December 27, 2004

Spank Me

Matt's got a modest proposal for corporal punishment that would be a lot easier to ignore if it didn't actually sound better than our current system.

Posted by Ezra Klein at December 27, 2004 11:50 AM | TrackBack

But what if the person being punished likes it?

Posted by: zuzu at December 27, 2004 11:59 AM

James Oleson, a professor of law and criminology, currently doing a Supreme Court fellowship, published a similar Swiftian proposal in the California Law Review a couple years back entitled "The Punitive Coma", suggesting that we should consider rendering felons unconscious for the duration of their sentences. I believe only the abstract is readily available on the web, but if you have access to the article, it's a fascinating read.

Posted by: Hamilton Lovecraft at December 27, 2004 01:41 PM

Nobody goes to prison for good citizenship, and living in a society of felons for years is not going to teach you how to live in normal society. I always thought that they nearly achieved true justice in the movie Clockwork Orange. Call it Aversion Therapy, modern technology could make you very unhappy about what you did without any physical damage.

Posted by: moebius at December 27, 2004 02:04 PM

Of course, one of the big problems with the prison system as it is currently being run is that it is overloaded by the useless War on Drugs.

Last I checked, over half the people in prison were there on drug charges -- take them away, prison suddenly costs us a whole lot less as a society, and overcrowding is suddenly not so much a problem.

Given that the War on Drugs is wholly ineffective, we might want to start asking, as a society, how long we're going to keep investing so heavily in it.

Posted by: delagar at December 27, 2004 02:55 PM

I've always felt that the complete abolition of corporal punishment was a mistake. Teenagers, for instance, won't really care if their parents get fined and rarely spend much time in jail, but you'd get a much better deterrent effect if, instead of fines or token prison sentences, the offender was taken into a small, clean room and, say, caned for a while. Nothing life-threatening or scarring, of course, but if you knew you weren't going to be able to sit down for a week, wouldn't you think twice about stealing that bag of chips or spraypainting that overpass?

Posted by: Garnet at December 27, 2004 04:05 PM

The big problem that haunts any law-enforcement system is that virtually all crimes are committed by three types of people. The first group is those who are not thinking rationally about the future consequences of their actions (crazies, the guy who catches his wife in bed with another guy and shoots them both, etc.). The second group is composed of people who feel they have no choice but to engage in illegal behavior (someone living in poverty who robs a store to pay for rent, certain battered spouses, etc.). The third group is composed of people who believe they will “get away with it” (the police won’t bother to investigate, or they won’t figure out who did it, or won’t be able to prove it in court, etc.).
None of these groups are deterred by punishment severity or type. If you think you are going to get away with it, what do you care what the punishment is? If you act in a fit of anger and are not thinking about the consequences of your actions, you are by definition not thinking about the consequences of those actions. This is why study after study shows that the death penalty does not work as a method of deterrence except in the crudest sense (an executed criminal does not offend again).

Posted by: BunBun vonWhiskers at December 28, 2004 11:47 AM
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