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Judicial CP - May 1994

USA Today, 6 May 1994

Bring back the switch

By Peter B. Gemma, Jr.

Michael Fay wreaked thousands of dollars of damage during weeks of vandalism in Singapore. Yet the four strokes he received across his rear end as part of his punishment have been described as harsh.

That's a difficult charge to defend, coming from a country where 24 million of us fall victim to violent crime each year -- that's 46 people each minute of every day -- and where there's been a 500% increase in crime during the past 30 years.

And it's a particularly difficult charge to pin on Singapore, whose 3 million citizens suffered just 60 murders and 80 rapes last year.

Perhaps Singapore is onto something in its understanding of crime and punishment practices that our U.S. "experts" are overlooking.

Our society is awash in statistics that scream for changes in the treatment of criminal behavior: 30% of murders, 25% of rapes and 40% of robberies are committed by felons on parole, bail or probation.

Caning criminals' backsides hard enough so that the guilty parties carry a scar as a reminder of their illicit behavior may be too much of a culture shock to impose on the USA.

Possibly the tide of violent crime isn't high enough yet. Or maybe there's still more money to be collected by the tax man to build even more jails.

On the other hand, reintroducing corporal punishment into our justice system would be of positive benefit.

Indeed, corporal punishment was an option of some local courts as recently as the 1940s.

Applying a switch to the bottoms of young people, not scarring but certainly scaring them, could be in some cases more humane -- and effective -- than simply locking up young punks with their more experienced criminal elders.

Viewing lawbreakers as misguided misfits in need of training and education is only half true -- and obviously ineffective. Responsibility and retribution are vital factors long missing in our treatment of illegal behavior.

Corporal punishment -- an old enough idea to seem new -- is an effective deterrent that should be part of the mix of options available to communities under siege from criminals of all ages.

Copyright 1994, USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Co., Inc.

Asian Week, San Francisco, 6 May 1994

State Assembly Candidate Wants to Whip Criminals' Butts, Then Castrate Them

By Gerard Lim

CERRITOS (CA) -- He's serious. If you're a convicted rapist, Dr. Daniel Wong wants to cane your buttocks and remove your testicles. By the way, he's running for state Assembly in California's 56th District.

In a campaign season which has seen crime rise to the top of the list of politicians' concerns, Wong is privy to the basic instincts of the voting population. The people want blood spilt, or so Wong believes, and he is more than willing to help.

As his peers running for elected office champion "three strikes, you' re out," Wong wants to see just how far politicians and voters are truly willing to go when it comes to punishing criminals. As he puts it, "This country is being run by morons and idiots."

He is trying to become the Republican representative who will try to unseat incumbent Democrat Bob Epple. However, Wong will first have to get by fellow GOP candidates Phil Hawkins and Vinod Dave.

He cannot be considered an outsider with a fringe doctrine since he is arguably the most recognizable candidate of the three gunning for his traditionally right-of-center district. He has already served four terms on the Cerritos City Council and two terms as the mayor of Cerritos.

As a physician/surgeon/obstetrician who has delivered more than a thousand infants over the last 21 years, Wong apparently knows his medicine, and he believes that caning, as forceful punishment and effective crime deterrent, is not only safe, but virtually necessary.

"Tough punishment has a role in society," Wong says. "Just like animals that we can train in the zoo, we can use it as a form of reward and punishment...[caning] is very civilized and humane." While he was growing up, Wong's parents disciplined their son by striking him with a rattan stick to the point where "I could see the red lines on my body." He finds it ironic that he could technically sue his parents today on the grounds of child abuse.

Caning is still a mainstay in many Asian countries, and the controversial practice has received its fair share of the international spotlight in recent weeks because of the Michael Fay case in Singapore. The timing could not have been better for Wong to expound on the virtues of caning as he sees them.

"My opponents think I'm crazy," says Wong, who is also the host and a singer for the Southland cable variety program "Eyes on You," which normally addresses current topics of debate and politics. "They tell me I'm advocating torture, that caning is inhumane, that I'm taking away the civil and human rights of the rapist. Didn't he take away the civil and human rights of the women?"

His eye-for-an-eye philosophy and claims that he represents the voiceless segment of blue-collar America has brought on comparisons to Ross Perot. Here's the deal: as a Chinese American who places law and order, along with jobs, education and health care, as his top platform concerns, Wong views his candidacy as "a test to see just how tough people want it. "He says he is running as an American, not as an Asian or Chinese, and his "object is to serve all people."

He has become disillusioned with America's laws. "This country is too free...if a law exists, but it's not for you, then it's not there, " says Wong, a reserve deputy with the L.A. County Sheriff's Department and a member of its criminal task force, where he handles a good number of armed-robbery cases.

"If there is a deliberate violent crime committed, then there should be no mercy," Wong says. "It shouldn't matter if it's a 13-year-old boy. If you don't believe the boy should get [caned], then the mother should go. There is a chain of command."

He says convicted criminals are cancers within society, and that increasingly overcrowded prisons, where taxpayers are "forced to babysit him," are not the answer. Many prisons, he argues, represent a step up for criminals.

"Prisons should have no air conditioning and no place to go," Wong says. "But the system guarantees convicted criminals three decent meals, shelter, recreation and even nursing care. For many illegal aliens, that's the American dream."

He makes no bones about his stance. "If you commit a specific crime, the law should say we're now going to cane you 10 times. And after you heal, we're going to remove your two testicles and rehabilitate you," Wong says. "Even though your voice will be higher, they say that if you castrate a male horse, he'll run ahead of the pack. You can still be a productive member of society."

Wong says his medical background -- he got his degree from the University of Utah -- lends his beliefs credence. "If you hit a 200-pounder on his buttocks, he probably won't feel much, compared to say hitting Vincent Chin in his head with a baseball bat to the point where his brains are spilling out -- now that is an uncontrolled, brutal act.

"If you hit the part of the body where there is the most muscle and fat, and where there is a long way to go before reaching bone, then it's very civilized and humane," he adds. "A law is a law. Does it mean you intend to violate or challenge the law if the sentence is lighter?"

Wong is especially disheartened over the increasing numbers of broken families in American society and is quick to point his finger at the cause. "If each parent took care of their own, we'd be much better off. Unfit parents help create a violent society," he says. "I am so cold because there is injustice in this society."

The primary election for Wong and other state candidates is June 7.

Corpun file 03908
Las Vegas Sun, Nevada, 17 May 1994

Vegan tries to whip up a cane business

By Hollis L. Engley
Gannett News Service

If you have any doubt that U.S. capitalism can beat just about anyone, meet Al Ullom, a Las Vegas businessman who's just imported 10,000 genuine rattan whipping canes from Singapore.

Al Ullom with canes"About three weeks ago I was talking with a friend about caning ... and he wondered what (the canes) were like. I said, 'Let's go over there and find out.' I did it on a whim. I got interested in them and thought maybe I could sell a bunch of them."

His friend couldn't go, but Ullom got right on the plane and flew to Singapore.

The tightly controlled East Asia nation recently gave 18-year-old American Michael Fay a prison sentence, a fine and four controversial whacks with a rattan cane for vandalizing several Singaporean automobiles. Fay lived in Singapore with his mother and her second husband.

Corporal punishment is a bequest of the British, who once governed Singapore.

Ullom, who operates a permanent makeup business in Las Vegas, says when he arrived in Singapore he went to the rattan factory that sells whipping canes to the country's prison system. Rattan is hard and stiff and most familiar in this country for its use in patio furniture.

"They're four foot by a half inch," he says. "And solid. I told them to make them exactly like the ones they sell to the prison."

Ullom says he's told they're the same kind of cane used to punish Michael Fay.

"I'll tell you, Singapore is pretty much crime-free," he says. "There's very little crime over there. It's a very nice place.

"It's a country where I didn't see any drugs. In fact, they just hung a couple of people for drugs."

Ullom expects to wholesale his canes through Las Vegas souvenir stores, but he's willing to sell one by phone. Or 10, for that matter. Retail price is $19.95 each. His phone number if 732-0353.

Ullom doesn't want his mailing address used. He doesn't want kookie people knowing it.

"I've had a lot of phone calls," he says, "from people who are upset."

Baltimore Sun, 23 May 1994

A call for justice, Singapore-style

Sacramento politician musters support for paddling juvenile vandals in public

By Ellen Uzelac
Special to The Sun

SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Not that long ago, California lawmakers were creating commissions on happiness and self-esteem and penning bills of rights for prisoners. One governor even had his own guru.

Now, the capital is happily abuzz over a Sacramento councilman's proposal that graffiti vandals be subjected to Singapore-style justice: paddlings.

Where have all the love beads gone?

"We've tried holding hands. We've tried psychiatry. We've tried penalizing parents," said City Councilman Josh Pane, the 35-year-old lobbyist who has floated the proposal. "And none of that has worked."

"We're all tired of these gutless little punks. Next thing we know, they'll put down their spray guns and pick up handguns," he said. "I'm not saying we need to break skin or make them bleed, but society needs justice."

While it's not clear how far the mood of the moment will push corporal punishment into practice, Sacramento is not alone in considering it. And there is at least some legal precedent to suggest that such a law might be constitutionally enforceable.

Informal polls have indicated widespread local support for paddling juvenile graffiti "taggers", who caused more than $1 million in property damage in Sacramento last year.

An unscientific telephone survey of more than 3,000 callers conducted by KCRA-TV showed 81 per cent in support of paddling. Since he disclosed his paddling proposal last Monday, Mr. Pane has been a guest on radio shows originating in Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Seattle and Salt Lake City.

Meanwhile, there seems to be some evidence that the idea might be catching on: A councilman in Cincinnati, Charles Winburn, has talked to Mr. Pane's staff about the possibility of introducing a similar measure in his city.

"We're gathering information at this time," Pam Brown, Mr. Winburn's assistant, said last week. "The councilman is still gathering all the facts."

Friday, St. Louis Alderman Freeman Boseley Sr. proposed public caning as a punishment for graffiti vandals, saying a whipping or two never hurt his own son, Freeman Bosley Jr. -- who is now mayor of St. Louis. The Board of Aldermen appeared cool toward the idea, effectively burying it by voting to hold a hearing on it, Reuters reported.

Singapore inspiration

Mr. Pane, a Republican who has served on the council for five years, said that his proposal was inspired by the controversial caning of American teen-ager Michael Fay in Singapore earlier this month. Mr. Fay received four lashes with a rattan cane on his bare buttocks after pleading guilty to vandalism. His mandatory sentence of six lashes was reduced after an appeal by President Clinton. Many Americans supported the flogging.

Indeed, the issue generated nearly 1,900 calls to The Sun's own reader response line on a single day at the height of the controversy -- the large majority in support of the caning.

Under the Pane proposal, vandals would be spanked at last six times with a wooden paddle in Sacramento's Plaza Park, one block from the state Capitol. The paddling proposal -- still in the making -- is unclear about whether the vandal's bottom would be bared and just who would do the spanking.

Not everyone is in favor of turning Sacramento into Paddling Capital U.S.A.

On Thursday, the Sacramento News & Review asked, in an editorial called "Josh The Barbarian": "And then there are the politicians who assault not just our intelligence but civility itself ... Should we cut off their wagging tongues before more damage is done?"

Michael Picker, chief of staff to Mayor Joseph Serna, would only say: "Councilman Pane should be spanked, and that's the end of it."

Public support

Dan McGrath, a columnist for the Sacramento Bee, called Mr. Pane's proposal a "crackpot idea," but he said the majority of his many callers support public paddling.

"There is such a feeling of helplessness," he said. "People hear about juvenile crime, but they don't see it. [Graffiti] is something they see. People aren't offended by the idea or appalled by it -- they're appalled by the graffiti."

Graffiti vandalism has escalated in this tidy, tree-lined city of 400,000 in the past two years, and in recent months it has swept into some of Sacramento's most affluent, established neighborhoods.

Walking through the state Capitol on Thursday, Mr. Pane was waved down every few steps by supporters of public paddling. "I'm all for you," shouted one tour guide. "You're just brave enough to say what everyone else is thinking."

"Democrats for Pane!" yelled another woman. Art Croney, a lobbyist for a Christian law-and-order organization, noted: "Even Jesus was flogged." And Jeane Bolton, a retired jazz singer, said: "This is all my friends and I have been talking about. I'm just tired of America going to hell. At least, this is a beginning. What's cruel and unusual is to allow things to go on as they are."

Referendum possible

Mr. Pane hopes to introduce the measure -- to create the penalty of public paddling in Sacramento and to support it statewide -- at a City Council meeting in coming weeks. If the measure fails to pass -- and even he admits that its fate is uncertain because of "political correctness" -- he vowed to "take it to the people" in the form of a referendum.

Although he is still studying the legal implications, Mr. Pane said that a Supreme Court ruling in 1977 originating in Dade County, Fla., upheld spankings in schools as constitutional.

Irwin Hyman, director of the Philadelphia-based National Center For The Study Of Corporal Punishment And Alternatives, said that while the 1977 Supreme Court ruling permitted schoolchildren to be paddled, it spares convicted criminals from the rod. He acknowledged, however, that there is debate on that issue among constitutional scholars.

'Middle Ages' idea

"These people should have lived in the 1700s," said Mr. Hyman, who believes that the paddling of children can cause such psychological damage as post-traumatic stress syndrome. "By the 1800s, we stopped doing that stuff. This would have been in style in the Middle Ages."

Francisco Lobaco, California's legislative director for the American Civil Liberties Union, maintained that public paddling was "cruel and unusual" punishment and therefore unconstitutional. Yet, he acknowledged public support. "Look, California has the toughest criminal justice laws in the country. This touchy-feely stuff doesn't apply to criminal laws, that's for sure. What people don't understand is that this issue is a lot more complicated than beating kids."

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Mickey Conroy, a Republican from Orange County, said he was working on a statewide bill that would allow the courtroom paddling of graffiti vandals.

"I don't know," he said. "I'm thinking a minimum of four whacks."

A retired Marine Corps pilot, Mr. Conroy said that he intends to introduce the bill at a special legislative session on crime in two weeks.

"I was spanked in school," he said. "We won World War II with people who were raised like that. So what's wrong with it?"

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