In Defense of Flogging


By Peter Moskos

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Prisons impose tremendous costs, yet they’re easily ignored. Criminals — even low-level nonviolent offenders — enter our dysfunctional criminal justice system and disappear into a morass that’s safely hidden from public view. Our “tough on crime” political rhetoric offers us no way out, and prison reformers are too quickly dismissed as soft on criminals. Meanwhile, the taxpayer picks up the extraordinary and unnecessary bill.

In Defense of Flogging presents a solution both radical and simple: give criminals a choice between incarceration and the lash. Flogging is punishment: quick, cheap, and honest.

Noted criminologist Peter Moskos, in irrefutable style, shows the logic of the new system while highlighting flaws in the status quo. Flogging may be cruel, but In Defense of Flogging shows us that compared to our broken prison system, it is the lesser of two evils.
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  • Bloomberg News
    In Defense of Flogging isn't a joke, a satire or a thought experiment... [Moskos] makes a convincing case...In Defense of Flogging is one of the very few public-policy books I've encountered that goes past wringing its hands over a societal problem to offer a viable solution, by which I mean one with a prayer of being put into place because it has appeal across the political spectrum.... At just over 150 pages of clear, smart and highly readable prose, Moskos's sharp little volume has a potential audience far beyond the experts who dutifully slog through most tomes like this.... I know one thing, though. Given the choice between 10 lashes and five years, I'd take the whip.”

    The Daily Beast
    “If we're capable of taking Moskos' idea as a serious option to incarceration, it could have profound consequences for a nation that incarcerates its citizens at a rate that's seven times as high as the other nations of the world. Clearly we have to find a way to reduce prison populations, and this just might be a logical one.... In Defense of Flogging forces the reader to confront issues surrounding incarceration that most Americans would prefer not to think about.”
  • Library Journal
    “Moskos's argument is unconventional and convincing. Those interested in prison reform will find much to contemplate here.”
    Washington Times
    “As a former Baltimore City police officer, assistant professor of law, police science and criminal justice administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, Mr. Moskos is not unfamiliar with the legal or criminal aspects of justice. He readily employs this background to describe the ills of today's criminal justice system and his radical alternative.... ‘Flogging' is intriguing, even in — or because of — its shocking premise. As a case against prisons, Mr. Moskos' is airtight.”
    “Compelling.... Although his outrageous idea may conjure up unsavory reminders of U.S. slavery, by the end of “In Defense of Flogging,” Moskos might just have you convinced.”
  • Randy Cohen, former writer of The New York Times Magazine column “The Ethicist”
    “Peter Moskos presents us with a true dilemma, the dreadful alternatives of prison or flogging. To make that stark and Swiftian choice, he compels us to rethink our ideas of cruel and humane, barbaric and civilized, progressive and reactionary. It is invariably jarring to overcome a prejudice or abandon a dearly held belief & mdash; I try to avoid doing either—but Moskos makes it an intriguing, if unsettling, experience.”

    Publishers Weekly
    “Moskos, an assistant professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who specializes in police and criminal science, debates with the utmost seriousness the merits of flogging as an alternative to incarceration.... Indeed, when Moskos mentions the possibility of electric shock as another option, readers will begin to wonder if the writer is poking outlandish fun and crafting a notion similar to Swift's 1729 classic “A Modest Proposal,” using satire to call attention to the ‘shame' of our inhumane prison system.”

On Sale
Feb 5, 2013
Page Count
192 pages
Basic Books

Peter Moskos

About the Author

Peter Moskos is assistant professor of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and the City University of New York’s Doctoral Program in Sociology, and is a former Baltimore City police officer. Author of Cop in the Hood, which won the 2008 PROSE Award for best Sociology Book, he lives in Queens, New York.

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