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Los Angeles Times, 1 July 1994
Informed Opinions on Today's Topics
The Pros, Cons of Paddling for Graffiti Taggers
By Maki Becker
Inspired by the recent caning of Michael Fay, the American teen-ager convicted of graffiti vandalism in Singapore, Assemblyman Mickey Conroy (R-Orange) has authored a bill allowing judges to punish taggers by ordering them to be spanked with a wooden paddle.
The bill was approved Tuesday by the Assembly Public Safety Committee and will now go on to a second committee hearing. It then will be voted on by the full Assembly floor and, if approved, will be sent to the Senate. Under the bill, judges can order parents to paddle an offending tagger under the age of 18 with a wooden paddle between four and 10 times. If parents refuse, then the bailiff would be required to administer the public paddling.
Should graffiti vandals be paddled?
Allan Parachini, public affairs director of the American Civil Liberties Union:
"The Conroy Bill is a shameless publicity stunt that has no prayer of deterring the gang members that produce the graffiti we all fear. What Mr. Conroy wants to do is substitute the constitution of Singapore for the Constitution of the United States and not only would that compromise our system of government, but it would have no effect on the problem he identifies.
"The Singapore constitution permits severe corporal punishment and that is at odds with the American system. . . . The unfortunate thing is that there is such a rush-hour traffic jam of political opportunism to take advantage of people's fear of crime that legislators like Mr. Conroy are trying to outdo each other with the outlandishness of their proposals. . . . This only diverts attention from the kind of programs that we should be trying to develop."
Jeff Horton, member of the Los Angeles Board of Education, who represents part of the east San Fernando Valley.
"I'm against paddling graffiti vandals. I don't think that paddling is a very effective way of getting young people to behave in a responsible way and I think, if anything, it would simply create more angry young people. . . . What we need to do is to find (out what) satisfaction they're not getting out of their school and home lives that leads them to want to write on other people's walls.
"If we can give them that satisfaction, then they won't have to write on walls. People write on walls to make their mark on the world and if they can (they will) make their mark on the world through school or work or some other activity that's not destructive to other people's property. They need more jobs, more opportunities."
Jack Gold, Superior Court Commissioner, Juvenile Court in Sylmar:
"I don't think paddling would be a bad idea. I think it would work. It works in other places like Singapore and there's no graffiti in Singapore. But I don't think that our elected officials would ever let this pass because they never listen to the majority of the voters anyway. . . . I say, put it on the ballot and let the majority talk. I would vote for it."
Pat Dingsdale, president of the California State Parent Teachers Assn.:
"Our position is to oppose that bill and to let that committee know that corporal punishment may temporarily suppress them, but it doesn't teach them new behavior and that's what we need to do. Clinical research backs us up on that. That type of punishment does not promote relearning. What does is working with children where they are praised and rewarded and helping them to establish a positive self-concept. . . . In our minds, teaching violence is not the way to solve these problems."
Copyright (c) 1994 Times Mirror Company
Follow-up: 11 August 1994: Bill to Paddle Graffiti Vandals Dies in Tie Vote
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