That being said, I have some hesitation about what I'm going to bring up. Something about it just doesn't feel right to me, but I can't see the holes in the logic, at least not clearly. I move forward with trepidation.
My question is this: Should we bring corporal punishment back into the legal system? This may seem like a hypocritical suggestion for me to make, given that I am strongly against corporal punishment in the home. On the other hand they are incredibly disparate situations. I would not suggest locking a child in a building full of criminals in the home either. Time outs or taking away TV privileges aren't really options when it comes to sentencing criminals.
And that's really what it's about. We have a massive prison problem in the United States. We incarcerate more people by a huge margin (I think the factor is somewhere around 7) than most comparable nations, and among certain minorities jail has moved past epidemic into full-blown cultural phenomenon. It is more likely for a young black man to go to jail than to college, one of those statistics that you've heard so many times it doesn't have an impact anymore, until you actually think about it. Growing up knowing you're considered by society as a better candidate for the big house than...a big house. Whoa.
Anyway, there are a lot of potential problems with corporal punishment. For one it just seems barbaric. Other countries whip and cane their convicts, we don't do anything like that here in America. No, we just lock people up by the boatload, whole communities, and put them all in finishing school for hardened criminals.
Another issue is the history of slavery, and this one cannot be ignored. Whips and rods were used to oppress an entire race of people for blighted centuries, and even after emancipation beatings remained tools of oppression and intimidation for many many innocent people. As it stands we can predict that if we were to put corporal punishment back into effect its burden would fall mainly on black shoulders, because that's how our criminal justice system is. This is a serious roadblock, and one I'm not sure of how to deal with, except to make it something that a person could choose to expose themselves to or not. For example a sentence could be 30 days in jail or 10 strokes of the whip. It SOUNDS ridiculous and barbaric, doesn't it. Jail is so much more sanitary seeming, except we aren't doing people any favors throwing them in jail. Think about it, would you rather be whipped or spend 30 days in a cess pit of hardened criminals risking a shiv or rape and likely receiving beatings worse than the state would give you from your fellow inmates?
Finally there is the issue of effectiveness, which is a serious one. I don't know whether it would work. A lot of other countries use it to repress activities that we don't consider particularly bad, like dancing and exposing female arms to vision, so how well would it work against higher levels of criminals (Clearly it would not be used against rapists or murderers who need to be segregated from society.) I don't know the answer to this. It's something we would have to find out.
Of course what the country really needs is prison reform. We need prisons that are NOT finishing schools for criminals. Where people don't need to join gangs to survive, where rape and the threat of HIV are not parts of every day life, where the guards aren't sadistic or cruel or, sometimes worse, indifferent. We need to stop sending nonviolent offenders to these places.
We won't do that though, there's no political will. We live in a nation of spiteful angry people who would rather cause harm and pain to someone who has "Done wrong" than seek to help them back on to the right path. I don't see prison reform as passing any time soon. But corporal punishment might. Certainly whipping wouldn't be seen as easy on crime, and using it we might be able to ameliorate some of the worst effects of prison. We would keep young offenders from being locked up with hardened criminals and taught the tools of the trade, or raped and molested. We would prevent convicts from losing their jobs (at least due to absence) and having to drop out of school. We would keep them in the real world with a support system. We could send more drug offenders to rehab while satisfying the lust for punishment in our society.
It might help.
Like I said, I don't know how I feel, I just know the system isn't working right now and jail is part of the reason. This could help, maybe. Or not. I have lots of reservations.
Do you think corporal punishment has a place in the criminal justice system?
Yes, as an alternative to jail
Yes, but a very small one
I don't know
No, spanking should stay where it belongs, in the bedroom!
Nobody should ever strike another human being.