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Judicial CP - February 1995

Corpun file 4877 at


Los Angeles Times, 4 February 1995

Caning for Tennessee Criminals Is Proposed

By Associated Press

NASHVILLE -- Two Tennessee legislators have introduced bills that would punish vandals, burglars and flag-burners by caning them on the courthouse steps.

Under the legislation introduced Thursday, misdemeanor violators would receive one to four lashes and felons would get five to 15 -- in addition to existing penalties of jail terms and fines.

Copyright (c) 1995 Times Mirror Company

blob Follow-up: 20 February 1995 - Tennessee legislator considers caning

Newsweek, New York, 6 February 1995

The Give 'Em Hell Judge

Justice With an Iron Fist

When Judge Walter Williams, a slender, soft-spoken man, puts on his black robes to preside over the municipal court in Chattanooga, Tenn., something happens. The unassuming 42-year-old suddenly turns into a figure out of the Old Testament: a fierce jurist whose voice booms as he exhorts wrongdoers to straighten themselves out.

Williams mugshotThat's the voice Stacey Hayes heard when he was arrested for assault in an alleged drive-by shooting a few years ago. Peering at Hayes in court, Williams decided the 18-year-old was not too old to learn from an old-fashioned trip to the woodshed. "He needed to be gotten under control," says the judge. So Williams asked Hayes's mother, Helen, if she would allow him to paddle her son. She agreed. Williams then took Hayes into chambers and whipped him.

"The judge did exactly what he should have done," says Mrs. Hayes. Young Hayes is now working and studying for his high-school diploma (per Williams's order). He calls the judge regularly to tell him about his progress.

Such calls are what Williams lives for. He grew up in a housing project and worked his way through Morehouse College and Howard law school and into the middle class. Many judges view the bench as a place for dispassionate discourse; Williams instead unabashedly sees himself as a red-hot advocate for self-help and personal responsibility.

Salvation is always possible: he orders defendants who haven't finished high school to get their equivalency degrees. (About 500 have done so in the four years Williams has been a judge.) He conditions probation for students on getting higher grades. And Williams specializes in requiring public acts of contrition and restitution. "Wrongs can't be fully righted without those things," says Williams.

A youth who broke into Chattanooga's Rock Island Baptist Church was sentenced to shine the pews. "I told him if he wanted to get in the church that bad, we'd certainly make it available to him," recalls Williams. And a prankster set off fire alarms at a busy hotel. Furious after squads of fire engines rushed to the scene, Williams ordered him to polish the department's trucks.

"You get retribution, and you get deterrence, because others see what happens when you break the law," Williams points out. "You only get real deterrence when people know there's a price to be paid."

Corpun file 1036 at

Newsday, New York, 8 February 1995

Nation Briefs compiled from news dispatches

Miss. House OKs Beating Criminals

The Mississippi House of Representatives gave its initial approval to a bill that would allow judges to sentence convicted criminals to corporal punishment or hard labor, officials said yesterday.

Ignoring warnings that such a law would only damage Mississippi's already notorious record on civil rights, the legislature's lower chamber voted 76-43 in what many representatives viewed as little more than an anticrime statement.

State officials said the measure must come up for a second House vote by Friday before going onto the Senate.

The measure would allow hard labor or beatings to be meted out as sentences for any felony not already punishable either by death or life imprisonment.


Copyright 1996, Newsday Inc.

Corpun file 0979 at


Morning Edition, National Public Radio, USA, 9 February 1995

Americans Think Prisoners Need a Good Caning

BOB EDWARDS, Host: At least six states are considering proposals to add caning as another weapon in the fight against crime. From California to New York, legislators have introduced bills to reinstitute some form of corporal punishment, but, no state has taken the issue more seriously than Mississippi. NPR's David Molpus reports.

DAVID MOLPUS, Reporter: Earlier this week a majority in the Mississippi House of Representatives voted to give judges the option of imposing paddling, whippings, or caning, when handing out sentences to convicted criminals. The corporal punishment could be in lieu of, or in addition to, a prison term. Supporters say it's a direct outgrowth of the caning last year of American teenager Michael Fay after his conviction on vandalism charges in Singapore.

Democratic Representative Tom Cameron of Greenville, Mississippi [sic], says the prospect of physical pain and public humiliation might help deter crime. He cites a T.V. show that featured a reporter interviewing American gang members involved in petty crimes.

Rep. TOM CAMERON (R-MS): And she asked these young kids, said, 'Would you do this if you were in Singapore where you could be caned for it?' And they looked at her and said, 'Absolutely not.' And one of them looked up and said, 'But, they'd never do that in the United States.' Well, I took it as a challenge, and I introduced a bill for corporal punishment and I spelled out that caning could be one of the things used, and certainly that may sound like a drastic measure, but, if crime is reached in drastic proportions, I think it will take a drastic measure to turn it back around.

DAVID MOLPUS: Critics say the legislation is the stuff of a police state. David Engerbretson [sp] is the director of the American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi.

DAVID ENGERBRETSON, Director, American Civil Liberties Union in Mississippi: We have a society who advanced to the point that we feel like that's just barbaric and it's mean and clearly cruel and unusual punishment and barred by the Constitution.

DAVID MOLPUS: Black lawmakers take particular offense at the corporal punishment proposal. None of the 32 black House members voted for it.

State Senator John Horn, the former director of State Tourism, says the bill amounts to 'Shooting ourselves in the foot. It's a throwback to the past,' Horn says, 'an image that Mississippi has been trying hard to overcome.'

Sen. JOHN HORN (D-MS): For a lot of black people and a lot of poor people in the state who have been unempowered for so long, the notion of corporal punishment harkens back to the days of sharecropping and, of course, of slavery, but, more recently of time spent in the penitentiary, where beatings were provided at will by whites. I think that this is racist legislation. People are not gonna be deterred by this.

DAVID MOLPUS: Supporters deny any racial intent and say steps can be taken to diffuse any racial fallout. When asked how it might look to have a white guard beating a black youth, or whether passions would be inflamed at the sight of a black guard beating a white prisoner, Representative Cameron said, 'No problem, we'll just have a native American do all the whippings,' end quote. Cameron says black politicians may not like it, but, he claims the idea of paddling criminals is very popular with rank-and-file black citizens.

Rep. TOM CAMERON: Because they're the ones that are living out there, they're living in a life of fear. They're living locked in their homes. This is slavery going on today, and it's time to free these people from this life of crime. Now, as to what image does it broadcast? People have called me from all over the United States saying, 'Hooray for Mississippi. How can we start it in our state?'

DAVID MOLPUS: The legislation now moves to the Mississippi Senate. Supporters and opponents say odds are it will win approval there too. Bills to allow canings or spankings in criminal cases also have been introduced in Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, New York, and California, but, so far, none of those states have moved the proposals forward. From Chapel Hill, North Carolina, I'm David Molpus reporting.

BOB EDWARDS: The time is 29 minutes past the hour.

[The preceding text has been professionally transcribed. However, in order to meet rigid distribution and transmission deadlines, it has not been proofread against audiotape and cannot, for that reason, be guaranteed as to the accuracy of speakers' words or spelling.]

Copyright 1995 National Public Radio. All Rights Reserved.

Corpun file 5593 at

Daily Beacon, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 20 February 1995

Tennessee legislator considers caning

By Linda Allison
Daily Beacon Staff Writer

Although teachers can no longer spank students when they misbehave [Far from universally true, and particularly not true in Tennessee in 1995 - C.F.], a new proposal in Tennessee would give the government the right to publicly cane crime offenders.

A new bill proposed by some Tennessee legislators would make public caning the punishment for some property crimes, including vandalism. Many strong opinions have been formed in response to this proposal.

Sen. Tommy Hahn, R-Tenn., is one of the legislators proposing the bill. Hahn said the recent Singapore caning case had a direct influence on the formulation of the bill.

Hahn said the proposal is a response to the lack of alternatives for crimes.

"What we're doing now is not working," Hahn said. "We are spending more money each and every year, and the problem is not getting better -- it's getting worse."

Hahn said he hopes the proposal will fulfill three objectives:

- to force society to acknowledge that a problem exists with crime and the current punishments.

- to send a message to the victims of crimes that their problem is heard.

- to promote lively discussion which might result in the discussion of alternatives.

"We are in the situation that unfortunately the more learned people generally lend themselves to criticism instead of formulating alternatives," Hahn said.

Neil Cohen, UT law professor, said public caning would send the wrong message to citizens.

"It is a reflection of frustration over lack of success of the methods we are trying to reduce crime," Cohen said, "It's also, to some extent, the product of viewing punishment as solution to crimes when the real solution to crime requires dealing with the underlying problems, such as poverty, value structures, and lack of respect for other people's property."

"Public caning would be a primitive, ineffective form of punishment which will bring ridicule to the state," Cohen said.

Copyright © 1995, The Daily Beacon. All rights reserved.

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