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Would You Choose Corporal Punishment Over Jail?

By Tanya Roth, Esq. | Last updated on

Are the days of flogging back? A Montana state lawmaker wants criminals to be given a choice: Serve jail time, or accept corporal punishment instead.

State Rep. Jerry O'Neil, a Republican, wants that option for all misdemeanor and felony convictions in Montana. The exact type of corporal punishment isn't spelled out in the bill. But what it does say is that corporal punishment will be "the infliction of physical pain on a defendant to carry out the sentence negotiated between the judge and the defendant."

Would you choose such an option?

O'Neil's bill, which hasn't even been assigned to a committee yet, calls for corporal punishment as an alternative to incarceration, The Huffington Post reports.

For those who know what actually goes on behind bars, this bill would seem to offer amnesty, of sorts, to any convict who chooses corporal punishment instead of jail or prison -- especially given the amount of "infliction of physical pain" that happens on the inside, as documented by groups like the ACLU and the Vera Institute of Justice.

But under O'Neil's bill, convicts will actually have to think about what they'd rather have: a boot to the behind (or whatever corporal punishment they negotiate with the judge) or the lockup, where fears of possible physical and sexual abuse could potentially become reality.

It will be interesting to see how O'Neil's fellow legislators react to his proposal. In Montana, corporal punishment is already prohibited in schools. Punishing criminals is a different matter, however.

The Eighth Amendment's prohibition against "cruel and unusual" punishment may play a role in this debate. Many types of corporal punishment in jail or prison are unconstitutional, especially when prison officials act with "deliberate indifference" to a prisoner's rights. But under O'Neil's bill, corporal punishment would only be inflicted if a defendant chooses that option.

Proponents of O'Neil's idea argue that it would reduce the strain on the overburdened prison system, and may serve as more of a deterrent than the "mental torture" of prison. They've even put forth studies on the efficacy of flogging in countries like Malaysia and other places where corporal punishment is commonly used in criminal cases.

Corporal punishment instead of jail may seem like an archaic request, but it isn't the first one made by Montana State Rep. Jerry O'Neil. Last year, O'Neil asked the state to pay him in gold and silver coins because he feared the U.S. dollar would collapse, HuffPo reports.

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