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Gannett News Service, 6 June 1994
Bamboo Canes On Sale
By Richard Pearsall
PALMYRA, N.J. -- Amid the antiques, the baseball cards and the other "trash and treasure" on sale at the weekly flea market here was something new this Saturday: The Cane.
The 5-foot bamboo switch -- a replica of the kind used to punish vandals in Singapore -- was on sale for $3.99, along with a T-shirt carrying an anti-graffiti message.
"We sold out," said William Creagh, president of the group selling the novelties.
The T-shirt depicts a spray paint can inside the international "no" symbol.
On the back is a message reminiscent of the "The Club," an anti-car theft device advertised on television: "Since I bought The Cane, graffiti is down 85 percent in my neighborhood."
It also shows a kid with a paint can, getting slapped.
Creagh concedes that his company, Infinite Investments, is trying to cash in on the controversy surrounding the caning of American Michael Fay in Singapore last month.
But, he says, "we're not stating how we feel about the matter, one way or another. We're just trying to look at the concept in a humorous manner."
Creagh said that no one has objected to the canes or the T-shirts but declined to give his company's address, other than to say it's in Philadelphia.
The canes, he points out, are labeled "for display only."
Fay, an 18-year-old high school senior, was given four lashes with a bamboo cane May 6 in Singapore after he was found guilty of several acts of vandalism, including spray-painting an automobile.
The caning set off a debate in the United States on corporal punishment. While some assailed it as cruel, others suggested that America would do well to imitate Singapore to crack down on what they view as runaway crime.
Copyright 1994, Gannett News Service, a division of Gannett Satellite Information Network, Inc.
Los Angeles Times, 28 June 1994
Conroy Wants Paddle Opinion Reconsidered
SACRAMENTO -- Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) is asking the chief attorney for the Legislature to reconsider his legal opinion that paddling graffiti vandals as punishment for their crimes would be unconstitutional.
Inspired by the caning in Singapore of an American teen-ager convicted of vandalizing cars, Conroy has proposed a bill that calls for juvenile offenders guilty of graffiti crimes to receive up to 10 whacks on the buttocks with a wooden paddle. The bill, AB 150 X, is scheduled to be heard today before the Assembly Committee on Public Safety.
However, the controversial bill has run into opposition. Legislative Counsel Bion Gregory issued an opinion May 31 concluding that the Conroy bill would violate the federal and state constitutions, which outlaw cruel and unusual punishment.
In a letter to Gregory on Monday, Conroy said he disagreed with Gregory's legal interpretation.
"The assemblyman is concerned that the legislative counsel may not have spent enough time researching this subject so we had some research done on our own," said Pete Conaty, Conroy's chief of staff.
Conaty said the Republican consultant found that strictly monitored paddling of juveniles would not necessarily constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Copyright (c) 1994 Times Mirror Company
Los Angeles Times, 29 June 1994
Panel OKs Paddling for Graffiti Vandalism
Assembly bill would allow four to 10 whacks in court. Speaker Brown vows to kill the measure.
By Eric Bailey
SACRAMENTO -- Prodded by growing public dismay over graffiti, a key Assembly committee approved a landmark bill Tuesday allowing Juvenile Court judges to punish youthful taggers by ordering that they be whacked up to 10 times with a wooden paddle.
If enacted, the measure would reinstitute court-ordered corporal punishment in the United States for the first time in more than four decades, legal scholars say.
The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4 to 1 for the bill by Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, an Orange County Republican who was inspired by the caning in Singapore of an American teen-ager accused of spray-painting cars.
Conroy's measure appeared to face long odds in the Public Safety Committee, which historically has been a graveyard for Republican crime bills. But two Democrats joined with a pair of Republicans to push the legislation forward.
It still must survive another committee hearing and an Assembly floor vote, where Speaker Willie Brown has vowed to defeat the bill, before it can move to the Senate. Gov. Pete Wilson has indicated his support for the bill.
The Public Safety Committee added a sunset clause requiring the Legislature to renew its approval after paddling is given a three-year trial run.
The committee endorsed the measure despite vocal opposition from the American Civil Liberties Union and other foes, who questioned the measure's constitutionality and effectiveness while calling Conroy's effort election-year posturing.
"The beating of offenders as a form of punishment runs contrary to the fundamental notions of decency in our justice system," said Francisco Lobaco, ACLU legislative director. "It's really not the way to solve the issue. State-sponsored violence is not an answer or a solution. I think it's a horrible idea."
Cathy Dreyfuss, legislative advocate for California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, described the bill as "court-sanctioned child abuse." MaryAnn Memmer of the California PTA said Conroy's proposed punishment would prove profoundly ineffective: "Hard-core gang criminals will not be deterred by a swat from a paddle."
Conroy, however, portrayed his legislation as a firm way to steer errant youths away from destructive, gang-related activities such as violence and drugs. He also cited the high cost of graffiti cleanup and paraded half a dozen experts before the committee to provide vivid testimony about the violent intentions gang members sometimes express through graffiti.
"By spraying their gang markings and taggings all over their communities, these hoodlums commit the worst of all crimes possible -- they create an environment of fear and despair for the innocent, law-abiding citizens living in these afflicted neighborhoods and communities," Conroy said. "As many residents who live in such areas will tell you, once the graffiti moves into their communities, the crime and violence is quick to follow."
Conroy contends that traditional forms of punishment, such as putting juvenile offenders in California Youth Authority facilities, are seen by hardened teen-agers as a badge of honor and do little to curb graffiti.
Conroy's bill would allow a judge to order a parent to deliver four to 10 strokes with a wooden paddle in the courtroom. If the parent declined or the judge found the spanking unsatisfactory, a bailiff would do the paddling. The paddle would be 3/4 of an inch thick, 18 inches long and 6 inches wide, with a 6-inch handle.
In addition, the bill requires that the names of juvenile offenders who get the paddle be made public, a tactic designed to heighten the humiliation and deter other would-be taggers.
Conroy began pursuing the idea after being prodded by constituents and staff members caught up in the highly publicized debate over the Singapore case. Michael Fay, an 18-year-old high school senior from Dayton, Ohio, got four strokes of a rattan cane May 5 after being found guilty of vandalism.
Some critics worry that Conroy's proposal and similar ideas circulating in Florida, Maryland and Texas could begin to tug the country back toward a style of courtroom punishment abandoned decades ago.
Many critics cite research showing that corporal punishment can lead to embitterment, anger and post-traumatic stress while teaching impressionable youths the contradictory lesson that violence is the way to solve problems.
The constitutionality of Conroy's bill remains in the eye of the beholder. The California legislative counsel's office, which provides legal opinions to state legislators, said Conroy's bill is unconstitutional, but the staff counsel for the Public Safety Committee said that the issue remains "an open question" and that there is "no bright line" setting the limit for what is cruel and unusual punishment.
Conroy also has been particularly optimistic because U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia predicted in a recent talk that caning, a far more brutal form of punishment than paddling, could pass the high court's muster.
Copyright (c) 1994 Times Mirror Company
The Houston Chronicle, Texas, 29 June 1994
San Antonio official seeks law with sting
Paddling teens for graffiti urged
By Richard Stewart
A San Antonio city councilman is calling for a bottom-warming punishment for teen-age graffiti artists: four to 10 licks with a wooden paddle administered by their own parents in a public courtroom.
Councilman Lyle Larson called for corporal punishment for the Class C misdemeanor offense this week during a session of the San Antonio Crime Commission, which he chairs.
The 50-member commission advises City Council regarding minor criminal offenses and their punishments. Handling of more serious crimes is regulated by the state.
Larson's suggestion -- he said he'd formally propose it to City Council this summer -- drew criticism from civil liberties groups and others.
Larson, though, Tuesday defended his suggestion.
"I don't think it's a weird idea," Larson said. "It's something that had been done in school for the last 200 years. . .It's a way of telling young folks that there are consequences to their actions."
Under Larson's proposal, parents of a teen-ager found guilty of violating the city's anti-graffiti ordinance would have to approve the paddling before it would be administered.
The parent could wield the paddle or allow a court bailiff to administer the punishment .
If a municipal judge deemed a parent was not swinging the 6-by-18-inch wooden paddle with sufficient vigor, a court officer could be called upon to take over.
Parents could opt to have their child fined up to $200 rather than be paddled, Larson said.
He also proposed that parents who opt against paddling be forced to join their child in cleaning up graffiti as a public service.
"Let the parents get out there and get to know their little darlings," Larson said.
Larson, 35, said San Antonio's graffiti problem is no worse than that of other medium-size cities. "I don't think it's going to be a total cure of the problem," Larson admitted. "I think it will be a deterrent to those kids who are basically good and have just gotten a little out of line."
He said he benefited from a paddling he received as a seventh-grader for pitching quarters with other students. "I never did that again," he said. "I won't even go into a casino now."
Larson said he did not get the idea for his proposal from the recent caning in Singapore of American teen-ager Michael Fay. Instead, he said, it was based on a similar ordinance proposed in Sacramento, Calif., and that state laws are being discussed in California and Texas.
San Antonio attorney Michael Bernard, president of the city's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, called Larson's proposal "child beating."
"What happens the first time we get a noncompliant 17-year-old?" Bernard said. "Do a bunch of bailiffs get together and tie him up to a whipping post? I guess we can put a public whipping post in front of the Alamo."
He characterized the idea of public paddling as "silly and out of date by 50 years."
"Recent federal court opinions don't allow corporal punishment of prisoners," Bernard said. "If you can't beat prisoners, you can't beat misdemeanor defendants.
"You're not going to get a bailiff to do it or a judge to order it or anybody with the guts to watch it," Bernard said.
State District Judge Andy Mireles, who serves on the crime commission with Larson, said he understands why Larson and others favor corporal punishment . The judge said, however, that he doubts corporal punishment would do anything to take the violence and crime out of modern society.
"I hope we're not at a state where we have to take physical retaliation on young people," Mireles said.
He said many offenders are from single-parent families. Some mothers may be afraid to impose corporal punishment against a 14- or 15-year-old son who is out of control, he said.
"We don't paddle kids accused of capital murder," Mireles said. "Why should we paddle them for a Class C misdemeanor?"
San Antonio attorney Neal Lane predicted that the paddling proposal would be struck down by federal courts if San Antonio enacts it.
"I don't think the government should be in the business of corporal punishment," Lane said. "There is no indication that corporal punishment is an effective form of punishment."
Los Angeles Times, 30 June 1994
Graffiti-Spanking Bill Clears Committee
By Jennifer Oldham
A state Assembly bill that would allow judges to order parents to spank juvenile graffiti vandals with a hardwood paddle in a public courtroom has passed its first hurdle in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Committee members voted 4 to 1 this week to approve the measure, known as Assembly Bill 150. The bill was drafted by Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) and co-authored by Assemblyman James Rogan (R-Glendale).
The proposal, drafted in response to what Conroy characterized as "public outrage over an explosion of graffiti," will travel next week to the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.
The measure is far from becoming law, however, as it must receive the go-ahead from the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, the entire Assembly and Senate, and then signed into law by the governor.
If it passes, the bill would mark the first time any United States lawmaker has successfully introduced corporal-punishment legislation in this century, said Conroy spokesman Chris Manson.
The measure would require youths under the age of 18 who are convicted of graffiti vandalism to receive from four to 10 whacks with an 18-inch-long, 6-inch-wide and 3/4-inch-thick wood paddle from their parents in front of a judge.
If the parents refuse to punish their child, the judge can order the bailiff to administer the spanking. The bill would also require court officials to release the names of convicted vandals to the public.
Copyright (c) 1994 Times Mirror Company
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