The author of the book In Defense of Flogging (2011), Peter Moskos, is a current member of the teaching staff at the City University of New York and John Jay College of Criminal Justice. He works there as an assistant professor of law, police science, and criminal justice administration. At the City University of New York, Peter is instructor of sociology at the Laguardia Community College. Before Moskos became a sociologist academician, he served as a police officer in the Baltimore city. Peter Moskos is also the author of another book, Cop in the Hood, published at Princeton University Press in 2008.
In his book, Moskos points out that prison system in the U.S has failed to achieve its objective in curbing crime, since the highest number of prisons is in the U.S. In addition to this failure, the economic burden of detaining and maintaining prisoners in the prisons is quite high compared to the any value the prisoners add to the society. Instead, the prisons have provided a good environment for people and an ability to learn something about the new crimes, which they would not have known had they been offered another disciplinary option like flogging. There are a lot of people who have committed crimes, and are sentenced to many years in prison.
According to the book and with regards to the dreadful situation of prisons as places for human habitation, the necessity to take some measures is obvious. Peter Moskos proposes flogging as an option in order to decongest the prisons and offer the offenders an opportunity to suffer in a little while. He hopes that they would lean their lessons, live offense free lives and save the resources pumped into the prison system that do not serve its purpose in the society. Despite of its cruelty, this is a drastic and straightforward solution that is worthy consideration, Moreover, it is far effective, cheap and quick compared to the prison sentences in a system that is completely out of order. Otherwise, there are high chances of breeding and releasing more violent criminals into the society upon completion of the sentence term in prison.
The U.S is the first country in the number of prisons worldwide. However, the need to keep all these prisons is quite doubtful. Moreover, the prison system needs to be reformed until it can curb crimes. Actually, the prison system in the US is broken. Instead of providing rehabilitation for those behind bars, it is the worst environment for many evils. It is so, because the prisoners witness an inflow of the worst criminals who, in turn, influence each other. Overcrowding and violence that are witnessed in the prisons as well as poor education programs make rehabilitation far from reality. Are there other options, which can make the criminals lead productive lives in their country?
Presently, the U.S has the highest percentage of people spending their life behind bars in the prisons with bad conditions. The current prison system finds its origin in the religious doctrine, the American Revolution and Classicalism. Since it was established, several changes have been introduced in order to shape it to its present state.
As for the Pennsylvania prison system with its solitary confinement, it gave an offender time to think of his actions and change. However, it was expensive to run such an overcrowding issue. Further, it was followed by the Auburn system, which introduced hard labor into the prisons in order for the inmates to provide free labor and generate revenue to the prisons. In this system, the labor services could be offered to the private business institutions at a negotiable of a fixed fee. In other cases, the inmates would produce goods, which would be sold by the state agencies.
In 1930s and 1940s, the work of the prisoners and rehabilitation services were stopped. The Big House era, where corruption controlled the prison system, was followed by the correction era, which started in California. At that time, rehabilitation and positive treatment of the prisoners became the focus of the prison system. This called for the application of behavioral sciences to help the inmates change their behavior. However, there was still a need for some adjustments.
The amendment of the correction era led to the Just Deserts Era, which came with longer prison sentences and harsher punishments, including inmates being locked in cells in isolation for 23 hours a day. Overcrowding, which was being experienced at that time, was eased by the construction of the private facilities.
America has the highest number of prisons and prisoners at a time when crime has declined. There is a trend of giving longer sentences even to the offenders who do not seem to commit any other similar crime. The conditions of prisons are also deplorable and the prison reforms are not going to be implemented
The success of the prison system can be seen in terms of how it achieves its functions, namely deterrent, restitution, rehabilitation, incapacitation, and punishment. However, the main objective of the prison system is to stop crime.
The deterrent crimes are still being committed despite the long term sentencing. It is expected that after several year’s imprisonment, an individual will avoid engaging in such crimes. However, no one can predict, when somebody will commit a crime. Moreover, every offender hopes to escape from the police, and none of them thinks of many years of imprisonment. Otherwise, who can opt to choose imprisonment for crime when it can be avoided?
Prison is meant to stop further crimes by incapacitation of the criminals separating them from the society. However, there are criminals who would be harmless even in case of release, for example, the criminals charged with fraud cases. Such people do not deserve to be in prison for there is no other crime they can do after being released. Therefore, it should be decided wisely on who exactly should be imprisoned, and what other options may be offered for other offenders.
The prison environment exposes those behind bars to the criminals of different degrees of offences. As they copy each other’s wrong behaviors, the purpose of prison to rehabilitate the individuals is not achieved. Compared to the community services provided by the prisoners, the cost of locking and maintaining them behind the bars is too high. Hence, the restitution role of the prisons cannot be justified. Although a punishment is a major purpose of the prisons, it is void without the other core roles.
The fact that the prisoners can clean the streets or take part in other state services, the bill provided by the state to guard the prisoners, provide accommodation, food and other essential needs and services is far beyond the services they offer to the state.
The authors’ main message is that offenders should be allowed to choose between the sentences in prison and a brief pain of flogging. I agree with the author that flogging despite its cruelty is a better option. Probably, this is not an option for all criminals, but there are some, for whom it should be offered.
The book may be interesting for the students and general public curious of criminology and justice system, since it provides a historical background of the prison system in the US. However, it is not an appropriate source for the students who study language. The book is presented as a long essay without breaks in order to help the reader to catch the historical and research content and its message in reality. Such research information would have been presented in a summary form as a table or graph.
In Defense of Flogging provides a detailed historical picture of the prison system, the horrors that prisoners go through, and the need for another option like flogging. However, it is strange that in the 21st century, someone can advocate for flogging as an option for punishing criminals. All in all, this is the first book that discusses this issue.