that many prisoners wind up institutionalized and unable to function outside of prison.

    My final point is that the educational and rehabilitative opportunities afforded criminals are also available outside of prison. Let them use these free programs and better themselves outside of an institution, and strip them away from the prisons in favor spending the money on the same programs for honest citizens. Why should a man who raped and beat a woman get free medical and dental care, along with a free college education, while his victim must pay for the hospital, therapy, and any reconstrucive surgery she needs due his brutalization out of her own pocket. Take his priviledges away and give them to his victim.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 6:20 AM  

  • I can't fault your logic in this whole thing, but here's what I'm thinking:

    A junkie beats an old lady and steals her purse. He buys his stuff, gets high, and is eventually caught. As per your system, he is beaten and has some property seized (what little property he may have). After the beating he does so again, willing to endure the punishment for his smack. The cycle repeats endlessly.

    I will freely admit that our justice system needs a major overhaul. But I don't see corporal punishment doing anything real to stop the problem. What do you do with repeat offenders? Imprison them? Then you are only decreasing the number of prisoners and you still have to overhaul the imprisonment systme. Execute them? Does an execution for repeat petty theft seem justified?

    And what about white collar crimes? How do we equitably punish a corporate embezzler?

    As I said, I can't fault your logic but corporal punishment is just too easy to be effective.

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 9:58 AM  

  • In support of your argument, you may or may not realize that Old Testament Israel had no prisons. They doled out punishments/fines as you suggest. I'm not opposed to some creative thinking (certainly we should quit imprisoning drug criminals).

    Having said that, I don't know of any studies to back what you're saying (that people go to prison to have three hots and a cot). Do you know any inmates?

    The few that I do know do not want to be there.

    Again, I'm not opposed to creative ideas. I just don't think there are any studies supporting your notion that corporal punishment would be an effective solution.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 10:58 AM  

  • Of course we could always go the route of Vlad Draculea.

    Just impale the bastards.

    Scary, yes. Against my ideologies, yes.

    But Romania sure was a safe place to live for awhile!

    By Blogger Son of Lilith, at 12:55 PM  

  • Interesting idea. But watch out for the UN, Newsweek & Amnesty International...

    By Blogger Rebekah, at 2:28 PM  

  • "Do you know any inmates?"

    I know several Prison dentists and prison duards. I get much of my prison information directly from them.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:51 PM  

  • The prison guards are saying that the majority of inmates want to be there?

    And, as I asked, any studies to make you think your ideas would work, or is it just a hunch?

    Also, what of the studies that show increased education reduces recividism? Yes, sure, educate people more on the outside, but for folk who do have serve time someplace, don't we want to do what we can to increase the likelihood of their going straight when they get out?

    Finally, you know who's going to oppose your ideas, don't you? Conservatives and others who don't want criminals walking the streets - punishment or no.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 5:30 PM  

  • And Rebekah, whatever your opinion of the UN and Newsweek, Amnesty International is one of the Good Guys.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 5:31 PM  

  • Dan T,

    You're putting words in my mouth. I never said a majority of prisoners want to be in prison. I said that many of them do. Had many been most I would have said most. And yes, there really are people, too many people, who use prison as a place to be fed and sheltered.

    As far as educaton goes, I am far more interested in educating people BEFORE they become degenerates. An education is not something you earn by committing a crime. It is something you earn based on honest effort and personal merit.

    As for who would oppose me, I don't care. The right thing to do is not measured by th eopposition, but by what actually works, or must be demostrated to work or not work.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 7:29 PM  

  • Which gets back to my question: Do you have any studies to back your supposition, or is it just a best guess?

    And yes, I don't doubt at all that there are "some" people, maybe even "many" people who use prison as a source of meals. I'd guess that most of those are mentally ill, but that's just a guess.

    But we shouldn't make policy based upon what some people are doing. If, on the other hand, studies show that actual recividism declines with education - at a cost savings, no less - then it's a no-brainer to educate.

    Should there be an emphasis on education and training before people get to prison? Certainly. That's another no-brainer. We can agree there. But to address your central point with this post, I'd think that short of studies to back it up (that beatings would reduce crime), most folk would rightly not want to beat our criminals instead of imprisoning them.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 12:33 PM  

  • DAn T,

    Did you miss the part where I suggested running an experimental program before fully implementing this plan? Sure it MIGHT work, and it WILL relieve the pressure on the prison system. But since it has never been tried here in the US there is no way any study coould have been performed. Hence the trial program.

    By Blogger Daniel Levesque, at 8:07 AM  

  • It's so far beyond what most US citizens think a just way to deal with justice that I don't think it would go very far if floated even as a trial without some evidence in support of it (to be honest, I just don't think this fits within most US citizen's definition of how we want to dispense justice and don't see this ever taking off - just my opinion, of course).

    You want to relieve the prison problem? A practical and reasonable solution would be to end the War on Drugs. It is a failure and has contributed to our collapsing prison system.

    And I say that as a tea-totalling, non-smoking, high-on-life kind of guy who has no use for recreational drugs (well, maybe beyond caffeine...). I don't want to see our nation further drug-addled, but do not see the criminalization of drugs to be a working solution.

    So color me libertarian on this issue.

    By Blogger Dan Trabue, at 12:20 PM  

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