|Why Judicial Corporal Punishment Is Better Than Incarceration|
|By John Dewar Gleissner, Esq|
Today, we naturally think of incarceration as more modern and advanced than judicial corporal punishment, but it's not true incarceration is always better. The facts clearly show prison does not rehabilitate or deter much crime and merely keeps criminals out of circulation while they are in prison. While the execution of judicial corporal punishment is horrendous and usually bloody, the effects of incarceration are worse. Prison takes offenders away from their families, marriages, jobs, friends, communities and churches and puts them in an extremely bad moral environment for years at a time. Incarceration does not provide the benefit of example, because it is hidden behind prison walls. In prison, convicts learn crime skills, join or re-join gangs, fight, go crazy or get depressed, suffer in solitary confinement, and adopt sick prison values and ways. Most of the time, prisoners do not learn the job and life skills they need to succeed on the outside. After their release, well over half wind up right back in prison.
All slave systems in history whipped slaves, which proves effectiveness. Stable nations using judicial corporal punishment today enjoy significantly lower crime rates than countries that do not. Historically, corporal punishment is abolished only because it is an unpopular reminder of lower social status. For example, as St. Paul reminded a Roman soldier, Roman citizens could not be flogged. In most Western countries, it was curtailed or abolished soon after political equality of citizens was achieved: In France after the French Revolution, in Germany after the revolution of 1848, in the United States after the American Revolution and then more completely after the American Civil War. After Great Britain abolished it, her crime rates increased markedly.
Ex-slaves interviewed as part of the Federal Writers' Project from 1936 to 1938 confirmed the effectiveness of corporal punishment, especially to discipline young males. Some ex-slaves said corporal punishment taught them valuable lessons. Female ex-slaves in particular observed that it was needed and effective. While we often associate flogging with slavery in the United States, it was used effectively by General George Washington to discipline his mainly white troops. The Continental Congress initially authorized Washington to apply no more than 40 lashes, but in 1776, Washington sought and obtained authority from Congress to impose 100 lashes. Shortly before the battle of Yorktown, Washington sought authority to impose 500 lashes. Thomas Jefferson provided for "stripes" in a statute he drew for Virginia. In its early years, the United States did without large-scale penitentiaries.
When executed in public, corporal punishment provides a much better example than prison time. It deters crime effectively. Intense pain fills the offender with a desire to avoid pain in the future. The boredom of prison does not impart the same message. Physical punishment provides offenders with an immediate opportunity to change their behavior and join law-abiding society. Before incarcerated convicts can reform, they must first endure a clean version of hell that discourages their improvement and fails to impart the skills they will need when released.
Judicial corporal punishment is far less expensive and time-consuming than incarceration. Incarceration saddles taxpayers with expenses for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, security, personnel costs, building expenses and other burdens. America's 2.3 million inmates are essentially a huge mass of full-ride welfare recipients. Incarceration removes people from the productive economy, cages them, and prevents most of them from working productively or efficiently in the private sector. Prison industries are state businesses and usually only make products for use by the state. There are not nearly enough prison jobs to go around.
Flogging does not preclude incarceration. Like prison time, it can be held over the parolee's or probationer's head. But corporal punishment is faster and more flexible. Several doses of flogging might be administered in the time it takes to serve a one-year prison sentence. Some offenders will want to "get it over with" and plead guilty, accepting responsibility sooner.
Judicial corporal punishment will not break up families, marriages, communities and careers like incarceration does, nor will it increase welfare costs as much as mass incarceration.
Our society abhors the thought of flogging. Rarely portrayed as a valuable punishment, it is often confused with more arbitrary parental corporal punishment. But the more people learn about modern mass incarceration in the United States, the less they will object to judicial corporal punishment. Studies applicable to often-arbitrary and abusive parental corporal punishment do not apply to the rational use of judicial corporal punishment. We do not have scientific studies concerning judicial corporal punishment. All we have is history... and increasing knowledge of the social disaster caused by modern mass incarceration.
Editor's note: Corrections.com author John Dewar Gleissner, Esq. graduated from Auburn University (B.A. with Honor, 1973) and Vanderbilt University School of Law (1977), where he won the Editor's Award and participated in the Men's Penitentiary Project. In addition to practicing law in Alabama for the last 33 years, Mr. Gleissner is the author of the new book "Prison and Slavery - A Surprising Comparison"
Reprinted with permission from ezinearticles.com.
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