Should We Flog Criminals?

The Philosopher’s Beard (hereafter, PB) certainly thinks we should consider it:


"Many people would automatically say that such punishments are inhumane. But the very reason for this reaction - that such punishments are extremely unpleasant to contemplate - is exactly their advantage over prison time. 

Flogging is barbaric and ugly. Yet that in itself does not mean it is cruel or inhumane or otherwise unfit as a punishment. Punishments, by definition, are supposed to be very unpleasant. Peter Moskos… notes that if convicted criminals were given a choice between being flogged and serving a lengthy prison term, they would probably choose the flogging (and wouldn't we all?). While one would not want to make a general principle of allowing convicts to decide their own punishments, this thought experiment is interesting because it goes against the general consensus that prison is more humane."

This is interesting, considering recent shootings, our responses to the shooters and appropriate punishment; and correctional facilities focused more on the correctional part (i.e. rehabilitation), as opposed to punishment. Considering this within the context of criminal justice, Whatton Prison in Nottinghamshire, England, focuses on chemical treatment of sex offenders, for example. Here, convicted sex offenders sign up for a course of treatment to reduce their libido, since their “addiction” for sex (with children) is, for them, beyond control.

The only problem I have with PB’s strong argument in favour of undermining large aspects of criminal justice is his defence of capital punishment. However, it is certainly one of the best defences I’ve encountered. Acknowledging that capital punishment is not the most severe punishment is exactly why it should be allowed, PB says.

However, what I struggle to accept are his/her following claims:

“(1) Execution seems to me an appropriate punishment for very severe crimes, such as certain kinds of sadistic murder (like Anders Breivik). (2) I do not suppose judicial executions are a particularly persuasive deterrent to most of the people who commit such crimes (indeed it is very hard to understand how such people look at the world). (3) Nonetheless they seem an appropriate retributive punishment.” (Emphasis added)

(1) and (3) are the same, and PB must justify why it is an appropriate punishment. Presumably, PB thinks that life-long prison-sentences are too cruel, since it is a “living tomb”. Capital punishment is not (or shouldn’t be). If we wish to be humane, we ought to simply execute people who do commit such crimes: not for deterrence but in terms of appropriate punishment. This is why execution should be allowed, instead of prison. I’m not sure how right this is, but it is certainly merits thoughtful attention.

I think there is merit to his/her thinking on capital punishment and I'm mostly persuaded by flogging. Furthermore the capital punishment explanation has shaken some of my own foundations for being opposed to the death penalty. I don’t think my arguments are as strong, now, given the overarching context and need for radical revision within our punishment mechanisms. Indeed, it is what PB calls a failure of the imagination that we default to imprisoning: even I, when opposing capital punishment, claim life-long imprisonment is a “better” option. It is precisely what “better” means that I need to start reconsidering.

Image Credit: trekandshoot/Shutterstock

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Space toilets: How astronauts boldly go where few have gone before

A NASA astronomer explains how astronauts dispose of their, uh, dark matter.

Videos
  • When nature calls in micro-gravity, astronauts must answer. Space agencies have developed suction-based toilets – with a camera built in to ensure all the waste is contained before "flushing".
  • Yes, there have been floaters in space. The early days of space exploration were a learning curve!
  • Amazingly, you don't need gravity to digest food. Peristalsis, the process by which your throat and intestines squeeze themselves, actually moves food and water through your digestive system without gravity at all.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Photo: Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less