Montana Legislator Proposes Corporal Punishment in Place of Jail

Jerry O'Neil (Source: State of Montana)

Jerry O’Neil (Source: State of Montana)

Montana Rep. Jerry O’Neil has proposed legislation that would allow a convicted criminal and judge to negotiate corporal punishment in lieu of jail time. O’Neil said that he believes some prisoners would prefer “20 lashes” to jail.

“Ten years in prison or you could take 20 lashes, perhaps two lashes a year? What would you choose?” O’Neil said.

Perhaps the masochists have become a significant voting bloc in Montana. That’s about the only reason to justify such crazy legislation.

O’Neil sees this as a way to save taxpayer dollars. In addition, he argues it’s more moral than jail.

“It is actually more moral than we do now,” O’Neil said of the lashings. “I think it’s immoral to put someone in prison for a long time, to take them away from their family, and force that family to go on welfare.”

The only thing that keeps this legislation from being completely derived from the 17th century is that the criminal has a choice in the matter. The bill does not have a number yet because it is still in draft form, which is probably where it will stay.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, a person convicted of any offense by a court in this state, whether a misdemeanor or felony, may during a sentencing hearing as provided in 46-18-115 bargain with the court for the imposition of corporal punishment in lieu of or to reduce the term of any sentence of incarceration available to the court for imposition.

(2) The court and the person convicted of an offense shall negotiate the exact nature of the corporal punishment to be imposed, which must be commensurate with the severity, nature, and degree of the harm caused by the offender. If the court and the offender cannot agree on the exact nature of the corporal punishment to be imposed, the court shall impose a sentence as provided in 46-18-201.

(3) The imposition of a sentence under this section must be carried out by the sheriff of the county in which the crime occurred if the sentence for corporal punishment reduced or eliminated the term of incarceration in the county jail or by the department of corrections if the sentence reduced or eliminated the term of incarceration in the state prison. Any imposition of sentence pursuant to this section must be carried out within a reasonable time.

(4) For purposes of this section, “corporal punishment” means the infliction of physical pain on a defendant to carry out the sentence negotiated between the judge and the defendant.

It may not be straight out of the penal code of 400 years ago, but it sure doesn’t belong in the year 2013. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal is right. The Republican Party needs to stop being the “stupid party.”

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