Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2013: Peter Moskos – In Defence of Flogging

November 8, 2019 posted by

SIMON: When I’m asked,
“What is a dangerous idea?” and people always ask,
“Well, what is one?” One of the ways I explain that is I say, “It’s an idea
that makes you go, ‘Ouch!'” and this one really does. We’ve got a wonderfully
dangerous idea here because it strikes at so much
of what our society assumes is the kind, the proper,
the just thing to do and to advance his argument
in defence of flogging is Peter Moskos who is a person
who was born in Chicago, he was educated as a sociologist at Harvard
and Princeton Universities, he served for a period of time as a Baltimore City
police officer and now works
as an associate professor in the Department
of Law and Police Science at John Jay College
of Criminal Justice. Also, he’s in
the doctoral program teaching there
at the University of New York. He’s got two books. In fact, the best of his known works
is ‘Cop in the Hood’, but, of course, the one
that caught our attention is his book
‘In Defence of Flogging’. Please welcome Peter Moskos. (APPLAUSE) Hi. Thank you all
for coming here. It’s nice to see you here. So some of you are probably wondering
very much what you’re going to see here and whether I’m… Often the first question
I get is, “Are you serious? “Do you want people
to be flogged?” I say, “Well, yes and no.” Yes, I am serious. No, I don’t
want people to be flogged. But I also don’t want them
to go to prison. And the opening gambit,
if you will, is rather simple, but if you are
convicted of a crime… It doesn’t matter
if you’re guilty or not. That’s in a way
the horrible thing. But if you’re
convicted of a crime, which would you choose if given
this choice by the judge – five years in the pen, and they’re probably
a little better here, but that’s a shot
from a California prison that’s painfully overcrowded, or 10 lashes here
Singapore-style? It’s not a gentle paddling.
It’s nothing kinky. It is a brutal… It’s actually
more brutal than this, but luckily I couldn’t
find a picture of it. It’s scarring. It’s bloody. It’s painful.
You’re getting whipped. But which would you choose? Because after that, with a little medical attention
you could go home. I think most of us
would choose the lash over incarceration,
over years behind bars, years without your family. And then the question is, well,
what does that say about prison? Because we, as
a civilised society, “We’re above flogging,” we say. “We don’t do it.
It’s cruel and barbaric.” And yet we have this choice. You might choose it for yourself so why wouldn’t you
give that choice to others? Here’s the problem, basically,
is you have the… This is incarceration
around the world in countries that we like to compare ourselves to. Mostly it’s about 100 per 100,000 is what the civilised world keeps behind bars. Japan is the lowest at around 60 which might
be something to shoot for. Australia is
a little bit higher here – about 170 or so per 100,000 and the number
of prisoners here has doubled
in the past few decades. But then we get,
of course, the old USA. We’re number one.
We’re the biggest and baddest. -We’re way up there.
-(AUDIENCE GASPS) Oh, I like that gasp.
That’s good. You should gasp because this is an unconscionable
number of prisoners. It means we have
2.3 million people behind bars
in America right now. That is more
than any other country in the history of the world ever
by rate or numbers. We have a million more prisoners
than China and China has a billion
more people than we do. The only other countries that are sort of
in between these levels are Russia, Cuba, Rwanda, but even those
by rate and numbers are far below the USA. Now, how did
we get into this mess? And this is one of the things
I like to stress. Prisons have not
been around forever. Yes, people were kept
in detention, jails existed, but they were kept until we
figured out what to do with you, they were kept
until you were punished. Then in the late 1700s
the Quakers had a concept and it was a truly
revolutionary idea. It was in
post-Revolution America. We had just
thrown off the British and we wanted a system that
was befitting our new republic. Remember, the Quakers believed
that silence equals salvation and the penitentiary idea was to treat the criminal
and not the crime. We still hear this
today sometimes. It sounds good. It certainly
may be worth a try. What they wanted to do is they wanted to abolish
corporal punishment. They had this concept
that crime was a disease, a degenerate disease,
a moral disease. Now, this is actually not true, but consider that they’re
coming from a place where crime was considered often that literally Satan
would be in you. So this moved away from
a religious concept of crime into one that was
slightly more scientific even though it was wrong. The degenerates of course tended to
be darker skinned people, tended to not be
the Anglo-Saxon upper class. It was always
sort of an ‘other’. But the idea was we were gonna
cure them of their disease just like doctors can cure people
of their medical problems or at least we’ll heal them so they can behave
around the rest of us. That was the idea. The very first prison
was in Philadelphia. It’s a great little
footnote to history. The Walnut Street Jail
had been around for a while. You see it there on the left. The Quakers led by Benjamin Rush wanted to turn it
into a penitentiary. The problem was there
was a man who ran the jail by the name of Reynolds and he didn’t want
to give up his jail. Why? Because he was
the bartender in the jail. He made a nice…
He wasn’t paid for his services. He ran a bar in the jail
and he served liquor and it was a good living and families would come
and visit, they’d bring food… It was…
You couldn’t leave, mind you. There was a little wall. But he happened to be political
friends with George Washington so there was a little
battle here. Anyway, it took five years, but the reformers won,
the progressives won and they set up the Walnut Street
Penitentiary in 1795 and the first thing
that happened was a bunch of prisoners voted with
their feet and escaped, many never to be found again, because they knew
this was a crazy idea. You might also notice that of course the prison
needs a much higher wall because it’s
a horrible institution. The idea was with
this great experiment… First of all,
you’d have no booze, you would have no sex and also you would
have segregation. This last concept is an important concept
in prison theory, but the idea
is you separate people by the nature of their crime,
you separate men from women and in this case they also separated
whites from blacks. They bragged that in this new non-corporal punishment penitentiary that there would be no whipping,
no weapons, not even a stick. This was the idea. The problem of course was that in reality
this never worked so well because people don’t want
to be in this institution. So after the initial escape,
they had to have discipline and basically what they did
was starve people – half a pound of bread a day. Now, these quotes up there were written by supporters of the prison. These are not adversaries. They were proud of what they were doing. Sure enough, if you feed someone half a pound of bread a day, in a few weeks, “The very nature “of their being is changed.” There wasn’t
enough space, though, for this solitary confinement so another person
in support of this prison noted that about 30 men
slept in one room and they were
strictly prohibited from keeping
their clothes on at night. I don’t know why, but again
this is what they were proud of. And not surprisingly, many people in there said,
“Please execute me. “This is horrible torture.” But this was all seen
as a sign somehow that the prison
was doing its job in rehabilitation and salvation and that’s part of the irony
of this system we have. Now, at this point
talking about crime, it’s hard
not to mention Foucault, but you might be pleased to know that I don’t
really like Foucault so I present him
in a haiku form for you. Now, to do him justice, I may not appreciate
his style of writing because I don’t read French, but I suspect more that he writes
in French is the problem. But here is… His ideas are good, but they can be summed
very well in two simple haikus. “Society’s norms “More like prison every day “Resistance is futile.” And, “From body to mind “A new system of control “The Panopticon.” So the Panopticon is a system of a centrally located room, a circular jail surrounding it and the idea is you can
stare into every cell and you can’t see the guard. It’s the idea of this
permanent system of control. I mean, in this sense
Foucault was right in that we do now have
CCTV and cameras, this idea that Big Brother
is watching you. But what it also allowed is
a system of mass incarceration that had never
been done before. So there were a few
small prisons in the US. There was Walnut Street
in Philadelphia and then Newgate Prison
in New York City that very few people know about and either because
these prisons failed or in spite of their failure, they decided,
“We need more of these. “We gotta build them
bigger and better,” and this is sort of the prison that you might know
from big walls and that sort of stereotype
of the old-fashioned prison. Auburn Prison was the first
in Upstate New York in 1816. Those other names
probably look familiar. Keep in mind they were proud
of these institutions. This was on par
with public schools. This was science and technology
of the day. Tocqueville when he visited America
went on a prison visit. That was why, this became
part of the grand tour – “See America’s new experiment “of mass incarceration,
of rehabilitation, of penance.” These are postcards
from the original prison. The cells in the prisons
were modelled after monk cells. As an interesting thing, if you’re going to keep people
in solitary confinement, how do you let them
go to the bathroom? Because they’re never
supposed to talk to anybody. There was a real fetish
of silence in these prisons. Carts would wheel around with
leather wheels on these rails and prison guards
would wear slippers as they walked
through the halls. The idea was if you went in
and left four years later you wouldn’t know who the president
of the United States is. That was the goal. So to have these cells
be self-sufficient they had to put
indoor plumbing in them. This was the start… The first indoor plumbing in
the world was in a prison cell. President Jackson
in the White House was still using a slop bucket when they had toilets
in Auburn Penitentiary. Again, these are more postcards
of this great old prison. And the scale of it again – now we’re talking
thousands of prisoners. What’s interesting too
about this prison is that it’s still in operation. This is Auburn Prison today.
It’s still there. Many of the cells
are still the same and by all accounts
it’s a pretty brutal place to be. Now, that idea of the US
and this mass incarceration… I don’t want to let you off
the hook too easily with that. You’re higher than every other
European nation, needlessly so. But this idea that we have
2.3 million prisoners, it didn’t used to be this way. Yes, America’s always been
a bit more violent. Yes, we’ve always
had certain issues that perhaps are unique
to America, perhaps not. But the rate of incarceration really only increased
in the early 1970s and that’s when
the war on drugs started. We have locked up
2 million Americans because of longer sentences
and the war on drugs. These are political choices
that we make. Certainly we’re not
seven times more dangerous now than we were in 1970. So what I’d like to do
is superimpose on this basically the crime rate
in America. This is the homicide rate, but it’s a good proxy
for crime in general. It goes down after
Prohibition ends, it goes up in the ’60s, it bounces around a bit, the crack epidemic
in the late ’80s and then it’s gone down
in the ’90s. A lot of people
who love prisons – and they’re out there – very much like to zoom
on this little slice of the pie and go, “Look – the number
of prisoners is going up “and crime is going down. “We must be locking up all the
bad guys. That is the solution.” But it’s a very
selective approach because if you just go
a few years earlier when we locked up
our first additional million, homicide’s going up and the number of prisoners
is also going up. So if it’s just
that second million that were the real criminals, can we let
the first million go? Were they just the wrong ones? But when you look
at the whole picture the real point is there’s
really no relationship here. Crime goes up and down
for various reasons, which are good reasons
to discuss – whether it’s social policy,
whether it’s better policing, whether it’s family issues – but it doesn’t have any relation
to the incarceration rate because that is
a political choice that we make to lock people up. So why do we do this?
Why do we lock people up? There’s generally considered
three main reasons. The first
is rehabilitation and… ..this is my least favourite because it’s this concept
of rehabilitation that keeps this
prison industrial complex going. Deep down in your hearts
most of you want to believe that somehow people
become better in prison and there are a few
notable exceptions. One of them has been
a wonderful speaker here. But since I have started speaking about
this issue, more… The successes
are far outweighed. I’ve heard from so many people who say, “My son,”
or, “My boyfriend,” or, “My father went to prison
for some drug crime. “He was just there for two years
and he came out a broken man. “What can I do?” I don’t know.
I’m a professor. I don’t know. But you hear this
time and time again. Prisoners need help. We all need help, but we
shouldn’t call it rehabilitation because often there’s nothing to habilitate to
in the first place. It’s not that they were
outstanding citizens and then suddenly erred
down the path of sin. No. They came from
messed-up backgrounds. They did messed-up things. They got caught.
They went to prison. You can offer help,
but to offer help you really need to do it
outside of prison. You can’t do this
in a total institution. Now, we know this doesn’t work because about two-thirds of
prisoners end up back in prison. If the concept is to cure the
criminal and to rehabilitate, it’s a failure. We’ve been at this for 200 years so, yes, we can
tinker around the edges and, yes, there are
some programs that do good, but that ignores the real issue which is that everyone
ends up back in prison because it destroys lives. And it really should
come as no surprise because if you are
locked in a room with a bunch
of angry criminals for 10 years how do you think
you’re going to get better? Much less if you go in
with serious mental problems. I mean, this is the world’s
worst recovery retreat. You can’t imagine
a worse environment to try and set
your life straight than prison. So we know they don’t cure, but prisons weren’t
designed to punish and this is where we end up with this sort of schizophrenic
approach to punishment and this is why I end up
defending flogging as an honest form of punishment, but I’ll get to that
in a moment. The second reason we have prisons
is for incapacitation – to keep people away from us. Actually, prisons
do this really well so I give it a little
gold star – ding! They do that great. Through technology and a bit
of inhumanity and experience, we have learned
how to keep people in cages. There are very few escapes
from a maximum security prison. You just don’t get out.
We do that well. There are some people
that we are so terrified of that we need to lock them up
and throw away the key, but they’re very few,
they’re very, very few. So we have to understand –
are we keeping them behind bars because we’re afraid of them or because
of what they have done? If we just don’t want them out, OK, probably a few people
have to be kept back there, but that is different
from the idea of saying, “You’ve done something wrong. “Now you have
to serve your time.” So I’ll grant incapacitation, but we could release probably 80%, 90% of our prisoners
on that argument. The final reason is punishment – we send people to prison
because we think they deserve it. That’s what prison
really comes down to today. So why do we punish them?
There are basically two ideas. There’s deterrence – “I punish you so you don’t
commit a crime again,” or, “I punish you
so other people see what happens “and don’t commit
a crime again.” Beccaria came up
with this idea in the 1700s. We don’t know it works, by
the way, which is interesting. The idea is it’s supposed to be swift and certain
and proportional for deterrence to work. I don’t know.
Be suspicious of that. But either way,
if deterrence worked we wouldn’t have all
these people in prison today. The other is this
‘Just desserts’ concept – “You did something wrong.
You deserve to be punished.” And I think this
IS part of our society. Some of you maybe think
it shouldn’t be, but then I ask you
to consider… If you remember
Woody Allen’s movie ‘Sleeper’, there was this machine
called the Orgasmatron and you went in
and closed the door and pressed a button
and lights flashed and three seconds later
you came out a little dishevelled. What if there was a machine
like that called the Reformatron and somebody
who violently mugs you and then pisses on you
when you’re down – because that
kind of thing happens – and you pass out,
but you get better, he’s actually caught,
he goes into the courtroom and the judge orders
that guy into the Reformatron. He presses the button,
the door closes and he comes out and he
is a God-fearing Christian and puts on his suit
and goes and gets a job and you go,
“Well, that’s fabulous.” I mean, this is
the penitentiary ideal. But would you say
that’s good enough? Maybe, but at some
point don’t you go, “No, I want this man punished
for what he did to me.” I mention this not as a call
for vengeance and retribution, but more as a political thing
in that if we ignore punishment, and liberals tend to ignore this part of
the criminal justice debate, but as long as
we ignore punishment, you’re never gonna
win the argument because you get labelled
as soft on criminals, you get labelled
as soft on crime and personally I think maybe
there is a role for punishment. So go back to this choice again
between prisons and flogging. You might think that prisons are truly terrible
torture devices – I do – that destroy souls,
destroys men and women and that it’s too harsh
of a punishment or you may think that prisons
are this country club and you think, “They get free TV
and there are programs…” And there are more programs
here in Australia than there are back home
where there are virtually none. You may think it’s too soft. But I want you to pick a side on that
because it can’t be both. This is often what happens –
I say, “We should flog people,” and they go, “Flogging’s too cruel
and barbaric, but I choose it,” then they go, “Well,
maybe flogging’s too soft “because why am I choosing it “over what I send
people to otherwise?” Then heads start to explode.
It gets a little confusing. I call this
the Goldilocks dilemma. It has to be one or the other.
It can’t be both. Prison generally doesn’t
satisfy the need for punishment so you end up
with absurd situations like a guy
named Dudley Kyzer. He has been sentenced
for a couple murders to 10,000 years in prison,
plus two life terms. (SCATTERED LAUGHTER) There was another guy
named Darron Anderson who kidnapped and raped
and robbed somebody and he was sentenced
to 2,200 years, but he was a smart guy
and he appealed his sentence and in the appeal the judge
tacked on another 9,000 years. (LAUGHTER) There was a second appeal
and he got 500 years knocked off so his current release
date is set for 12744. This is an absurd situation,
but it’s what happens now because we don’t
have any alternatives. All we can do
is tack on the years. We can say, “Five years isn’t enough
for that horrible crime. “Give him 10.” Or God forbid you’re a bikie
and then you get 15. Don’t go down the road we have. If you want more prisoners
it will work, but it doesn’t have
any relation to crime. So why not give
prisoners the choice? I am not saying… In part because I am a product
of a modern Western nation, I don’t want to go down a path of cruel and barbarous
punishment. I think we have and I think
we’re ignoring that fact. So give prisoners the choice because with consent, suddenly a lot of bad things
can become a lot better. My idea is that
whatever punishment we have it should be less evil
than the lash. I mean, if you’re
against flogging you have to agree with that
statement, I would think. But how do we know
if it’s less evil? Well, we offer it. In the ideal world, nobody
would choose to get whipped because we’ve had
some form of punishment that is more benign
and is preferable to the lash, but until we reach that point
it’s a nice litmus test to make sure that we’re not
a cruel and evil society. Let people… Because we can imagine
what it’s like to be whipped, but you can’t really
imagine what it’s like to spend 10 or 20 years
behind bars. If it were so bad,
nobody would choose it. That’s what I’m saying. But I imagine most of you chose
the lash in the beginning and this is why
I defend flogging and when you defend flogging… It’s interesting
because the book got a fair amount of publicity, the highlight of that
being my trip here to Sydney. You end up
with lots of stock photos of whips from these reviews so of course I collect them all
and they just go on and on of people getting whipped
and lashed and… Oh, boy, there’s a bad one too. But at some point,
all jokes aside again, this is something that we should
consider because it is honest. Why do we want to flog? First of all, it’s quick – again, this idea
of decades versus minutes. One of the advantages
of it being quick is simply, yes,
you can keep your job, you can keep your family – this idea that you can
be punished and go home. Because currently
when you do time, by and large
it’s a sentence for life for most, not all,
but for most prisoners. So make it quick.
Make it a matter of minutes. Now, I take
the Singapore model… Keep in mind in Singapore
you don’t have the choice and they also throw you
in prison on top of it. That’s not what I propose. I’m just saying we sort of
poach their floggers over here to start the system up. But in the courthouse… Well, they’re good at it.
I mean, you know? (LAUGHTER) In the courthouse, the judge
would offer you the choice and the status quo
is always an option. So you can
be sentenced to prison, but if you choose
to get flogged, a big burly man like Simon
over here would come out, you’d get tied
to one of those posts we saw back there a second ago,
like that kind of utensil and every half minute
they give you a stroke. You might very likely pass out
from the pain and the suffering, but at some point
you can go home. This honesty value I think, though,
is one of the keys because we refuse to acknowledge
what prison actually is. Again, it’s not… In the course
of human punishment, we have thought of horrible ways
to punish people. I mean, you can’t think of a
new way that hasn’t been tried. The idea of just putting someone
in a cage to keep them there, that’s a new one again. 200 years is just a blip in the human history
that we’ve had the system. Some people say
we’re stuck with prisons. Again, for a couple dozen people I think we might have to keep
behind bars, maybe we are, but I want you to consider a world
that doesn’t have prisons because we came from one. We could do this again.
We COULD abolish prisons. There used to be
an ‘Abolish prisons’ movement in the ’70s in the US. It died out basically just
as the prison population started to skyrocket
up to the millions. Flogging is also cheap. And this isn’t the strongest
argument, I would like to say, as the moral argument,
but let’s… You know, in Australia it’s $70,000
a year now per prisoner. In America it’s about half that. It still is a substantial cost. And the cost by and large is not programs
and rehabilitation and TVs. It’s labour. It’s prison guards. To have one person on duty 24/7 requires basically
hiring six people. It’s all labour costs. You can’t cut back on that if you’re going to have
this total institution from which people can’t escape. Part of the problem
with the money – along with perhaps greedy me
not wanting to pay for it – is for a lot of people
this is the first we’ve ever invested
that money towards them. If we are going to spend
$70,000 per prisoner perhaps we could invest
some of that on the front end to keep them out of prison
in the first place. That would be a wise investment
of our funds. The money is there,
is what I’m saying. We’re just using it
very unwisely and those costs
will not go down. If you don’t go on this criminogenic
environment in prison… Notice I don’t make
the argument that this will… I don’t make the argument that flogging has a great
rehabilitative effect. I don’t make the argument that it has a great
deterrent effect. I hope it would,
but I don’t know. I doubt it.
It might deter some people. But, again, we know
that prison doesn’t. Now, at this point
you might be thinking, “Well, he’s probably
done some clever rhetoric “that’s gotten me to think
it’s not a crazy idea anymore.” There might be a third idea.
There are some other ideas. I urge you to come up with them. I’m sceptical of a lot of them. There are some cheaper forms
of punishment out there or cheaper forms of control –
home monitoring and the like – but it needs to involve
some form of punishment and punishment needs to hurt. If it doesn’t hurt,
it’s not punishment. Perhaps you think that criminals
shouldn’t be punished at all and I respect that opinion,
though I disagree, but you’re in the minority
in our countries so we do need
some form of punishment. So I leave you with that choice
between prison and the lash and ask which would you choose? -Thank you.
-MAN: Thank you. (APPLAUSE) OK, well, there’s a chance
if people want to… I think there’s a… Is there a microphone
somewhere down here or not? Yeah, wherever the light is I think there
will be a microphone. There’s one at the top
and there’s one about to come out. So if you’d like to participate
in the conversation about this, come down to the microphone or go to the one
that’s up top there. It will be an opportunity
for you to state your name, to put your point of view
and to have Peter respond. If not you, then I’ve got quite a few questions
which we could go to. Yes, the gentleman here downstairs
in the blue shirt, your name, please,
and then proceed. My name’s Chris King.
Thank you for that, Peter. I very much approve
of what you had to say. In my country
a couple hundred years ago there were proposals
to put people in the stocks provided we satisfied
the health and safety police to make sure that
there were no hard objects in the rotten vegetables. Do you think that would be an appropriate method
of punishment as well? In line with flogging,
I do in a sense. I would say there’s even
an extra advantage to stocks which is it serves as a bit
of a hedge against bad laws because stocks involve
shaming more than pain, although there
is some pain in it too. But the idea
of public shaming… You’re not ashamed
of doing something if you don’t think
you did wrong. If you get arrested for,
say, drug possession and you don’t think it’s wrong,
that’s not going to shame you. I think we have lost in a way this relationship
between crime and punishment and actually what is truly bad. So I would certainly
throw that in the mix. The same arguments would apply. But I also want to emphasise… I do stress this idea
of doing it with consent and that is to avoid
going down a path of more cruel
and barbaric punishment, but if you want
to call me pro-whipping, you can call me pro-stocks too. OK, we’ll
go upstairs now, please. -WOMAN: My question is…
-Your name first. -Oh, sorry. I’m Lauren.
-Hi, Lauren. I’m wondering whether you think
it’s appropriate to apply the logic of prison
versus flogging to children where you go
spanking versus grounding because I can’t remember
how many times I was grounded, but I’d been spanked once
and, my God, I remember it. It just seemed to be
more effective. So I’m wondering whether
you think it’s appropriate to draw that analogy. I avoid talking about children just because…I’m not a parent,
among other things. I remember being spanked too and my mother denies
ever doing it, which… -(LAUGHTER)
-I’m serious. Though I think I’m right because
she says she spanked my brother and I say, “What are the odds
you spanked him and not me?” I do… I mean, I don’t think
it’s a very tough line to draw between corporal punishment
as discipline and child abuse
and beating up kids… But there is an issue
of consent, of course, which a child would not be able
to pass your test on that factor. I was not raised in a… Well, my mom denies
ever spanking me. But I was not raised in
a corporal punishment environment. When I was a kid in school, when I was eight somebody came up
and punched me for no reason. I had never seen him before. And I went up to
the first adult I could… This was my reaction. I went up to the first
authority figure I could find and I looked up at her –
it was a big woman – and I was like, “He hit me,” and she looked down and said,
“Well, hit him back!” and that thought
hadn’t occurred to me because it wasn’t
how I was raised. All that said, now I teach
in a public university and I have so many
students who tell me, “If my father didn’t hit me
or threaten to at least “I wouldn’t be where
I was today.” You know, I come from
a very middle… My parents were teachers. I come from a very safe,
middle-class background. In a way, the stakes were lower. But if you grow up on violent streets
in America, there’s a lot less
room for error. I’m not a fan
of corporal punishment, but I’m also
not willing to criticise it because I think perhaps different cultures,
different societies need a different form
of parenting. I started out by saying I didn’t
want to talk about parenting… Lauren, you wanted to say something
a bit more on this? I was just gonna say
it seems to work ’cause I remember being spanked,
I don’t remember being grounded. -It seems to be more effective.
-OK, thank you. Foucault was right,
though, in the sense that society has moved
from controlling the body to now controlling the mind where you get grounded
or take time-outs. Whether that’s better or worse,
we’ll see in a generation. The gentleman downstairs. MAN: Yes. Hi. My name is Raffi. First of all, I love your
bolo tie. It’s fantastic. Why, thank you.
It’s from Albuquerque. My wife bought it for me. He’s just gonna ask you
a really bad question now. Softened you up with
a bolo tie compliment. I didn’t know how
it’d go over in Australia. More than likely
this will be a bad question, but where do you draw
the line between flogging and some sort of punishment that does not take
2 to 5 to 10 years and the desire
to lock someone away so that they cannot
harm someone? I mean, is there a murderer? Is there someone who possesses
and sends child pornography or a paedophile somewhere where you want to keep
them away from society rather than to make
them feel ashamed for the crime
that they have committed? There are very few crimes I think that the person
represents an immediate threat. I mean, there
will be recidivism. You release a burglar,
there’s a good chance they’re going to
burglarise another house. Murder, strangely enough, has one of the lowest
recidivism rates because usually
you kill someone for a reason, then that person’s dead
and you don’t… There are not that many
psychopathic murderers that kill for fun. Usually there’s a target. Paedophilia…
Boy, that’s a tricky one. I don’t know how that works here,
but there are prisons in America that are now basically
keeping them there forever beyond their sentence
on civil commitment. Our attorney-generals
have the capacity to deny release
at their discretion so some are going on beyond
the term of their sentence. If paedophilia
is a sexual orientation, I don’t think you can change
a sexual orientation so I don’t know what to do, but as a society
before we start saying, “We’re just going to keep you
locked up forever,” we need to take
a deep look at ourselves. There might be some other way
to let that person out and keep them away from…
non-consensual kids. -But it’s…
-Non-consensual kids? Kids who don’t consent to sex
with a man is what I’m saying. That thought of
locking someone up forever, that’s really
the worst thing we can do. In some ways, it’s worse
than executing someone because this
is long-term torture. No-one’s got an answer for that. But for the bulk of crimes –
certainly for drug crimes – people do not represent threats and we should let
more and more of them out. OK, we’ve got
a few people in the queue so I might take
two in a row now so we’ll just try and keep
in mind the two questions. So we’ve got stuff like
Google Glass and GPS. Do you think it would be viable
to just leave people in society and constantly monitor them
instead of locking them up? And the next one? Hi. I’m Jason. The main difficulty that
I have with your argument is where you draw the line in terms of what is acceptable for society to do
to someone as punishment. For example, taking your argument
a bit further, would you support someone who has committed mass murder,
for example, choosing to have both
of their arms amputated instead of going
to jail for life? It’s a good question. So you’ve got two. You’ve got
Google Glass tracking, the perpetual
monitoring question… I’ll answer them in order. The Google Glass… No, I don’t support
a surveillant society. I do believe that
we have to give people the free will
to behave and misbehave and to hold them accountable. That said, it may be coming
whether we like it or not. But I see that
as a separate argument to the punishment thing, but I’m interested in that from
a crime prevention standpoint. The whole idea
of more brutal punishments, of amputations and so on, I think it’s useful to say if someone would choose
that over prison, again, what does
that say about prison? We have to stop this nonsense
that prison isn’t horrible. We are allowed to have standards
of civilised society. We come from – and ‘we’ basically meaning every former colony
of the British Empire – come from a tradition
of flogging. It IS part of our society. It was much more
recently in Australia than in the United States,
in fact. We can harken back to it. We don’t have
a history of amputation and I’m happy we don’t, but if someone were
to choose that over prison I think that says more
horrible things about prison than it does about amputation. But personally, no, I wouldn’t
be willing to go that far. I would give them
the choice of being whipped. I don’t want to start
cutting off limbs. And I don’t think that’s… I don’t think
that’s a strange… It is an arbitrary line to draw. I don’t think it’s
a strange line to draw. I’m not arguing for
a utilitarian perspective. I’m not arguing
for an amoral perspective. Do you think
one of the things might be that the wounds from
a whipping will heal whereas the amputation
is permanent? Would that be
one point of distinction? Absolutely. It’s to try
and prevent further on… But it’s a good question because the amputation,
of course, takes the means of future
mass murder out of it, which I would see
as a sort of a slight… Unless you’ve seen one
of Monty Python’s films. (LAUGHTER) “Come back!” Yes. WOMAN: Hi. I think an assumption’s
been made here today. You’ve given us two choices – either to flog
or to put people into prison… PETER: Give me that third. Yeah, I’m gonna give
you a third one. First of all,
I’m gonna unpack something and that is to say that
you’ve made an assumption that we all want
to punish people. I didn’t make that
assumption. I said… You said,
“The majority of society…” -Sorry.
-That I did say. -“The majority of society.”
-And I stand by that. Move closer to the microphone
so we can get your voice, please. So I’m gonna challenge that
that is… I’m gonna accept that
that’s a given at the moment. I’m going to challenge you
to accept that and to suggest that perhaps
what you’re accepting is fear as the basis
for which society should run by. I’m going to ask you
to look at models which are used by indigenous cultures
around the world which are to seat people
in circle and to get people
to dialogue with one another about what has happened so that they can actually look at the situation
in different ways so that the person
who has committed whatever the crime that’s
been labelled as the crime can hear the pain of the person who has had
the crime committed to them and the community as a whole
can start to take responsibility rather than one person
being given the responsibility to go into jail when it’s very rarely
the fault of just one person. That’s one model. I haven’t got
many others to offer, but that’s one model and I think that’s where our energy
should be going – into looking for
those sort of models. I’m interested to hear
what you have to say on that. Often in… That style is often covered
in restorative justice models of getting the victim and the perpetrator
of the crime together to discuss what has happened. I’m all for that. I’m all for
all these alternatives. Here’s the problem. I come from a liberal,
academic background and I teach criminal justice. I agree with a lot
of what you say, not all of it, but it’s not gonna happen. Unfortunately, I do think
society wants punishment. I’m trying to be a bit of a… I just don’t want to talk about
what could be good. I don’t think flogging
is the perfect system. I think it is a better system. I truly think
it is the lesser of two evils. To wait for the perfect system, to wait for
the ‘Kumbaya’ circle, it’s not gonna happen. If we want to do that… People have been working
for that for the past 30 years and we have two million
more prisoners in America. I’m sick of waiting. I don’t think
it’s politically realistic. That’s why I do think
you have to accept that the majority of people
in our countries do want some form
of punishment and retribution and then work from there
because how… WOMAN: Maybe
give them the choice. Maybe put a third one
on the table – they can be flogged,
they can go to jail or they can have the circle. I want to put a fourth one
on the table too. I mean, I don’t… In the talk I made it strictly…
I’m for all choice. I’m for anything but prison and if some of
that is restorative justice… Because sometimes
all victims want is an apology and that can work quite well. Other times, however, victims
don’t want just an apology. Anything to keep people
out from prison. Absolutely. OK, thank you. Yes.
Your name, please. WOMAN: Hi. My name is Bari. Just before I ask my question,
I want to make a comment about what the lady
said before me and that’s that
the restorative justice system in fact has been shown
with many studies to decrease recidivism,
which I’m sure you’ll agree, and the reason why we don’t
implement it here or overseas is because of moral outrage
and blood lust for punishment. But in any event,
with what you were talking about with flogging
versus incarceration, you’ve mentioned the three
aspects of incarceration, or the three purposes, which is rehabilitation,
incapacitation and punishment… PETER: Punishment
or deterrence. Yeah. Punishment or deterrence. Now, flogging seems
to address that last one, but the first one… I think I’m probably a little bit
more optimistic than you are regarding rehabilitation
in the prison system because it seems
to be very dependent on the different types of prisons,
the locations and… Some prison systems… A prison system functioning well
can offer a lot of programs that can actually
help people rehabilitate, which is what it’s designed for, and also, obviously,
different eras like in the 1960s and 1970s when there was a lot more
of a focus on rehabilitation versus the 1990s when there’s a lot more focus
on the crime control model. So comparing that to flogging, I can’t really see a situation where somebody who’s been
a murderer or a serial rapist is going to get a good flogging
and turn around and think, “Well, I’ve really
learned my lesson. “I won’t do that anymore.” They may change
their way of doing things, but it’s certainly
not going to rehabilitate. -The second one…
-Is there a question in this? No, it was actually… The second one, sorry,
which is the incapacitation – would you really see that society
is going to feel safer with a murderer or a serial rapist being flogged
rather than being incapacitated? Thank you. Most of the prisoners are not rapists
or murderers, again. Australia has doubled
its population. The US has… I don’t even know
the word for ‘seven-timesed’ it. ‘Heptatised’. I don’t know. Those are not… We don’t have seven times
as many murderers or criminals. These are longer sentences. But to turn back the clock to get America back
to where it was in 1970, we would have to release
85% of our prisoners, which no-one has
a serious proposal for, but that could be done because
we did that just 40 years ago. We could release half
the prisoners in Australia without any threat to… Sure, some of them
might commit crime, but in its totality, without an increased
public safety threat. The rehabilitation arguments, again, they cost
comparatively nothing compared to the cost of prison. We should have more programs. I’m glad you’re optimistic,
but where is this great prison? Where is the prison that has
a rehabilitation rate of 50%? And I don’t think it’s because
of prison on top of that. Let us do these programs,
but do them outside of prison. When you are in prison, when you don’t have your
freedom, you want to be free. Nothing else works. That’s
the primary focus you have. We don’t have to do these things in total systems
of incapacitation. OK, next gentleman, please. Hi. My name’s Richard. I’m pleased that you mentioned there
was the money ’cause I’m thinking about… You also touched
on the mad and the bed. In terms of recidivism, there’s plenty of studies
that have shown that we can be pretty good
at identifying people who are very likely
to offend again where there’s
mental health issues and a lot of people in prison
have got mental health issues. The studies have shown
that if you intervene in terms of getting them
into a mental health unit, into some sort
of mental health service you can prevent them offending and prevent them
being put back in prison. I’d be interested
in your comments on that. Mental health… I hope things
are a little better here than they are
in the United States. Mental health or a lack
of mental health is a huge issue. Right now, the prison system
is the largest… Jeez, that wasn’t
a very popular question. (LAUGHTER) Probably something else
is about to start, I suspect. Actually, just before
you answer the question, before more people wander off
to other things, could I just do a quick vote
as to how many people here have been convinced by Peter that there ought
to be introduced in Australia an option for people
to have flogging rather than prison? So it’s a choice. How many people
would say yes to that? Just let me have a quick look. And how many say no? -PETER: Wow.
-So a majority say yes. PETER: How many of you
came in thinking yes? MAN: How many of you
have changed your mind? How many people
have changed their mind? -PETER: Oh, that’s good.
-That’s interesting. OK. My goal is not even… My goal is not to convince you. My goal is to get you
to think about these issues. But I’m surprised
I was so effective. My God! ..what the feeling was
in the room. Sorry. Did I cut off
your answer? Give me a summary again
of what you asked. MAN: You didn’t
answer my question. -About mental health.
-What was the question? Oh, mental health. The US prison system
is the largest mental health treater in America right now. It is the worst
possible situation for that. Again, if we took
some of this money we’re spending at the back end and gave it to treatment
at the front end of course it would help, but these are
political issues again and they’re political choices
that we as a society are just too ignorant
or selfish or greedy to do. But, yes, we have
to fight for that. That’s a huge part of it. But a lot of prisoners… You know, guards also… Prisoners are both over-medicated
and under-medicated. A lot of people just walk
around in psychotropic hazes and, hell, if I were in prison
I’d take every drug I could. I mean, what else
are you going to do? But mental health is a huge part
of the picture. Absolutely. OK, these last two people, we’ll get their
questions together and then we might
start to wrap up. Hi, Peter. My name’s Peter. PETER: Great choice. I’d like you to comment
if possible on the trends
in the United States of privatisation of prisons and then the prison
services especially and then contracts between
the state and those providers and guaranteed
incarceration rates and anything else
that would exist in those. Well, let me get
the next question ’cause I got a lot
to say about that and maybe less to say
about this, but we’ll see. WOMAN: So I’m
a forensic psychiatrist so I’m probably responsible for some of those people
walking around doped up. I would like to propose
that there is a number three, which is that we focus on… There is an alternative which is that we just
improve our prison system. I think from hearing
Erwin James… MAN: Can you get closer
to the microphone? Sorry. Sorry. Erwin James earlier did give an enlightened
and beautiful example of someone who you’re describing who has genuinely
got needs themself, which I think
is what we need to focus on. People don’t do horrible things
for no reasons. Should not an alternative be… Because I don’t think flogging’s
going to sort out his problems. No, and he is one of the rare success stories,
I would say, of prison, but he’s the exception. But the point of the question is improve prisons
rather than have people… I do think that some prisons… At some point, some people do need
to be taken out of society and be given the opportunity
to be cared for and prison isn’t at the moment
the right place to be cared for, but I’m one of the people
trying to care for these people and I think we could
focus our resources for those people who have missed
the boat early on in life to just try and… I would prefer to do something like home monitoring
and help people. You might have a slightly more sympathetic
political situation here. In America,
we can’t improve prisons, they’re getting worse, because people
want to punish people and the only way
we can do it is prison. So I’m not against… Well, in some ways I am
against improving prisons because I see it as tinkering
with an evil system. In my book, I say it’s like,
“Putting comfier seats “on the train to Auschwitz.” But what happens when… This is where I’m torn because
I think those programs are good and yet it allows
this strange bedfellow of liberals and conservatives
to support the prison system and I’m trying to break down
the prison system, I’m trying to throw
a hand grenade into that debate. So I don’t want prisons
to get better if that… ..if that allows them
to continue. On the other hand, if they are here
I’d like them to be better. So I don’t know if that
makes sense, but there’s… I wanna see them gone,
but I also want… If that doesn’t happen,
I wanna see them better. -And the issue of…
-PERSON: Private prisons. Private prisons.
So private prisons are horrible. But they’re horrible
for reasons independent of… Many reasons. About 10%, 8% of Americans
are now held in private prisons so roughly 200,000 Americans
are in private prisons. Private prisons are in states
that have weak unions. They are not allowed in
New York State, for instance, because the correctional
officers’ union are against private prisons. You can be against
private prisons simply from a labour standpoint because the only reason
they’re cheaper is because
they pay crappy wages. If they paid union wages,
they would not save money. So you’re taking money
from union workers and you’re giving it to people
who invest in human bondage. The moral argument
I think is stronger, which is we do not want people
profiting from human bondage. That’s what prison is.
It is a form of slavery. You should not be able
to make money on that. Again, if we want to do it,
we can do it at a public level because the problem
once it’s privatised is if you build it,
they will come. They build prisons on spec and they assume
they’re gonna get filled and they usually are. Currently in America, private prisons usually hold
also the easier prisoners, the prisoners that don’t
have big mental problems, prisoners that are not violent. They also are now… Because a lot of states
don’t allow them, a lot of the federal prisoners
go to private prisons, but primarily immigrants
about to get deported. I mentioned this in another talk,
but if you go to… CCA is the company. If you go to their website,
they talk about rehabilitation, which they don’t do much of, but how do you rehabilitate
an immigrant? It’s absurd at its face value. But it gets worse
because what they do is then they go to
state legislators and they draft
anti-immigration legislation – they did this in Arizona
in the United States – because they want
more prisoners. That’s how they make money. So to have this as another… It’s one thing for
the correctional officers’ union to want more prisoners. It’s one thing for mean people
to want more prisoners. But to then have this
independent, profit-driven, campaign-donation-giving group that does not even pretend
to talk about the public good, but simply wants
more prisoners for a profit is absolutely immoral. So I’m not for it. Well, I think
you probably noticed there are a few people
heading off to other sessions, Murder in Mississippi
being one of them and others, so there may be others
here too who have to go. I think we’ve had
a really marvellous example of what this festival is about – a genuinely dangerous idea,
something which is provocative. Some of you might say,
“No way is this right. “The thinking
is completely out of the question.” But thank you, Peter,
for bringing that idea, for arguing it with the passion and articulate manner
that you did. I think everybody here
would say, “Well done and thank you very much
for your dangerous idea.” Thank you. (APPLAUSE)


4 Replies to “Festival of Dangerous Ideas 2013: Peter Moskos – In Defence of Flogging”

  1. Mamunur Rashid says:

    Good one!!!

  2. Soon To Be Self-employed says:

    Guess who loves a good spanking.

  3. MuzzySkeleton says:

    Prof Moskos rocks!

  4. Anime is the slippery slope to fascism says:

    Discussing with the community works because of existing communities, limited mobility, and survival dependant on cooperation, such as the tribal organisation she's talking about. A harsh punishment against someone who is very likely your close kin would lead to embarrassing family diner, and more trouble than its worth. They may not be as forgiving with for example a rival tribe.
    Communities don't exist in modern society, with few exceptions, such as people living on the margin, religious people, or insiders.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *