[FoundOnTheWeb] On Caning and Other Forms of Punishment.

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From: Adam Rifkin -4K (adam@XeNT.ics.uci.edu)
Date: Wed May 10 2000 - 21:31:03 PDT

This is old bits, but I've always been fascinated by caning...


Don't talk to me about cruel and unusual punishment, I work for a startup!

Remind me to tell you the one about the job candidate we flew from
Boston to the West Coast, only to keep him up for the first 24 hours he
was in town, depriving him of sleep and food until his eyes glazed over...

> Of Caning and other forms of Punishment
> Arabella Cotto. March 6, 1998

> "Thrash! One! ... Thrash! Two! ... Thrash! Three! ... Thrash! ... Four!" The
> sound of the cane was sharp and precise, as if cutting the air. Four strokes
> of the cane! That is what juveniles are most likely to receive in Asian
> countries if ever found guilty of minor crimes. No big deal. What if it were
> in the States?

> The question did not arouse until 1994 when Michael Fay, an adolescent US
> citizen, was sentenced to receive 4 strokes from a rattan cane in Singapore
> as punishment for committing vandalism. The US shocked; that form of
> punishment was not legal in the US and still considered "cruel and unusual."

> Even though President Clinton pleaded Singapore not to carry out the
> sentence, the child was caned for Singapore does not considered caning as
> cruel and unusual means to penalize minors. Since then, legal experts in the
> US have been examining this specific penalty to determine whether or not it
> is legal, according to the cruel and unusual punishment ban encompassed in
> the US Constitution. The Eight Amendment reads: "Excessive bail shall not be
> required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments
> inflicted" (qtd. in Garvey 1420). Astonishingly, through legal eyes, caning
> results not to be cruel and unusual punishment.

> First of all, we have to set what constitutes "cruel and unusual
> punishment," or for that matter, what "cruel and unusual" means. In order to
> define cruel and unusual punishment three separate definitions have to be
> proposed. According to the American Heritage Dictionary, Punishment is a
> penalty imposed to one who has committed an offense, a sin or a fault; in
> short, a penalty for wrongdoing. Cruel refers to any action disposed to
> inflict pain or suffering. Unusual is the quality of not being common,
> ordinary or not practiced with frequency. Therefore, cruel and unusual
> punishment is a non-traditional penalty imposed to a convict that causes
> him/her extreme pain or suffering. The following criteria have been set up
> to identify a penalty as cruel and unusual punishment; the fulfillment of
> one of the items makes a penalty cruel an unusual.

> Not quickly executed
> Deliberate causing extremely pain or suffering
> Excessive for the committed crime
> Discriminatory
> Not traditional or not laying on historical background

> Each of the criterion has been deeply scrutinized in order to be given
> credit under the Eighth Amendment frame. Being quickly carried out has been
> one of the majors concerns and has motivated the seek for the best and most
> effective way to execute capital punishment (Sueiro 7-10). Similarly, making
> a penalty relatively painless worries our legal community, as exemplified by
> Van Den Haag: "[T]he death penalty surely is not imposed for the sake of the
> pain incidental to it, but, if anything, despite it. One of the virtues
> originally ascribed to the electric chair was painlessness; one of the
> objections raised to it now is that is has been found painful" (200).

> Excessiveness is out of question; "the amount of punishment should be
> proportionate to the extent of the wrongdoing" (Ten 5).

> Discriminatory punishment has also been condemned by our Judges and
> Justices, as reflected by Garvey: "It would seem incontestable that ...[a]
> penalty inflicted on one defendant is 'unusual' if it discriminates against
> him[/her] by reason of his[/her] race, religion, wealth, social position, or
> class, or if it is imposed under a procedure that gives room for the play of
> such prejudices... [D]iscrimination is an ingredient not compatible with the
> idea of equal protection of the laws that is implicit in the ban on 'cruel
> and unusual' punishments" (1420, 1430).

> The historical basis on which a penalty must rely takes away its "unusual"
> status (Berkson 3-8).

> To better understand these criteria, consider, for example, capital
> punishment. Capital punishment has a long course of application throughout
> history. Crucifixion, guillotine, gallows, fusillade, gas chamber,
> electrical chair, lethal injection and many other forms have been used as
> ways to administer the death penalty, some of them still in effect nowadays
> (Sueiro 7). What makes capital punishment cruel is not the killing itself
> but the way chosen to perform it. We could examine each of the forms and use
> them to illustrate the criteria of cruel and unusual punishment.

> For our purposes, however, we will consider the guillotine. This instrument,
> designed in the XVIII century by a physician, Dr. Guillotine, causes an
> instantaneous death by chopping off one's head. Dr. Guillotine, moved by the
> cruelty of using the sword or the axe, built the machine so that it would
> cause no pain on the executed at the moment of passing the way. As he stated
> in a hearing to the Parliament: "With this machine, I can have one's head
> chop off as quickly as you blink your eyes without [the convict] suffering
> maximum pain" (qtd. in Sueiro 88). The estimated time this instrument takes
> to go through one's neck is around half a second (Sueiro 95). Extremely
> quick. The convicted felon has no time to perceive any pain, and, since the
> head is cut off, there is no awareness or sensation been processed in
> his/her brain at the time of death.

> "It's a safe, quick, almost painless
> [procedure], perhaps the least painful among all known forms" (qtd. in
> Sueiro 109). On that account, we can assure it fulfills our second criteria:
> not causing extremely pain or suffering. Guillotine, as other forms of
> capital punishment, suits the severity of the crime. It is attained on
> extremely dangerous criminals, where the judge's determination of taking a
> human life seems appropriate sentence. Guillotine does not discriminate
> against gender or any other condition; it can equally be performed in men or
> women who have committed the same crime. Through history, it has been widely
> used in countries holding a monarch government system such as England,
> France, Denmark, etc. Along the 17th, 18th and still 19th centuries, the
> guillotine was largely used. It holds a strong historical background, and
> therefore meets our last criterion. On the whole, guillotine respects the
> constitution precept of no cruel and unusual punishment.

> In contrast, take castration. Castration as punishment may be physical or
> chemical. Physical castration involves the removal of the testes in a male.
> Chemical castration consists of periodic injections of a hormone that makes
> a man less likely to engage in sexual behavior (Berlin 29). Either form of
> castration is administered to repeat child molesters (Bienza 17). In that
> sense, castration as punishment fists the severity of the crime. It is also
> painless (physical castration requires medical surgery under which the
> patient is anesthetized) and quick administered, especially the chemical
> form. However, castration discriminates against women as there is no such
> procedure available to cause the same results in female offenders. It is not
> a penalty that can be applied equally on all child molesters, regardless of
> gender. Besides, castration as punishment has been put into practice for
> just a few years in some European countries and recently approved in some
> the States, namely California in January 1997, Texas in May 1997 and Georgia
> in May 1997, too (The Economist "Manhood" 30; The Economist "Laws" 18). It
> nullifies the condition of resting on historic basis. Hence, castration
> represents cruel and unusual punishment.

> Now let's take caning. Caning consists in beating the convict's back or
> buttocks with a rod. This penalty is widely applied on misdemeanors in Asian
> countries and has been a common practice for correcting scholars since
> ancient times, not only in foreign countries but in the US as well (Mercurio
> 25-33). In this sense, caning is very traditional. Receiving five or so
> beats is certainly quick (it only takes a few minutes). Adolescents even
> prefer it than having long- time penalties as discovered by Mercurio in a
> conducted study in New Zealand:

> "'How do you feel about being caned?' I inquired. 'You actually prefer it,'
> Gary explained. 'You can get awfully busy here... A caning-well-it only take
> a few minutes.' " (50)

> Caning sounds much more appropriate than putting a minor in prison for
> months or even years. Depriving a teen from developing into a normal
> environment and society is not only cruel but inhuman. For non grave
> transgressions, imprisonment represents excessive punishment. Van Den Haag
> points it out, "Is every corporal punishment more cruel than imprisonment?
> Is a thief better off incarcerated for two years than receiving sixty
> lashes? Is incarceration more humane, even if the thief would prefer
> flogging? Is prison better for him? Or for us?" (200). In those cases,
> caning better suits the crime. Caning holds no discrimination of any kind;
> it can be equally exercised on females as on males. Finally, if carried out
> correctly, caning produces a mild pain bearable for minors, as stated by a
> New Zealand interviewed boy, "You bend over. You get your shack. It's a wee
> bit hot for a while but it cools off" (qtd. in Mercurio 49). It is a matter
> of not having the beating become excessive concerning either the force
> applied or the number of times the person is hit. In countries that
> contemplate this penalty, the number of strokes rank from 1 to 10, which
> looks acceptable (Mercurio 43-45). Under these conditions, caning fits all
> the criteria not to be considered cruel and unusual punishment.

> Arguers state that the produced pain is not bearable. Well, in Hispanic
> countries such as Mexico and Central America, children at home are corrected
> this way by their parents. In the early century caning was of wide use in
> American schools both private and public. No adult present marks or traces
> of the method they were admonished when children. They show no resentments
> for being disciplined with the cane. They courageously bear the pain as part
> of the discipline and accept it as just punishment for their wrongdoing. "I
> usually got caned for something I knew I did wrong... If I do something
> wrong, it's only fair that I get caned" (qtd. in Mercurio 36). Besides, the
> strokes make them think their mistakes over and serve as a deterrent for the
> future, as declared by a teen, "I think they should keep caning in... There
> has to be some form of discipline here. If we didn't have caning -well
> things could get pretty wild around here" (qtd. in Mercurio 49).

> As established above, caning is not cruel or unusual. Caning fails in
> fulfilling the criteria not to be considered so. It is a normal punishment
> such as forced community work and imprisonment in adults. Americans should
> not be perplexed at it. And, as it does not violate the Constitution, caning
> should be established as a legal penalty in the US. Maybe in the future we
> will see that come true.

> Works Cited

> Berkson, Larry Charles. The Concept of Cruel and Unusual Punishment.
> Florida: Lexington Books, 1975

> Berlin, Fred S. "The Case of Castration, Part 2." Washington Monthly. May
> 1994, v26 n5.

> Bienza, Julie. "California Castration Law greeted with Skepticism." Trial.
> January 1997, n1.

> Garvey, Karin E. "Eighth Amendment -the constitutionality of the Alabama
> Capital Sentencing Scheme." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Summer
> 1996, n4.

> "Laws of Impotence." The Economist. September 21, 1996, v340 n7984.

> "Manhood for the Chop." The Economist. May 17, 1997, v343 n8017.

> Mercurio, Joseph A. Caning: Educational Rite and Tradition. New York:
> Syracuse University Press, 1972.

> Sueiro, Daniel. La Pena de Muerte. Spain: Alianza Editorial Madrid, 1974.

> Ten, C. L. Crime, Guilt, and Punishment. Oxford, New York: Clarendon Press,
> 1987.

> Van Den Haag, Ernest. Punishing Criminals. New York: Basic Books, Inc.
> Publishers, 1975


(1) Alexander the Great was a great general. (2) Great generals are forewarned. (3) Forewarned is forearmed. (4) Four is an even number. (5) Four is certainly an odd number of arms for a man to have. (6) The only number that is both even and odd is infinity.

Therefore, Alexander the Great had an infinite number of arms.

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