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Judicial CP - March 1995

Daily Telegraph, London, 6 March 1995

US moves to regain whip hand on crime

By Stephen Robinson
in Washington

A MOVEMENT to restore corporal punishment is sweeping America in the wake of the Republican takeover of Congress and the caning last year in Singapore of an American teenage vandal.

Measures to restore caning are up for consideration in the legislatures in California and New York state. In Tennessee, state delegates plan to make the punishment a public spectacle on the court-house steps.

A young American named Michael Fay inadvertently set off the revolution last year when he was caught spray-painting in Singapore. He was sentenced to a fine and six lashes with a cane, reduced to four after President Bill Clinton intervened.

Far from uniting in outrage at Fay's treatment, Americans decided the cane could be deployed at home. "The intent is to create fear in criminals," said Mr Tom Cameron, a leading hanging and flogging Republican member of the Mississippi legislature. "I look at Singapore and you can walk all around the streets. If it works in Singapore, maybe it'll work here."

Governor Kirk Fordice, who told voters he wanted to make Mississippi the "capital of capital punishment", is backing the move.

The trend is strongest in the rural Deep South, where people are affected by crimes previously associated with big cities.

Black office holders are mainly opposed to reviving beatings. Mr John Horn, of the Mississippi Senate, said the campaign was "racist" and harked back to the days of slavery.

Mr Cameron is ready to take the racial sting out of flogging. He has offered his black opponents a compromise - have the caning done by an American Indian.

Civil liberty activists say that caning violates the Constitution, which bans "cruel and unusual punishment". Yet many scholars believe the Supreme Court would rule in favour of the rod, given the concern about crime.

Corpun file 06961

Houston Chronicle, Texas, 12 March 1995

Movement for caning in U.S. beginning to be taken seriously

By Larry Copeland
Knight-Ridder Tribune News

ATLANTA -- When Ohio teen-ager Michael Fay was sentenced to a caning last May in Singapore, many Americans -- preoccupied with crime in their own streets and frustrated by their increasing sense of powerlessness to combat it -- applauded.

Ten months later, the frustration endures, and has fueled a growing movement at the state and local level to institute beatings for convicted criminals.

Proposed punishments range from the paddling of juvenile graffiti writers in California and New York, to the caning of convicts in Mississippi, to the beating of felons on the county courthouse steps in Tennessee.

"I got the idea from the Fay caning," said state Rep. Doug Gunnels, co-sponsor of the Tennessee bill. "That probably is a pretty good deterrent. Right now, what we have for these crimes is not a punishment. It may be an inconvenience, but it's not a punishment."

Some critics charge that politicians pushing don't-spare-the-rod efforts, all of which reportedly enjoy overwhelming public support, are practicing leadership by opinion poll.

"It's sort of a knee-jerk response to crime," said Nadine Block, coordinator of the National Coalition to Abolish Corporal Punishment in Schools, based in Columbus, Ohio. "Right now, it seems like we're in a more punitive time. I don't know if I've seen one quite like this before."

Further, because any discussion of crime in America seems impossible without including the issue of race, the move toward corporal punishment has led to some racial divisiveness, particularly here in the Deep South.

For many people here, the bloody past has not yet receded far enough for public whippings to be a viable option: It was just last month that the Mississippi Senate formally abolished slavery.

For too many here, the mental picture of a caning in the courthouse square resonates too closely with the cultural memory of the runaway slave led shackled back to the plantation and given 40 lashes as an example.

The idea of whippings for lawbreaking adults had surfaced periodically from place to place over the years, but few took it seriously.

Until last year.

In May, Michael Fay, an 18-year-old high school senior from Dayton, was arrested for painting graffiti on parked cars and for other acts of vandalism in the island nation of Singapore. He was convicted and sentenced to six strokes with a rattan cane and four months in jail, and ordered to pay a $2,230 fine.

As the case gained international notoriety, President Clinton appealed repeatedly to Singapore for clemency, and got the number of strokes reduced to four.

Back home, public opinion polls indicated that a majority of Americans supported the Singapore authorities.

Some politicians quickly tapped into that vein of discontent.

In New York, Republican State Sen. Serphin Maltese enjoyed an outpouring of public support last month when he introduced a paddling bill.

Maltese's proposal, which has not been acted on by either house, would give judges the option to sentence graffiti writers ages 13 to 18 to up to 10 strokes on their clothed buttocks with a -inch-thick hardwood paddle.

Under Maltese's proposal, the paddling would be done in the judge's chambers, either by the young defendant's parent or by a court bailiff.

Corpun file 01092
Washington Informer, 22 March 1995

Is Caning A Maryland Option?

By Christy B. Day

Caning as a viable punishment in the Free State is not being considered by members of the Legislative Black Caucus and many other elected officials in the Maryland General Assembly. The House Bill would make caning a means of punishing for juvenile offenders in hopes of deterring youth crime involvement. While some consider caning tough love, others view it as a mockery of blind justice.

Proposed by Del. Clarence "Tiger" Davis, a Baltimore city Democrat, the bill would allow offenders 14 and older to receive lashes across the back with a rattan cane. The number of blows would be left to the judges discretion, and the crimes range from destruction of property to theft. According to reports these offenses are the predecessors to the heinous crimes that turn young boys into hardened criminals.

While some may agree with the premise of the caning bill, others question it? In this, the age when child psychologist gasp at the thought of parents using physical force to discipline their children, it is hard to understand how caning could effectively stop juvenile criminal activity.

"It doesn't teach the principal of non-aggressive behavior," explained Dr. Charles Stokes, professor at Bowie State University. "Once someone is caned, they may grow to resent more the person or the system that administered the punishment," Stokes continued.

Among the host of complaints by Black law makers is the disproportionate number of African Americans subject to the canings if it is implemented. "This is more of a class issue, said Stokes. "The fact that a disproportionate number of African Americans make up the lower socioeconomic scale, " he said.

In most area school systems, a committed effort to establish conflict resolution/peer mediation has resulted in a new way to handle conflict in the 1990s. No longer do youngsters who have gotten into trouble make that long, dreaded journey down beige and brown checkered-floor halls into the principal's office for ten lashes across the "hind parts." According to Dr. Rita Robinson, Director of Pupil Services for Prince George's County Schools, "It's been a long time since the county endorsed paddling. That only teaches the message that violence begets violence." And she feels just as strongly against the proposed caning legislation.

"Violence is about control, and I believe any type of physical retaliation would not fly in Prince George's County," Robinson stated.

Tony Benton a Fort Washington father of two teenage boys and a five- year-old daughter, said that caning is not for his family. "And beating is going to be done by me or their mother," Benton explained adamantly. "We've got to re-establish who is in control, and letting a judge or a corrections officer beat my child takes away my authority as a parent," he continued. Benton said he doesn't think spankings should be the first resort for parental discipline, but sometimes, "It's necessary."

Greg Wimms, president of the Maryland State NAACP, said the civil rights organization hasn't reviewed this legislation. "Throughout the state we have been sponsoring parenting seminars. If you address the problem of juvenile delinquency from this standpoint, and teach parents to be better parents, caning won't be needed," Wimms said.

Margaret Simpson of Landover, felt strongly against caning. "I can see it now, a bunch of Black boys lined up getting caned by some White man. Sounds like something from 'Roots' if you ask me," she said.

Caning as a source of discipline became an issue last year when American teenager Michael Fay was caned in Singapore for vandalizing property.

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