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Judicial CP - February 1895

Corpun file 19684


The New York Times, 21 February 1895

The Whipping-post Bill.

To be Reported, with Wife Beaters Exempted from its Provisions.

Press cutting
Press cutting

ALBANY, N.Y., Feb. 20. -- Commodore Elbridge T. Gerry of New-York City argued before the Senate Judiciary and the Assembly Codes Committee this afternoon in favor of his bill, which proposes to adopt the whipping post in this State as a punishment for certain offenses, in addition to the State prison sentence.

It provides that whenever a male person shall be convicted of a felony consisting in or accompanied by the inflicting of physical pain or suffering upon the person of another, the court wherein such conviction is had may in its discretion, in addition to the punishment now prescribed by law for such felony, direct the inflicting of corporal punishment upon such convict. The sentence shall specify the number of strokes or lashes, which shall not exceed forty in number, to be laid upon the bare back of the convict within a time specified, by mean of a whip or lash of suitable proportions and strength for the purpose. Such corporal punishment shall be inflicted by a keeper or other officer of the prison to be designated by the Warden, within the prison inclosure, and in the presence of such Warden and of a duly licensed physician or surgeon, but in the presence of no other person, and the Warden and physician or surgeon within thirty days thereafter shall certify in writing the fact of the inflicting to the court imposing the sentence.

Mr. Gerry gave a history of corporal punishment since first in vogue. That corporal punishment will stop and check certain crimes, he said, is shown by the lessening of garroting in England since corporal punishment was provided for in such cases. Such has been the case in the State of Delaware, where to-day almost every State prison offense is accompanied by corporal punishment. Corporal punishment is also in vogue in other States. There is no doubt of the deterrent effect of corporal punishment, and thus you decrease the inmates of our State prisons and aid materially in reducing the State taxes.

Mr. Gerry said that the whipping post would assure protection to citizens upon whom felonies are committed, such as burglary or highway robbery. Where now the victim would be struck to the ground or perhaps shot, in case the whipping post is provided for, the law-breakers who thus ply their vocation would take care not to make themselves liable to such punishment and would be satisfied with the robbery of their victim. He said this class of people were cowards and shrank from punishment, while they did not fear imprisonment.

Dr. Stillman of the Society for the Prevention of Crime discussed the probability of the bill remedying particular crimes. Statistics show that such crimes are increasing, and the bill offers the only means of putting a stop to this increase. Police Justices favor the bill, and, he believed, it would successfully deal with such offenses. Other States have tried corporal punishment and approve its results.

Senator O'Connor asked if it would be agreeable to amend the bill as suggested by Senator Cantor, so that the punishment be for assaults on children under sixteen and on females.

Senator Pound said that then it should be mandatory.

Mr. [sic] Stillman agreed to the first suggestion. He felt, however, it should be discretionary with magistrates. Senator O'Connor suggested that in first offenses it should be permissive. Mr. Gerry also approved of this. Dr. Stillman said he believed public opinion favored the bill. Even the so-called "sentimentalists" believe a good cowhiding would sometimes do good. Speaking as a medical man, he heartily favored just such punishment for the despoilers of children. He believed society has the right to adopt radical measures to stop such crimes, and that vigorous corporal punishment is just what is required.

The committee will to-morrow report favorably Senator O'Connor's Gerry Whipping Post bill, amended so that corporal punishment may be inflicted on persons assaulting a female or child of either sex under the age of sixteen years. Wife beaters, whom Mr. Gerry was anxious to reach as well, are exempted from the provisions of the bill.

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