Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Virgina Senator's Call for Sex Offender Castration

Most prison scholars and activists are familiar with Foucault's seminal work, Discipline & Punish: The Birth of the Prison.

In it, Foucault explains that in the past, punishment was very much focused on disciplining the body. The public would 'enjoy the show' as lawbreakers were tortured & dragged through the streets for all see. A "public spectacle" he called it (1977, p. 7). However, Foucault went on to argue that this disciplining of the body decreased over time and incarceration became about incarcerating the souls of the individuals:
The old partners of the spectacle of punishment, the body and the blood, gave way. A new character came on the scene, masked. It was the end of a certain kind of tragedy; comedy began, with shadow play, faceless voices, impalpable entities. The apparatus of punitive justice must now bite into this bodiless reality. (p. 16-17)
In light of these writings more than 30 years ago... I find it interesting that some are now reigniting the debate on the appropriateness (and COST effectiveness) of castration for male sex offenders. Foucault seemed to suggest that the era of physical humiliation and punishment had come to and end long before 1977. However, here we are today in 2011 reading about a similar story of a proposal to "discipline the body" in a physically permanent way.

The Washing Post cite Hanger as saying:
"I don't think it's radical at all," said Hanger, R-Augusta. "It's just something that's not typically the thing you want to bring up in polite conversation, but again the whole subject area is not for polite conversation."
You can find the full story in this article in the Washing Post.