Australia may have been founded on the backs of convicts, but we’re much more civilised now – aren’t we?
The chains, stocks and whips are gone. Instead, we lock people up in concrete cubicles for decades, separated from their families – and sometimes even from other prisoners. According to the United Nations, anything more than 15 days in solitary confinement is a human rights abuse, and yet we systematically place people in such environments for much longer.
Are prisons really more humane, or are they a way for society’s privileged to feel protected at any cost? A way for us to hide our problems behind high walls and forget about them?
If jails are cruel and expensive failures, surely we could look at traditional solutions and consider corporal punishment. Why not bring back flogging? It’s both cheaper and quicker. Perhaps the convicted should be given the choice: the lash or the slammer. One may leave physical scars, but do these really compare to the emotional scars that come from being locked up?
Peter Moskos is a former Baltimore Police Department officer and now Associate Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice at City University of New York. He is the author of In Defense of Flogging, and was named by The Atlantic as one of the “Bravest Thinkers of 2011.”
Chair: Simon Longstaff is Executive Director of St James Ethics Centre, and is co-curator of Festival of Dangerous Ideas.