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‘In defense of flogging’- by Peter Moskos Essay

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Updated: Nov 23rd, 2019


Prisons are basic centers of justice where criminal and lawbreakers serve their sentences as a form of penance. The prison department is essential in restoring order and sanity in any nation. However, people normally associate jails with cruelty, as imprisonment means corporal punishment or serving decades or life sentence in a prison (Moskos 2). For several years, the prison departments have been in the public limelight with human rights activists protesting on the forms of punishment that prisoners undergo.

Nonetheless, law and order are necessary to any nation. Human rights argument is central to the beginning of reforms in the prison departments across the globe. Despite this, nothing is likely to change drastically with the prevailing conditions of crimes and injustices. In fact, even to date, it is unknown as to which form of punishment that best suits prisoners. For this reason, this essay seeks to analyze the book, “In defense of flogging” by Peter Moskos.

Book Overview

The book, “In defense of flogging” by Peter Moskos, is a social book that describes the exact condition of justice under prisons. It describes the hidden costs incurred by the governments in a bid to restore justice and sanity through the prison department (Moskos, 5).

The book brings out the harsh reality that sometimes people do not really deserve to be in prisons following minor offences not to mention some end up in prisons whilst not guilty, but the detention center ends up having offenders and non-offenders under the same complex. Based on this existing truth, Moskos prefers corporal punishment to imprisonment as a form of castigation to convicts to restore the desired law and order among nations (20).

Book Message

The book avails particularly important information about two main aspects in prison, viz. imprisonment and corporal punishment. These aspects of the prison are the most commonly used strategies to restore law and order in several nations. However, Moskos prefers the “flogging” strategy to serving sentences or jail terms. He postulates, “I want to reduce cruelty, and flogging may be the answer” (Moskos 2).

The term flogging in the book simply describes the system of canning, stroking, or fondling as a form of prison punishment imposed to prisoners. According to Moskos, it sounds cruel for someone to serve a decade, as jail term or even life sentence, for some petty issues like quarrels with friends or lovers, fighting with strangers, drunk driving, or even social media offences (3). Imprisonment might not be someone’s wish, but someone might commit a crime unknowingly.

The book does not really emphasize on the use of corporal punishment, but to a certain extent Moskos, prefers canning and stroking to jail terms. No one knows the advent of misfortunes. People are not convicted because they are normally guilty, but several cases have indicated imprisonment due to poor judgments or impunity as the cause of the innocent’s sufferings. Moskos asserts that one might be completely innocent and due to misjudgments, s/he might end up in prison.

This judgment makes one an official criminal mistakenly. Spending time in jail is very painful and traumatizing as one undergoes torture, severe ailments, loses financial assets coupled with ambitious plans and even straining important relationships (Moskos 4). According to the author, imprisonment or rather incarceration is just like taking away someone’s life and one cannot compare it to experience that one can undergo in the flogging process.

Based on personal experience, the writer witnessed the tough experiences that detainees undergo. Moskos defends himself by postulating that he never used to be so, but the events that unfolded in the year 1970 changed his personality.

He witnessed a serious imprisonment event that happened due to changed laws that increased sentence lengths for prisoners. Moskos asserts that during that time, the state had declared war against drug trafficking and drug-associated cases, when most individuals estimated to about 338000 were convicted without proper proofs or evidence. According to Moskos, it is troubling that an alarming number of over 2.3 million Americans are serving their jail terms.

This population accounts to almost 1 per cent of the entire adult population. This population might be among individuals who are capable of changing the economic status of the US. According to Moskos, this population of inmates is quite difficult to maintain or accommodate, thus the process becomes expensive (15).

Main argument

The main subject of the book is to emphasize that despite the imprisonment aspect, crime is still eminent. American prisons are ever full of inmates throughout the year, but the levels of crime are ever increasing.

According to Moskos, “the prison, the reformatory, and the jail have achieved only a shocking level of failure” (15). This observation implies that despite several laws and prison reforms, the level of crime remains largely evident to date. Moskos further links this argument by giving an example of cases related to drug trafficking and drug abuse.

In several of these cases, peddlers are arrested but drug business resumes as normal with no heavy impact felt. According to Moskos, arresting drug dealers seems useless if one considers these factors. In fact, the book portrays how the state keeps on spending huge amounts of money to take care of inmates, who could be feeding themselves. The fact that drugs are profitable compels businesspersons to engage in this serious tycoon industry.

Compared to other forms of punishments, this book prefers flogging of lawbreakers or simply corporal punishment to offenders. Moskos compares flogging with death penalties that have become a common argument in the retributive justice, which is strongly encompassed in the American culture.

Apart from being a cost-effective form of punishment, flogging saves non-offenders from serving undeserved jail sentences. According to Moskos, despite serious attention and support to the death penalty to criminal and other offenders, there is probably no possibility that crime will vanish one day.

Several people have undergone imprisonment and other forms of punishment as normal occurrences and most probably, they will become resistant to prison conditions or even adapt to the dungeon environment. Moskos asserts that it is common sense that prisons have become places of personal interest or leisure places as they no longer serve the purpose designed for, which is enhancing justice.

Since time immemorial, prisons have lacked efficacy in dealing with crime and restoring justice. Historically, according to Moskos, prisons have caused a lot of suffering and losses.

In the process of confinement, detainees spent extraordinary time in dungeons leading to several misfortunes including serious cases of fatalities. However, to a certain extent, prisons favor criminals by offering them moments of pleasure by allowing them to mingle freely in love affairs at the expense of those whom they assaulted, coned, mugged, robbed, or even killed (Moskos 25).

Given the uncontrollable human nature, which is driven by social, economical, and psychological aspects of life, it becomes even more difficult to control crime or stop criminals. In most cases, modern prisoners are subjected to harsh punishments and poor dieting while serving their jail sentences, thus putting their lives to great danger. Therefore, according to Moskos, if imprisonment were a form of an important reform, why should prisoners suffer from starvation?


Central to the argument on imprisonment and corporal punishment, the book “In defense of flogging” puts the readers in an endless dilemma on what seems to be most imperative between the two forms of prison punishments. However, Moskos presumes that corporal punishment, described herein as flogging, should be the preferable form of punishment to counter crime.

Flogging has the possibility of significantly reducing the costs incurred to control prisons, by avoiding excessive expenditure in the reformatory process, which involves providing inmates with their necessities. Despite the fact that corporal punishment sounds brutal with convicts undergoing painful lashes by canning or stroking, jail sentences are much more brutal as they deprive individuals of wealth, freedom, and love among others critical life aspects.

According to Moskos, before a prisoner becomes free after a jail sentence, the inmate’s family is likely to suffer, individual dreams, visions, or even ambitions are brutality affected, love and faithfulness from the family members and the entire society is strained, thus leaving the convict lonely and jobless out of jail. Under this sundry argument, it is difficult for someone to understand the penance that criminals and law offenders deserve as improper judgments as well can lead to underserved detention.

Works Cited

Moskos, Peter. In Defense of Flogging. New York: Basic Books, 2011. Print.

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