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Prison CP - March 1991

Corpun file 7064 at

Houston Post, Texas, 6 March 1991

Corporal punishment bill gets cool response

By Ken Herman
Post Austin Bureau

Houston Rep. Al Edwards failed to whip up any immediate support Tuesday for his bill calling for a statewide vote on allowing the state to inflict corporal punishment on inmates.

"We're saying that the system that presently exists in terms of punishment is not working," Edwards told the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee, which sent the bill to subcommittee.

The measure would set up a November, nonbinding referendum on corporal punishment of inmates. In 1989, Edwards garnered national publicity, but little legislative support, for a bill that would have allowed the state to amputate the fingers of drug dealers.

Edwards sometimes carried a finger-sized guillotine on the House floor in 1989 while his bill was pending.

The bill is opposed by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association.

"It's basically a step backwards to corporal punishment," Betty Blackwell, the association's legislative chairman, testified. "We believe that it's been held unconstitutional as cruel and unusual punishment and we are here in opposition to it."

Edwards, who heard the phrase repeatedly in reaction to his finger-amputation bill, said he is tired of "this business about cruel and unusual."

"All of them say it is cruel and unusual, cruel and unusual," he told the committee. "We are so in love, for some reason, with the criminals."

Edwards criticized the defense lawyers' association for not coming up with an answer for crime and criminals "other than representing them in court."

In a Monday interview about his bill, Edwards said flogging or some other form of corporal punishment would quickly put inmates on the road to honest living.

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