WASHINGTON -- A Republican state legislator in Montana, who once asked to be paid in gold coins, has introduced legislation that would allow convicted criminals in the state to request a sentence of corporal punishment in lieu of jail.
State Rep. Jerry O'Neil (R-Columbia Falls) has put forward a new bill that would allow the option of corporal punishment for those convicted of misdemeanors and felonies in the state. The bill, which has not yet been assigned to committee, would allow for the convicted to bargain with a judge for a sentence of corporal punishment, but would give the judge the final say in who receives such a punishment. The Lowdown blog of the Great Falls Tribune first reported the story Tuesday evening.
O'Neil's legislation defines corporal punishment as "the infliction of physical pain on a defendant to carry out the sentence negotiated between the judge and the defendant." The exact means of inflicting said physical pain is not written into the bill, but would presumably be determined during negotiations between defendants and judges. The bill also does not specify whether any felonies would be exempt from the law, thus allowing for the possibility that murderers could receive corporal punishment instead of jail time.
The last case of corporal punishment used for a criminal in the U.S. was a public whipping in Delaware in 1952. Delaware formally abolished public whipping in 1972. Under the terms of the Montana legislation, corporal punishment -- whatever method might be employed -- would be conducted either by county sheriffs or officials with the state Department of Corrections.
Corporal punishment remains a common form of criminal punishment in several countries including Singapore, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria. For example, media reported on Monday that the Iranian state amputated the fingers on the right hand of a convicted thief. Corporal punishment remains on the books in several other countries including Barbados, Botswana, Brunei, Swaziland, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, and Zimbabwe.
O'Neil, who backed Ron Paul for president in 2012, is no stranger to unusual requests. Late last year, he requested that the state pay his legislative salary in gold and silver coins to guard against the collapse of the dollar. The request was denied by state officials.