“In Defense of Flogging” isn’t a joke, a satire or a thought experiment. Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore cop who’s now a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, seriously wants to reintroduce corporal punishment in the United States.
Don’t laugh: He makes a convincing case. From the straightforward question he begins with -- “Given the choice between five years in prison and 10 brutal lashes, which would you choose?” -- he had my attention.
Moskos isn’t a sadist or a fetishist. In fact, he finds flogging distasteful. (He describes the physical effects in graphic detail: “skin is literally ripped from the body,” etc.)
But he’s far more outraged by the American penal system, which incarcerates the largest total number (2.3 million) and the largest per capita proportion (750 per 100,000) of prisoners of any country in the world. When the U.S. has criticized China on human-rights issues, Beijing has had the satisfaction of pointing to these figures in response.
CNN's Q&A with Moskos:
In your new book, you are proposing that convicted prisoners should be offered a choice between a standard prison sentence and a set number of lashes? Are you serious? Do you think a criminal would choose being whipped?
I’m deadly serious. Given the choice between five years and ten lashes, wouldn’t you choose the lash? What does that say about prison? And if flogging were so bad, where’s the harm in offering it as a choice?
Of course some people are too dangerous to release, but these people are kept behind bars simply because we’re afraid of them. But for most criminals, those we just want to punish, flogging is a more honest. It’s also a lot cheaper. Simply to bring our prison population down to levels we had until the 1970s, we’d have to release 85 percent of our prisoners. How are we going to do that unless we end the war on drugs or have alternative forms of punishment?
How would flogging work—what would the flogging procedure look like?
I propose we flog as they do in Singapore and Malaysia. Basically, they tie a person to a large flogging stand, pull down the pants, protect the vital organs and lash the behind with a rattan cane. A doctor tends to the wounds. It’s a horrible, brutal, and bloody process. But it is over in a few minutes.
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