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Saturday, September 14, 2013

Corporal Punishment Instead of Prison for Minor Crimes?

Over half the prisoners in the US are in for non-violent crime, a large portion of which is drug crime. While ending the War on Drugs would be a wise step, the US would still be imprisoning a far higher percent of its population vs. similar countries like Canada, Germany (similar proportion of immigrants), and Australia.

It costs $20,000 to $30,000 per year to house a prisoner depending on the security level of the prison. And since there are about 2.4 million Americans in prison, the total annual cost is around $50 billion. Prisoners often have difficulty finding work after being released, so that it another cost as well.

It would be far cheaper to use corporal punishment like flogging or caning rather than imprisonment. For those who say that such punishments violate the constitutional ban on cruel and unusual punishment, consider that prisoners often become victims to physical and sexual assault while imprisoned. Losing years or decades of life for a minor crime is cruel itself.

Corporal punishment has a long history of use in the US. Wikipedia says:

American colonies judicially punished in a variety of forms, including whipping, stocks, the pillory and the ducking stool.[13] In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, whipping posts were considered indispensable in American and English towns.[14] Starting in 1776, Gen. George Washington strongly advocated and utilized JCP in the Continental Army, with due process protection, obtaining in 1776 authority from the Continental Congress to impose 100 lashes, more than the previous limit of 39.[15]In his 1778 Bill for Proportioning Crimes and Punishments, Thomas Jefferson provided up to 15 lashes for witchcraft, at the jury’s discretion; castration for men guilty of rape, polygamy or sodomy, and a minimum half-inch hole bored in the nose cartilage of women convicted of those sex crimes.[16] In 1781, Washington requested legal authority from the Continental Congress to impose up to 500 lashes, as there was still a punishment gap between 100 lashes and the death penalty.[17]The Founders believed whipping and other forms of corporal punishment effectively promoted pro-social and discouraged anti-social behavior.

Thomas Jefferson wanted punishment for witchcraft? So much for Mr. Enlightened.

I think for minor crimes convicted people should be given a choice between corporal punishment, public humiliation, fine, work, or jail time. Mandatory minimum sentencing laws should be repealed as well.

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