STICK OR CARROT?

Should LGBT Prison Reform Suggest Flogging In Place Of Jail Time?

We’ve talked about various prison reforms on Queerty including the decriminalization of sodomy, correct gender placement for transgender inmates, and using condoms to reduce the spread of HIV. Well consider this:

Instead of spending millions of taxpayer dollars on imprisoning violent offenders and then subjecting them to the cruel and unusual punishment of rape and gang violence in prisons, wouldn’t we do better to just whip or cane violent offenders and send them on their way? That’s what Peter Moskos criminologist and author of In Defense of Flogging argues… and he makes a pretty persuasive case.

Prisons are overcrowded, have a high recidivism rate (that is a high number of inmates who return after their release), and cost lots and lots of money. So a couple of lashes or canes to the backside sounds like a potentially cost-effective measure. Plus, it hurts like hell:

Moskos argues that convicts should be offered the option to receive a caning at the rate of two lashes for every year of their sentence, in lieu of incarceration. He envisions a highly efficient system in which the convict, upon choosing the caning at his sentencing, would be ushered into a semi-private chamber, examined by a doctor, and then administered the punishment by a trained professional. Afterward he’d be released.

While advocating for the punishment, Moskos doesn’t spare us the brutal details. In the aftermath of caning, he writes:

You’ll likely be in shock and perhaps even unconscious as the doctor treats the deep, bloody furrows left in your behind. Then, once they’ve patched you up, you’d be allowed to leave the courthouse a free man…You’d never have to find out what the inside of a prison is like.

This is an important piece of Moskos’ argument. The idea that caning hurts—a lot—but is quick and simple means it has the potential to bridge the divide between liberal prison reformists and hard-on-crime conservatives. Ultimately Moskos is on the same page as advocates for prison reform who point out the inefficiencies, racism, and lack of justice inherent in our current system.

There are serious downsides of course. For one, prison is partially meant to be rehabilitative by teaching inmates job skills to use in the real world—corporeal punishment wouldn’t teach anyone anything other than not to mess with the business end of a lash. Secondly, the quick release of violent and rape offenders doesn’t provide much comfort or safety to their victims. And some argue that physical punishments will only encourage guards to use physical violence to control non-violent offenders and those who do opt for prison time.

But imagine all the good the saved money could do in our communities especially if it went towards helping rehabilitate inmates with actual vocational skills.

What do you think? Brilliance or brutality?