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Debate:Flogging is an acceptable criminal punishment

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I haven't been here long or contributed at all so nobody knows me. I like reading the debates. So I'm starting one, because this is something I've always wanted to debate with a bunch of thinkers. I am not trying to be controversial with my comments here, but I might appear to be - not least because I'm a newbie and people might perceive me as "coming here to angry up the blood". That said, the title of this debate is deliberate to honeypot people ;)

What this debate centres on, really, is what the purpose of imprisonment is. As I see it, imprisonment has two components:

  • Isolation of the offender from society, for the protection of the public.
  • A punishment. Prisons are generally undesirable places to live.

You might also argue that a prison is an opportunity for rehabilitation, but that's only true if the offender is sentenced to rehabilitation. Most prisons are just incarceration and then release. You might be of the opinion that all convicts should be rehabilitated - if so, this question isn't so much for you, but I still want to hear your general thoughts on criminal punishment.

You might also argue that it's an opportunity for an offender to 'repay his debt to society', by manufacturing toys for disadvantaged children, etc (community service, but restricted to within prison walls). But as above, let's assume prisons are just "incarcerate and then release".

So, let's go back to those two components. Do you agree with these as the purposes of imprisonment? Are there others you can think of? Does one matter more than the other?

If you think that isolation from society is the most important (or the only important) aspect of imprisonment, then prison conditions come into play. A hypothetical: imagine for a moment a cornucopian world of limitless wealth. Would it be 'right' to let prisoners live in luxurious conditions, if those conditions came with no price-tag to anyone at all? (in such a world, of course, everyone else in free society would have the very same living standards). Personally, I would not feel that this is not fair to the victims of the criminal. And that's important, because it means I believe punishment - via relatively poor living conditions at the very least - is a valuable part of imprisonment. If you agree, that ascribes importance to the second component.

To me, being incarcerated in sub-standard conditions, and isolated from people I know, would be a form of torture. It might not be torture in the strictest sense, depending on how you define the word torture (everyone has their own definition), but I think most people would agree that incarceration would have a certain psychological toll on them. And that toll would represent torture, to some extent. It varies between people, of course. Most can tolerate it, for a few it utterly destroys them psychologically.

(you can probably see where I'm going with this, so at this point I want to make it clear that this debate is not at all related to the controversy of Guantanamo Bay - primarily because the recipients of torture are not convicted indivuduals in civilian prisons)

It seems to be that, given the above line of reasoning (if valid), the line between incarceration and punishment we consider more barbaric - such as flogging - is blurry. So much so that I find such punishments to be acceptable and not really 'barbaric' at all. Thoughts?

I think it would be necessary to mention that I do draw a distinction between flogging and, say, amputation - the latter, as practiced by some countries, leaves a permanent and severe physical disability, unlike flogging or incarceration. Punishments like that lie in a domain of their own, and I find them unacceptable, not least because they cannot be 'reversed' for people later found innocent. Yes, I do realise that incarceration or flogging can't be reversed either, but at least those people won't have to live with their punishment for the rest of their lives (assuming the flogging in question leaves no scars).

More notes:

  • I'm not referring to public flogging. I think that's a bit distasteful (or would it have certain advantages? Thoughts welcome). Flogging as I see it would be carried out behind closed doors within the correction facilities.
  • I haven't mentioned what crimes I think flogging should be punishment for. I don't think that's relevant, but you might disagree.
  • My argument is mainly that flogging is acceptable in theory. But I also think it would be highly beneficial in practice, as it would be enormously inexpensive in comparison to incarceration.

If you do think my reasoning is invalid and that flogging is still a barbaric form of punishment to practice, then what about giving convicts the option between it and incarceration? Is that still unfavourable? (Not that I'm trying to compromise, but this will almost certainly come up in discussion so I'm pre-empting it).

ONE / TALK 15:11, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

Oh by the way, I forgot to mention that I'm British, so I'm only familiar with criminal punishment in the UK.


From 'Facts About Flogging'[edit]

Flogging in England was never formally abolished, tut was superseded in different Acts of Parliament, which stated what the particular punishment for particular crimes should be. Let it be re- membered that for full a quarter of a century practically no flogging took place in England for criminal oflFences.* What was the result? Did this immense change in the treatment of our criminals lead to a large increase of crime ? Did this vast modi- fication of our penal system (as was confidently pre- dicted) manufacture more criminals ? Nothing of the kind ! There was a marked improvement Violence diminished, disorder diminished, vice diminished, and crime diminished The result was eminently satis- factory to the State, though I do not pretend that it was all cause and effect Nowhere in the history of our legislation can there be found a period more pregnant of good work regarding our criminal law — a law which is nevertheless still a hundred years behind the times.

Quoted directly along with spelling mistakes from [1] Jack Hughes (talk) 14:50, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

So flogging is ineffectual as a deterrent relative to incarceration? If the statistics truly show that (I have no reason to doubt them, but data would be interesting to peruse) then I can hardly defend it. But we can still talk about the asides, such as whether it is morally acceptable, and where the line should be drawn in prison conditions (if there is a way to discuss that objectively). ONE / TALK 15:09, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
Apart from being ineffective and barbaric, well, let's look those who participate. Let's look at which countries flog
  • Afghanistan
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Botswana
  • Brunei
  • Dominica
  • Grenada
  • Guyana
  • Indonesia
  • Iran
  • Lesotho
  • Malaysia
  • Maldives
  • Nigeria
  • Pakistan
  • Qatar
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Sierra Leone
  • Singapore
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Tonga
  • Trinidad and Tobago
  • Tuvalu
  • UAE
  • Yemen
  • Zimbabwe
I'm not sure I want to be counted amongst that company. Is it not significant that globally we are moving away from corporal punishment, not towards it. Jack Hughes (talk) 15:27, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
That strikes me as a logical fallacy - a policy should be judged on its own merit, not on which countries enact it. It sounds like a strawman. "Country 1 does A, Country 1 also does B, B is bad therefore A is bad too". ONE / TALK 15:37, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
I always get confused on logical fallacies, so I might have got that wrong. But you see my point. ONE / TALK 15:48, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
I just noticed you said outright that it is barbaric (unsurprising, as most people would). Is that just a general feeling? Why is it barbaric? I guess what this will come around to is, how do you personally define 'barbaric'? ONE / TALK 15:51, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Rehabilition, versus punishment, versus growth and prosperity[edit]

To quote The One™, this is the part that stands out to me.

You might also argue that a prison is an opportunity for rehabilitation, but that's only true if the offender is sentenced to rehabilitation. Most prisons are just incarceration and then release. You might be of the opinion that all convicts should be rehabilitated - if so, this question isn't so much for you, but I still want to hear your general thoughts on criminal punishment.

I'm no fan of the idea of a judicial system having punishment high on its list of priorities. Perhaps punishment has its place if it can be proven to reduce recidivism, but jail should not be about exacting revenge.

The judicial system should have two basic objectives.[edit]

  1. Keeping the public safe by removing dangerous people from the population
  2. Rehabilitation

Point one can be achieved on a short-term basis through incarceration, but only in extreme cases can it be used indefinitely to keep someone out of circulation.

Point two should be the goal in the majority of cases, since we gain more if people can be returned to the population as law abiding contributors to society. Realistically this is a very broad area to tackle, since there's little point in teaching troubled youths to appreciate the finer things in life and then returning them to a messed-up council estate where there's little hope of betterment. One question though troubles me. Should we keep someone locked-up even if they appear rehabilitated yet their crimes were notorious enough to lead to public unrest if they're released? As an example, Myra Hindley, an infamous child murderer in the UK, but in her later years was arguably not much of a threat to children. However, releasing her would likely have led to attempts on her life, and general unrest. ConcernedResident dog for the ladies 15:18, 17 May 2010 (UTC)

CR - the judicial system should have a punishment aspect. Myra Hindley's crimes were so appalling that imprisonment for life was deemed appropriate as a punishment. Jack Hughes (talk) 15:24, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
I suppose though, have we proven that punishment actually achieves what we want it to? I dislike the notion of retribution or vengeance, but punishment (even flogging) may be useful if there's proof that there is a serious benefit. I'm thinking that punishment may have a lot of effects, such as leaving law abiding people feeling that their judicial system is doing something. It may be a kind of placebo or window dressing, but perhaps without it people lose respect for the law. Tricky subject.--ConcernedResident operating system for the ladies 16:08, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
I'm as much of a woolly, sandal with socks, Guardian reading liberal as the next man (or woman) but I feel, along with most others, that there has to be a retributive element in the judicial system. MH's incarceration wasn't just to keep her away from any more children but also payment for the children she had already tortured. Society would demand no less - indeed, the Daily Mail segment would demand much more. We have moved on from an eye for an eye but just as my child had to learn that wrong doing has a price so such wrong doing as MH's has the ultimate price, the endless removal of freedom.
I'd love to live in a world where monsters like MH don't exist and all criminals can be shown the errors of their ways but back in the real world crime must be matched by punishment and the ultimate price must be paid for ultimate evil. Remember that for may years she showed little remorse and wouldn't even tell where the bodies were buried. Jack Hughes (talk) 16:22, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
I've included a lot of these themes (about the judicial system's various purposes) in our article on punishment. Personally, I don't support the idea of punishment as an end in itself. Imprisonment should be about rehabilitating offenders and protecting people from harm (whether that be protecting society from the offender or vice versa). Deterrence should be taken into account too, but shouldn't be the benchmark for punishment as that just leads to excessive severity. Cases like serial killers are problematic, because they're unlikely to be fully rehabilitated and safely released back into society, but I think their sentence should still focus on rehabilitating them to the extent of coming to terms with their actions & working towards being a better person, not just keeping them suffering for the sake of feeling bad about what they've done. WěǎšěǐǒǐďWeaselly.jpgMethinks it is a Weasel 17:43, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
There's a third reason which is pretty relevant, especially considering TheOne touched on it obliquely - vengeance, or alternately, providing "satisfaction" for those who were wronged. ħumanUser talk:Human 21:34, 17 May 2010 (UTC)
And that's why punishments aren't dealt out by the victim. Some people might argue that this is the only fair way, but I doubt it. Impartiality is removed, consistency is removed, any sense of actual "justice" is destroyed in favour of brute vengeance. And then it also becomes slightly arbitrary based on the victim's personal feelings or visions of the event or the prosecutions version of events (which is the issue with the death penalty in the US and the reason why it's unfairly issued). Not a good situation for a stable society IMHO. Scarlet A.pngbomination 18:26, 18 May 2010 (UTC)
But it is why prison conditions are as undesirable as they are. There's a perception in this country that prisons are more comfortable than they should be. The question is, how comfortable should they be? Should prisoners, for an example, have access to television? Most people would say no because they consider deprivation of entertainment to be part of their punishment. Such deprivations of living standards provide 'satisfaction' for those who are wronged, as Human says, even though they are dealt out by the state and not the victim. where do you draw the line in prison conditions? How high do they have to be before the prisoners no longer deserve them? How low do they have to be before its a human rights issue? ONE / TALK 14:41, 19 May 2010 (UTC)

As an option?[edit]

I have sometimes wondered about offering people a choice between flogging and prison - for short sentences, people could opt to be flogged instead and not have to go to gaol. That way no one would have to be flogged unless they were at least minimally comfortable with the idea, and it would decrease the strain on prisons and prevent minor offenders from coming into contact with more hardened criminals who might be a bad influence.

But while there might be some arguments in favour, I always come back to my gut response which is simply that flogging has no place in a civilised society. I don't have a real rationale for that, but I simply don't feel I could support it.-- Kriss AkabusiAAAWOOOGAAAR!!1 11:16, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

Well, the rationale is that "civilised society", by your definition and probably the definition of most progressives, is that it shuns violence, particularly as a form of base retribution. Undoubtedly flogging is a form of violence inflicted by the state - or worse, by a victim - and so it then follows that it doesn't belong in civilised society. Although that's only if you accept "shuns violence" as part of the definition. Scarlet A.pngbomination 18:15, 18 May 2010 (UTC)

judicial system should have two objectives, but it has more: 3. grow, and 4. prosper[edit]

Eg. in many countries, people who work within this system don't care about two objectives which other people consider as the system should have and they just care about their own objectives which are in full agreement with the capitalist doctrine, and therefore with objectivism. Those two may be characterized as (3) grow and (4) prosper, which are actualy other two independent vital objectives, total of four (unless someone finds others objectives of the system).

Some of examples may be famous Russian "GULAG" (that translates AFAIK to "Head Management of Concentration Camps") which was an important part of Russian governement, and possibly its economy (as supplying free work) at that time. GULAG was an employer of many emploees who had no other means of support.

In times closer to our times, an American judicial system which employs a lot of workers too, to handle many prisoners about 3/4 of whome the only "crime" was eating improper substances. They are supposed to be "corrected" by this system to eat the right things only after they are released from prisons (if ever). The size of this system in the US might be bigger than the whole prison populations in countries less bent on "justice" (or just with smaller populations). Though as I heard, according to the US Dept. of Justice the Atheists make only 5% of population of American prisons adjusted for total amout of Athiests in the nation. Which is probably the same in other countries and it doesn't necessarily mean that Atheists are less voracious folks (maybe just smarter and don't let themselves to get caught). JimJast (talk) 13:49, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

What if the person enjoys it ?[edit]

Is it good to have a punishment that a portion of the general population enjoys ? Do we want criminals being punished screaming "ohhh god YES !!! harder harder " Hamster (talk) 15:15, 22 April 2011 (UTC)

Those may be tickled instead. JimJast (talk) 14:31, 23 April 2011 (UTC)

As a serious answer, often masochism comes just as much, if not more so, from the context than the actual act. You're no more likely to find criminals shouting "ohhh god YES!!!!" than you'd find them slamming their hands in car doors for the thrill. ADK...I'll plagiarize your adjective! 15:01, 23 April 2011 (UTC)