Critical Analysis of "Bring Back Flogging?" (ENGL 015S)

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In his article, "Bring Back Flogging," columnist Jeff Jacoby tries to tell us about the deficiency of today's criminal justice system and to persuade us to bring back flogging as a punishment for certain crimes. His title clearly and directly states his thesis. Techniques such as evidence and assumptions are used in this essay to persuade readers. However, though it is an engaging piece of work, it cannot persuade me to support his proposition.

"Bring Back Flogging" was published on February 20, in 1997 in the Boston Globe. In this essay, Jeff Jacoby describes the weak points of today's criminal justice system, and claims that flogging should be our option because it is a much quicker, cheaper, educational and effective way than imprisonment.

In his argument, Jacoby does furnish a good amount of evidence, yet he seems to choose many wrong proofs. He points out that about 1.6 million Americans were in jail that year (1997), and that this number was 3.5 times larger than that of 1980 (Jacoby par. 4). This seems, at first glance, to demonstrate the weakness of the federal justice system. However, does the dramatically increased number of prisoners necessarily verify that the prison system is not working? Is it possible that the growth resulted from the changes of the laws as more things become illegal, the federal government passes minimum mandatory sentences? Perhaps many crimes for which a person would not have been sent to prison now require a prison term. That could be the reason for the increase. Then, can we literally say that the increase in the number of prisoners means the increase of crime? Besides that, are we sure that it is a bad thing if we are capturing more and more criminals and putting them in jail? It seems to me an indication that the system is working, whereas Jacoby uses it to demonstrate that somehow it is not working. Jacoby also attempts to use statistics to support his opinion. By saying the common estimated cost of one inmate is approximately $30,000 per year, Jacoby implies that we have spent too much money on inmates, and that the whole imprisonment system is costly , thus we should choose the cheaper way - flogging (Jacoby par. 7). Is that necessarily true? It does cost some money to put people in jail, which is undeniable, but does all the money go to the inmates? No! Some of the money goes to prison personnel and to prison upkeep. Is it less expensive to get criminals whipped instead of imprisoning them? Maybe, but it might well be much more pricey and troublesome if things like sudden death occur to someone who is being whipped. Basically, Jacoby fails to pick proper evidence to back up his claim, which makes his view doubtful.

I tried to make myself follow Jacoby's train of thought and reach the same conclusion. However, he loses my confidence when he relies on too many mistaken assumptions. The most important one is that, when talking about imprisonment as a penalty, Jacoby states that "It is an all-purpose punishment," assuming putting people into prison is the only thing we can do for every crime, which I think is definitely groundless (Jacoby par. 4). Do we not have probation? Do we not have community service? Do we not get people fined? Do we not make people pay restitution directly to victims? Apparently we do have many other types of punishment according to different situations. Obviously, Jacoby does not correctly indicate under what circumstances imprisonment is used, thereby weakening his proposal.

It is also worth mentioning that, as a whole, Jacoby ignores some crucial problems in his essay. Which crimes should flogging work for? What age range would get flogged? How many times would they be flogged? What would be the differences between flogging male and female criminals? What would happen if medical problems were caused by the flogging? These practical issues should be thought out and talked about in this essay to show that, rather than proposing the suggestion arbitrarily, the author has thought responsibly about its feasibility before putting it forward.

Admittedly, the present criminal justice system does have some defects. Flogging was once an effective and widely used penalty in America and in the other parts of the world. However, now we have already realized flogging is a cruel and unusual punishment, and that is the very reason why our government banned this. In my opinion, it may help prevent some crimes by threatening the citizens, but it is not good for the total well-being of our society. Violent punishment may breed more violence. About the flogging thing, we need more deep and critical thinking.

By and large, Jeff Jacoby tries to pass the message on to his readers that the federal justice system may not be as effective as it could be and that flogging could be the solution. However, he does not make good use of evidence and assumptions, and many practical questions are not addressed. Therefore, I can hardly agree with his opinion.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Jacoby, Jeff. "Bring back flogging?" Jeff Jacoby. Pundicity, 20 Feb. 1997. Web. 28 Feb. 2010. <http://www.jeffjacoby.com/6758/bring-back-flogging>

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