Herbert Murray, more than 6 feet tall and beanpole thin, held his clipboard and began to walk along the line of people outside City Hall Park in lower Manhattan who were waiting to join the one-year anniversary rally for the #CLOSErikers Campaign.
At first glance, flogging appears to be an archaic, cruel punishment too reminiscent of the Dark Ages. But former police officer and current criminal justice professor Peter Moskos thinks flogging could be one solution to many of the problems facing the criminal justice system — problems such as overcrowding. Moskos’ new book, In Defense of Flogging, lays out his argument. In an interview with Salon.com, Moskos said he thinks when compared to prison, flogging is “the lesser of two evils.”
“Taking away a significant chunk of someone’s life is far worse than any punishment that is virtually instantaneous,” he told Salon. “We should be honest about prison and recognize that we’re sentencing people to years of confinement and torture.”
Moskos admits that flogging isn’t a likely alternative to incarceration, but hopes his book will get people thinking outside the box. “I wanted to throw a hand grenade into this debate because I don’t really see it going anywhere,” he said.
Former Georgia congressman turned Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich is among a group of big name conservatives supporting a new NAACP study pushing for a major criminal justice system overhaul. The former U.S. House speaker has joined other fellow conservatives in promoting the civil rights organization’s latest report, highlighting racial disparities in incarceration rates and the imbalance between prison funding and education spending around the country. Dubbed “Misplaced Priorities,” it asserts there is an inverse relationship between exploding prison budgets and massive cutbacks in public higher education funding. “Over the past 20 years, nationwide spending on higher education increased by 21 percent, while corrections funding increased by 127 percent,” said Robert Rooks, director of NAACP Criminal Justice Programs. “Even during the recession, education budgets dropped while a majority of states have continued to increase the amount they spent on prisons. During that same time we’ve seen higher education costs in states being shifted to working families.”
Rooks said it is time for a major paradigm shift in regards to the nation’s criminal justice practices.
A New York Times story examines the possibility of the U.S. Supreme Court in the near future taking up the question of whether a life sentence for a killing committed by a juvenile constitutes a violation of the Eight Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. A year ago, the high court ruled such sentences did violate the Eighth Amendment in cases not involving a killing. According to the story by Adam Liptak and Lisa Faye Petak, such a decision would affect some 2,500 prisoners.
Governor Nathan Deal says juvenile justice system reform will likely be a critical part of a new bi-partisan initiative aimed at overhauling Georgia’s criminal justice system. “I would hope that we would be able to include juvenile justice in our review,” Gov. Deal told JJIE.org shortly after a news conference announcing the initiative at the state capitol Wednesday. “That is one of the fastest growing populations, so stemming that tide could play a major role in what we are trying to accomplish.”
State legislative leaders, including Supreme Court Justice Carol Hunstein, House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge), House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D-DeKalb), Attorney General Sam Olens and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle joined the governor in announcing plans to assemble a new special council that they will all take part in. Legislation introduced today by Rep. Jay Neal (R-LaFayette) calls for a council to study criminal justice reforms and make recommendations to a joint legislative committee no later than January 9, 2012. Rep. Neal’s HB 265 was touted as the “backbone” of the commission charged with providing solutions to Georgia’s high incarceration rate, the fourth highest in the country.
It’s not Scared Straight, but it will make you think. Here’s an intriguing way to start a discussion about prison reform. It’s a clever one-minute video from Good Magazine, which asks the question: What should be the goal of the U.S. prison system? Thanks to Benjamin Chambers at ReclaimingFutures.org for the tip.