Now, to clear things up, before I am accused of being anti-prison/justice, I'm not. I just think the way we (society) manage some inmates needs to change. Incarceration is not the solution to all crimes, as other places in the world, demonstrates. Conversely, there are those ex-cons (and current inmates) that state they belonged/belong locked up. I'm pro-rehabilitation, but if we rehabilitated, we wouldn't have cheap labor. Silly me.
What do you think of corporal punishment? Have you ever read this book? https://www.amazon.com/Just-Painful-Corporal-Punishment-Criminals/dp/0911577335
There are a lot of people who don't see jail/prison as "punishment". One thing that opened my eyes to this was the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Dylann Roof, the man who murdered nine black people in a Charleston, SC church. Since he surrendered to the police, he wasn't killed in a shootout, as is often the case in these mass shooting situations. And yet there was commentary from "man on the street" types who said he "got away with it". Roof will be killed by the state (justly, in my opinion, but I guess that's a different thread). Even so, because it is not an immediate punishment and even the commonest criminal knows it could be decades on death row before being put to death, he "got away with it".
I couldn't understand what this meant until I spoke to some people who want less imprisonment and more corporal punishment. They said that criminals in particular are usually low-impulse control types. They don't see very far into the future. When they see that someone isn't immediately punished for their crimes (like when cops shoot and/or kill a resistant criminal) it appears as if that person "got away with it". It seems like a quicker, painful but not mutilating, punishment system would be better, especially for lighter crimes which are characterized by low impulse control.
This was a hospital day so please excuse my half-baked reply to your thoughtful questions. Just a precaution but idiots like that Roof kid, sex offenders, etc are not my interest or area of study so my answers might not apply to them, at least in my mind.
Yes, I've read that book and I think about the arguments often.
The issue with corporal punishment, at least in developed countries, is how to reconcile human rights with bodily punishment. Just the notion of “immediate punishment” is subjective and flawed to begin with. How immediate can we make punishment if guilt is unclear? People are entitled to fair trials before they can be sentenced and receive punishment. Now, if there is no doubt concerning guilt (a suspect is caught red-handed or there is no other explanation) the judicial process can be expedited and a fair punishment can be handed down quicker. If this is the point where corporal punishment could be handed down, that’s understandable, and I see its merits. Newman advocates “short but intense” punishment for things like property crimes and I can understand that motive. For “certain kinds of people” and specific crimes, the thoughts of bodily harm are enough to dissuade them from criminal actions and leave a lasting impression. But then, there would be the issue of keeping the forms of punishment standardized across a jurisdiction. (We already have this issue with length of sentences though..) And there are always those that say some forms of corporal punishment are “not enough” and we (society) could see ourselves falling deeper into the hole.
Conversely, there are those that deal with violence daily and forms of corporal punishment would not deter them or teach any kind of lesson. Street gangs are a prime example. Just a simple initiation requires a jump in that would cause a lot pain that the average person could not imagine. I think saying they went through electric shock punishment or flogging would be a badge of honor just like neck tattoos used to show how tough one was considered to be. Cases of immediate punishment here would see bangers back on the streets quickly and getting up to their old tricks. Sometimes these individuals need long sentences to age and cool down. That’s been my experience with some guys that were members of OMGs (outlaw motorcycle gangs.) Newman agrees here that these types belong in a prison system. Personally, I can attest to that. I have a dear and much loved friend incarcerated in the Russian prison system. He has a long term sentence, and really, he knows he deserves it. It is the thought of years, in such controlled conditions, that really worries him.
All of that said, I agree strongly that some inmates do not view prison as punishment. For some inmates, they just continue on with their prison gangs, hierarchy, sending kites, selling contraband and having those on the outside send them money. Do these guys learn anything and would they learn anything from corporal punishment? Nope. Is it really worth keeping them in ad/seg or the shu for years at a time? I don’t know. Not everyone can be rehabilitated.
The self-control theory of crime, or the idea that criminals “usually” are low-impulse control types is one where I have mixed feelings. There is no doubt that low-impulse control plays a heavy hand in their actions but then, there are those that are really quite calculated. (My husband is sane but his history would scare a lot of people, and he also ALMOST had his eyelids tattoo’d (low-impulse control!!, but he’s more of the calculated type.) So many other factors enter the discussion at this point too. We have to remind ourselves that low-impulse control is also a characteristic of many psychiatric disorders. This again opens the can of worms of are we really going to use corporal punishment on the mentally ill and will it have the same effect as on someone mentally healthy? And also, it raises the other can of worms of, if we better managed those with substance abuse issues and other mental health issues, would they be involved in the criminal justice system? There are so many layers to crime and really no silver bullet when it comes to punishment.
I think that corporal punishment could be included in an all-inclusive system of punishment. It is harsher than probation but limits the # and crimes of those being incarcerated. Other avenues have to be included as well though such as substance abuse or psychological help. Criminal justice/penal system reformers are often accused of dismissing the human rights of inmates as an impetus for changes and I could see this being a charge again if corporal punishment is applied. It’s usually a discussion of finding balance between the lesser of two evils.