Turning Bad Into Goodnby Graeme NewmannI n 1983 I noted in Just and Painful: A Case for the CorporalnPunishment of Criminals that there were approximatelyn315,000 individuals incarcerated in federal and state prisons,nplus some 158,000 persons in jails of various kinds. Thenannual cost of this incarceration was estimated then to ben$20,000 per inmate, amounting to an annual expenditure ofnsome $10 billion.nThe solution I advocated at that time was to replace muchnof the punishment of prison with corporal punishment of a specificntype: one that applied acute pain (that is, intense sharpnpain of very brief duration). 1 contrasted this type of punishmentnwith those punishments that applied chronic pains,nsuch as prison. Chronic punishments, I demonstrated, alwaysnbring with them uncontrollable side effects, especially “punishmentnoverflow.” Prison causes suffering of the individualnthat cannot be controlled in its severity since the pain endurednoften lasts well beyond the specified duration of the sentence.nThe suffering also spills over to the offender’s familynmembers who are deprived of the offender’s earning power andnpresence in the family. This, I argued, is an immoral and unjustnside effect of chronic punishments such as prison. It amountsnto the punishing of innocent persons.nIn order to implement a program of corporal punishment,nI argued that the criminal justice system should be split in two:none system to deal with nonviolent offenders, and the othernto deal with persistent and very violent offenders. The firstngroup would be targeted for corporal punishment, the latternfor prison. If this had been implemented, the prison populationncould have been reduced by at least 70 percent, since roughlynless than one-third of inmates in prison at that time werenviolent offenders. This proportion varies from state to statenand institution to institution, but this probably is still tme today.nTo drive home the radical novelty of this scheme, the typenGraeme Newman is a professor at the School of CriminalnJustice of the State University of New York at Albany.nof corporal punishment I advocated was acute electric shock,nThere were important technical reasons for selecting thisnpunishment: it is less observably violent (and less spectacularnthan, say, whipping), and it is in line with current technology,nmeaning it can be calibrated and controlled very easily. Thenamount of pain delivered to the offender can now be controllednto a degree never before possible. The chances of punishingnto excess are therefore minimized (though all punishments donhave unwanted side effects, some more than others).nPenologists reacted to this scheme with outrage, and thenmedia did their best to make me look like some kind of weirdncreep, but the logic of the argument was never assailed. Liberalncritics in particular were invariably forced to fall back onna defense of prison as a cure-all, a position in which they feltnvery uncomfortable, or they were forced to advocate more probationnor community service, none of which look to the publicnlike punishments at all. The conservatives were silent, exceptnfor Pat Buchanan, who complained that the punishments I advocatednwere not severe enough, amounting to a mere slap onnthe wrist. Of all the criticisrns, Buchanan’s was probablynthe only one that carried any weight. Let’s face it: who wouldn’tntrade a year (or more given the long terms received by today’sndrug offenders) of prison for some minutes of intense physicalnpain? The liberal critics were so busy calling the plan sadisticnand barbaric, that they overlooked just how humane the plannwas.nMany of my colleagues asked me whether “I was serious”nabout what I had written. A number defended me (and I thanknthem) by suggesting that they thought I didn’t really mean it,nor that the book had been written “tongue in cheek.” Itnseemed as if I had written something that was beyond belief.nThe ideas were unthinkable in the late 20th century; a kind ofnblasphemy.nThe most common reason given for the outright rejectionnof corporal punishment of criminals is that it is out of stepnwith modern sensibilities, that “we no longer do that sort ofnnnMAY 1992/19n