Flog ‘Em

In these soft, womanly times, you may have noticed that we tend to have a lot of thuggish types walking about committing crimes.  They go to jail, they get out, they keep breaking laws, they go back to jail…ad infinitum.  People are murdered, robbed, raped, assaulted, cheated.  Worse still, these coarse denizens of the underclass drag the level of public discourse down into the gutter.  It is to the point now that thug culture has insinuated itself into mainstream America.  People aren’t shocked and offended anymore – they have stopped seeing the problem at all!

Before you click away, you shold know this isn’t simply a complaint-rant.  This is a solution-rant.  I do believe I’ve figured out the only sure-fire effective way to remedy boorish, criminal behavior and reduce recidivism rates by an order of magnitude.  I’m talking about flogging.  Yes, that’s right.  Lashes, whipping, caning.

At any semi-historical town you go to, one with roots in the colonial era anyway, you will find structures meant for corporal punishment.  These are reproductions meant for a cutesy-poo picture of Junior in leg-irons, or dad in the stocks.  How wonderfully droll, we all think, as we easily lift ourselves out of the stress position, buy some peanuts and get out of the sun for a bit.  Such FUN!  Never mind that if we take the time to imagine what it would be like if a padlock kept us in place, unable to sit and unable to move, we start to feel a touch nervous.

Oh, but for much of human history those structures represented something we seem to have lost today: respect for the law.   Somewhere along the line, we replaced these wonderfully cheap and effective tools with millions of dollars of wasteful spending on prison buildings, food (and entertainment) for prisoners, and extra police.

Look How Much FUN This Could Be!

Let’s face it, folks.  Flogging and corporal punishment work.  Not because there is pain involved (that helps) but because of the truly essential component of punishment: shame.  Shame effects the internal change necessary for contrition and repentance.  Shame sparks rehabilitation.  Shame is what makes a man stop peeking in windows at night; it is what keeps a thief from stealing.

The example most people think of when discussing legal corporal punishment is Singapore, which mandates caning for a variety of offenses – rape, drug use, immigration violations (Arizona not looking too bad now, eh?) or even the possession of chewing gum.  They also mandate execution for first-degree murder.  Singapore has one of the least corrupt judicial/political systems in the world, and one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

If we are to develop a system of corporal punishment for America, I would start by walking back a bit from the Singapore model.  Americans tend to rebel against tyranny, and outlawing gum strikes me as darn close to evil.  We shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, though.  Let’s distinguish between “flogging” and “whipping.”  Under the British system from which we derive much of our law, flogging is carried out by the use of a cat o’nine tails or similar instrument, while whipping can be done with a whip or a cane, birch, switch or what have you.  If you will recall the excruciating scourging scene in Passion of the Christ, that was an example of flogging.  Flogging is meant to leave lasting damage, while whipping is meant to hurt like hell but not disfigure you overmuch.

In light of this, most petty crimes in America would be whippable offenses.  More severe crimes, or the worst recidivists, would merit flogging or imprisonment, with the death penalty as a rarely used deterrent for only the worst offenders.  Our existing classes of misdemeanor and felony could be maintained.  Fines would supplement local and state coffers and cover a range of crimes that do not rise to the level requiring corporal punishment(while perhaps adding a worse pain to the punishment than the whip could!).

Remember, shame is the goal moreso than pain.  So these things would be done in full view of the criminal’s neighbors and family.  His embarrassment and his domination by forces of the law would be on display to any and all.  Think about this: prison is terrible.  It’s no picnic, with the rape and danger of being murdered.  But all that rape (shameful rape) happens behind closed doors, away from those who know you as more than a criminal.  Public corporal punishment happens in front of your grandmother and your girlfriend.

Now, if you are like the vast majority of weak-kneed soft living denizens of this Republic, your tender heart may be quailing at the thought of inflicting such torturous pain upon even the most deserving of reprobate scum.  Fear NOT, gentle soul.  We can add yet another layer to our system.  Those very same tourist attractions I mentioned earlier can be put to excellent use for any manner of minor offenses that do not warrant the whip.  Let’s say a young boy is caught stealing a candy bar or a toy.  Put him in the stocks for a day!  No need to drag him through the courts, or involve the police beyond escorting him to the town square and locking him in.  A strumpet is caught prostituting herself for the first time – well, how about an afternoon in the pillory with a sign about her neck proclaiming her offense?

As an aside, the public shame of these criminals would offer an afternoon’s sport to the lower classes and a good use for spoiled fruit and vegetables which could then be gathered for compost (green!).  It would get children away from the TV and outside once again, all while giving them a concrete example of the concept that “choice has consequence” which is so appallingly lacking these days.

I know what you’re thinking – this sort of thing sounds good and seems like it would work, but how can we be sure?  Didn’t we move on from these punishments for a good reason?  The answer is that change doesn’t simply involve the methods of punishment.  Change must also come from we law-abiding people, who commit ourselves to improving our own community.  We must also, once punishment is meted out, accept that the criminal has paid their debt to society and assume good faith when the criminal looks for work or to do business.  Should the person relapse and fall again into crime, they would find themselves at another tier of punishment.  I suppose I am, in a perverse sense, arguing for a more Christian world, one in which sin and vice are not tolerated, but also one in which they are truly forgiven after appropriate restitution.

In closing, I contend that reinstitution of these antique punishments and rekindling the sensibilities that made them effective will save this country millions of dollars, improve the quality of our youth, cut down on paperwork and other waste, relieve our overburdened courts, and reduce crime rates considerably.  If you agree, write your congressman to demand an overhaul of the penal code.


  1. Allison says:

    There is one point you didn’t address, that I’m rather curious to hear about. A rather large number of criminals also have mental impairment, and in fact, the department I’m working in is currently conducting research on the link between childhood brain injury and juvenile delinquency. Numerous studies have also been conducted illustrating a link between childhood traumatic brain injury and pedophilia.

    At what point in this process would that be addressed? If someone is suffering from mental illness, it doesn’t seem right that they should be whipped/flogged multiple times before someone starts to wonder why they keep offending. Absolute compulsion to act out occurs in many disorders.

    Also, sociopaths (depending on the case) can be incapable of feeling shame.

  2. NealDewing says:

    Fair point – I would stress that I’m not arguing that we entirely replace our current system. One would hope that as our body of knowledge grows regarding psychological and neuropathological ailments, we would be better able to identify warning signs before serious crimes are committed. Minor infractions could result in fines rather than flogging. But again, this presupposes that the community takes a more active role in policing itself. If people are disengaged, they will not address irregular behavior. We have come a long way in our understanding of mental illness so I see no reason we can’t account for these cases.
    Then again, if it can be demonstrated that the person is capable of understanding the difference between right and wrong, I have no qualms about corporal punishment. Even sociopaths can be incentivized to behave…one could argue their entire life is one long, personal cost-benefit analysis. Society must make the cost of doing wrong too high to forgo the benefit of obeying the law.
    As another point, no system of justice we administer will be perfect. I think it’s time to roll back the rehabilitative mindset and embrace the punitive.

  3. Allison says:

    Well as far as rehabilitation goes, I think the reason it doesn’t work a lot of the time is that people seem to think that one system will work for everyone. As an extremely basic example, say you’re jobless because you have no in-demand skills, and steal food because you’re hungry. Any rehabilitation administered during incarceration won’t help that person not steal, if they’re thrown back into the exact same situation. Rehabilitation started failing the day it became a uniform neat little system (which probably wasn’t long after it started), because no one wanted to take the time to address the problems of each individual. And I understand that there are just so many that it’s almost impossible to give individualized attention to everyone. But I would think that it would be better in the long run to help some of the individuals in questions, than try to squish everyone into a neat little uniform box that most likely will help even fewer.

    I did a report on mental illness and history of treatment a couple years ago for my Health Policy and Politics class, and I’m thinking of all the crappy treatment people received over the centuries. I’m going to take calming breaths now haha.

  4. NealDewing says:

    A person who breaks the law in adverse circumstances is still breaking the law. If the law is just then the person is in the wrong and must make restitution. Flogging and corporal punishment are a relatively cheap alternative to putting such minor offenders in jail and feeding, clothing, sheltering them at cost to the taxpayer.
    Surely you would concede that sometimes a good smack (or a timeout) says more than a thousand eminently reasonable explanations of why a behavior is bad. Most people, when confronted with the direct consequence of their actions, learn. Those who do not can be dealt with in a different fashion.

    We’ve got to get tough, here. I’m for spanking children when they are naughty and teaching them early that if they mess up there are consequences. I’m likewise for corporal punishment for adults when they fail to retain this basic lesson.

  5. Allison says:

    I was only spanked once as a child. I’ve always found that guilt was a hell of a lot more agonizing than physical pain, probably because the direct cause of pain is usually someone else. Then again, maybe I’m more emotionally sensitive and/or smarter than the general crime-committing demographic. I’d like to think so.

  6. NealDewing says:

    I think like you said, assuming one approach works with a person inherently limits your options. For some kids, spanking works. For others, they adapt and spanking means nothing. For still others, spanking is not necessary as they are more considerate by nature.
    I assume the same holds true for adults, which is why I am merely advocating that we allow the option of corporal punishment.

  7. Allison says:

    I think it’s funny how our light debates slowly wind down to the point where the viewpoints are more comparable. I’d agree with the option being available, but only if individuals with good judgment are in charge of deciding if/when it is appropriate. Some people are just bloodthirsty- and of course you’d have to weed out anyone with sexual deviancy from whatever jury or panel would make these decisions.

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