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Judicial CP - December 1998
Madison County Journal, Ridgeland, Mississippi, 17 December 1998
Public flogging suggested as crime solution
By Duane Gordon
CANTON -- Talk of public flogging -- even dismemberment -- to deter criminals, along with a tax hike to boost law enforcement, brought rumblings and even some laughter at a wild meeting of the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Tuesday as city officials grappled for solutions to what is seen as an increasing threat.
One alderman suggested up to a 3-percent sales tax increase or 6-mill property tax hike to fund improved law enforcement, but another board member said the only way to decrease crime is to increase penalties, adding that he supported cutting off a hand or public flogging as punishment.
Discussion of crime solutions has been ongoing at the board meetings for several months, with problems cited of lack of punishment in the city courts which have since been addressed but to be followed only by several murders in recent months.
After the city's sixth homicide of the year, aldermen said something had to be done, and some even moved to replace the city's interim police chief two weeks ago, only to have that effort thwarted by a majority of aldermen, who voted to name the interim chief permanent chief, albeit to be re-evaluated in six months and kicked out if he doesn't turn his department around.
At the board's previous meeting, Alderman-at-Large William Truly Jr. had presented several points he said he believed would impact the city's crime rate, adding that he knew new programs would cost money. At that time he suggested possible increases in sales taxes as well as property taxes, revisiting those ideas this week.
As Truly touted his tax increase proposals, which were received well by most aldermen, Ward 4 Alderman Louis Smith offered his own ideas, which included rather harsh punishments for criminals.
"I don't think raising taxes, building more prisons, hiring more officers is the way to do it," Smith said, saying that to really address crime, people must unite and seek changes in the law.
"Let's make the punishment worse than the crime...Y'all may think this is wild, but I'm not opposed to taking a hand off...It's something to think about if you're serious about fighting crime," Smith said.
As audience members talked amongst themselves and even uttered some laughter at the suggestion, Smith added that another idea may be bringing back public floggings, saying that after officials "make examples" of one or two criminals, crime would plummet.
"I'm not for the dismemberment of bodies," retorted Truly, "or public flogging or castration of people for committing crimes." (Smith did not mention castration. Later, Truly added "decapitation" to the list, again not included in Smith's suggestions.)
Ward 5 Alderman Kenny Wayne Jones argued that such punishments would be unconstitutional, but Smith said the penalties would be the only way to adequately deter crime.
Opting not to further discuss those types of punishment, Mayor Alice M. Scott ordered an ad hoc committee of herself, Truly and Ward 3 Alderman Charles A. Weems, an accountant, to study the feasibility of a sales tax or property tax increase to improve law enforcement.
Just prior to discussion of the item, listed on the agenda as requesting the Legislature to approve a local and private bill for a 3-percent sales tax for crime prevention, Truly left the room.
At that point, Scott addressed Truly's empty chair as if he were sitting in it. Upon realizing he was gone, she said he had asked for the item to be put on the agenda and for somebody to go get him. Another alderman retrieved Truly from the hallway.
Truly reminded the board of his earlier suggestion that additional officers be added and for a tolerance program be initiated in the city schools to address anger control. He also repeated that any such solution would cost money, adding that it could be raised by a sales tax and/or property tax increase.
Discussion of crime has been a hot topic in recent weeks, following six murders in the city so far this year and two in the county close to the city limits. November saw two murders, one believed to be drug-related and another in which the chief of police confirmed the suspect told him minutes before the killing that he intended to shoot a security guard with whom he had an altercation earlier that evening. October saw a man receive at least nine bullet wounds in what authorities said was likely a gambling dispute. Of those three, only the security guard slaying resulted in an arrest.
In subsequent debates, aldermen accused officers of informing those they must arrest or order to disburse from an area who the person was who called in a complaint against them. Officials also said officers come to Canton to get trained and then leave for higher-paying positions with departments in the surrounding area and that those who stay have very low morale. Police Chief Milton Luckett said his department stays about seven or eight officers short at all times because so many leave so often.
At the board's previous meeting, a vote failed 3-4 to seek a replacement for Luckett, then interim chief, and a vote passed 4-3 to name him the official police chief. That vote, however, included a six month period, after which if he has not improved his department, aldermen said they will oust him.
Copyright © 1998 Madison County Journal
Jakarta Post, Indonesia, 18 December 1998
Can caning end impeachment?By Edward Neilan
SINGAPORE (JP): Administration of some "Singapore justice" has been suggested as one way out of the crime and punishment argument facing Bill Clinton and the American congress and people.
Would five strokes of the cane on the Presidential backside end the impeachment-censure dilemma and debate that is wrenching the collective American conscience? Could we then close the issue and get on with our lives? It is very humiliating -- and perhaps even illegal -- to mention inflicting physical pain as punishment on the President of the United States, even though his actions have inflicted serious psychological pain on many of his constituents. His misdeeds are more ridiculous than any bizarre punishment that could be suggested.
Such action would not be my own recommendation. But I have heard it mentioned frequently enough by American expatriate businessmen and Singaporeans here over the past few days that it bears repeating.
Clinton said the other day that he would accept any sort of punishment except impeachment. Maybe, just maybe, his offer to bend over and take the primitive swats -- a gesture that surely would not be accepted -- would be an act of contrition that would capture Americans' imaginations
Singapore, you will recall, is the place where a young American man was caned a few years ago for spray-painting graffiti on an automobile. An uproar ensued in the U.S. as human rights advocates and sentimentalists, decent folks and legalists, rose to condemn the sentencing as "cruel and unusual punishment."
But the young man was a guest here and had agreed to abide by the laws.
On a television program in Tokyo at the time, I was asked what I thought of the situation.
"He should take his punishment like a man," I said. "And then leave."
Following the advice of his parents and lawyers, he did just that. His tender bottom remained that way long after the flight back home across the Pacific.
Now, Singapore is no Banana Republic. Despite an overall aura of "Asian values" and punishment that ranges from caning for serious offenses by adults as well as minors to fines for chewing gum in the wrong part of town, it is a well-run society.
Singapore is such an ideal business setting, for example, that Caltex is moving its worldwide operations center here.
There is ample attractiveness in Singapore's own culture.
But American expatriates may arrive here and get in stride immediately with such familiar names as Citibank, Federal Express, Starbucks, The Coffee Bean, Morton's Steak House, Gap, Planet Hollywood, Borders Books, McDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Sizzler and hotels like Sheraton, Hyatt, Westin and Marriott. The posh American Club on Scotts Road is, in many respects, an anachronism.
The American inns have the amenities but not the charisma to match local colonial-era icons like Raffles Hotel and The Goodwood Park.
It was not by accident that The Heritage Foundation of Washington D.C. announced recently that Singapore had replaced Hong Kong atop its Economic Freedom Index which it runs with the Asian Wall Street Journal newspaper.
In short, Singapore is a good friend of the United States. Its leaders, including paternalistic senior statesman and former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, often dispense wise advice to Washington on the China question.
So the comments heard here about Singapore justice in the American context should not be dismissed as entirely off-the-wall, facetious or flippant.
There is entirely too much of the "we're always right" attitude emanating from U.S. officials and media which translates abroad as uninformed arrogance.
There are several billion people around the globe who do not even know what "inside the Beltway" means.
Thinking hard, asking difficult questions and proposing some tough figurative, not literal, solutions may help us avoid such uncomfortable situations as the present Clinton denouement in the future.
The writer is a Tokyo-based analyst of Northeast Asian affairs and a Media Fellow at Hoover Institution, Stanford University.
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