At first glace, the title of Peter Moskos’ new book, In Defense of Flogging, strikes you as a barbaric hoax being perpetrated by some sort of right-wing ideologue or kook. In fact, it initially appears to be an idea so outrageous, so provocative, as to not even rate a second thought; something to immediately be dismissed out-of-hand. Indeed, how can anyone—who considers themselves the least bit humane—even consider such an outdated form of punishment as flogging, even for the most serious and monstrous of law breakers?Speaking about timing, I spend about four pages in my book talking about that Sheriff Joe Arpaio, specifically how his "get-tough" policies don't work. So that S.O.B. better not quit on me! (I do begrudgingly applaud him for at least coming up with some ideas that are liked by inmates--and yet the same ideas are often derided by liberal critics as cruel and barbaric!)
But Moskos, an assistant professor of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice at New York’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and a former Baltimore cop to boot, is painfully serious (pun intended). And the timing for his book could not be better, considering a recent Supreme Court decision that upheld a ruling ordering California to release about 46,000 inmates in an attempt to relieve its overcrowded prisons.
Moskos writes that both ends of the political spectrum should look approvingly upon flogging as a substitute for prison. “If you’re a conservative, flogging holds appeal as efficient, cheap, and old-fashioned punishment for wrongdoing… it’s a get-tough approach… and nothing is tougher than the lash. If you’re a liberal and your goal is to punish more humanely, then you must accept that the present system is an inhumane failure.”
In Defense of Flogging forces the reader to confront issues surrounding incarceration that most Americans would prefer not to think about. While Moskos makes a compelling moral argument for allowing those convicted of crimes to be given a choice, he might have been better served if he had made it a financial argument instead. Most American taxpayers will willingly allow someone to be flogged into insensibility if it means they’re going to save a few bucks.
May 28, 2011
A Barbaric Hoax?
Mansfield Frazier write in The Daily Beast: