Is imprisonment or flogging the more humane punishment? Peter Moskos, a CUNY professor and former cop, argues that corporal punishment is a better alternative to imprisonment in his book, In Defense of Flogging (link to excerpt, pdf). Coming from Singapore, where corporal punishment is still routine, it’s interesting to see an American perspective supporting it, instead of the lingering memories of the Michael Fay incident.
There’s no denying that flogging or caning is violent and painful. Moskos is using this provocative subject was a way to criticize the high imprisonment rate in the US (more people are in jail in the US than in China, despite having 1 billion fewer people) and the “prison-industrial complex” that has grown up to service the prisons system. He argues that jailing people for extended periods of time is wasteful, both of public funds and of the prisoner’s lifetimes, and what one encounters in incarceration may be even more demeaning and harmful than the momentary pain of caning.
After having read about how lack of proper psychiatric attention and possible abuse allegedly caused a prisoner at the “Supermax” maximum-security jail to commit suicide, reading that book excerpt reinforces my impression that there is something excessive, or bloated, about imprisonment in the US. The word ‘hypertrophy’ comes to mind.