A first-term senator is working on a bill that would authorize "judicial caning" as a sentence for defendants convicted of violent crimes.

On Monday evening, Sen. Dwayne San Nicolas posted on social media a screenshot of a bill he intends to introduce soon that would "authorize judicial corporal punishment as an additional form of judicial sentence."

San Nicolas confirmed with The Guam Daily Post that the punishment would involve using a cane to strike defendants, which is legal in countries such as Singapore.

In fact, San Nicolas said he got the idea after visiting Singapore and looks to use it as a way to address Guam's crime issues.

"We took statistics from countries like Singapore, where it's legal, and it seems to be working there," the Democratic senator said. According to San Nicolas, the number of robberies, in comparison to Singapore's population, is low.

"I don't want to turn Guam into Singapore, but I want Singaporean results," San Nicolas said.

Eighth Amendment

San Nicolas said, throughout his team's research on the bill, he looked to ensure that caning would not infringe on anyone's Eighth Amendment right - which prohibits cruel and unusual punishment in the United States.

He found there are 19 states where corporal punishment is legal for schoolchildren. It is currently practiced in 15 states, San Nicolas said.

"We're under the premise that if corporal punishment is legal to punish schoolchildren, then I'm pretty sure we can use it to punish violent criminals," said San Nicolas. Violent crimes would include murders, rapes, robberies and home invasions, he said.

San Nicolas said he wants to make it clear that "we're not just going to willy-nilly strike anybody down."

"We also want to uphold the dignity of the process," he said, adding that only men between the ages of 18 and 50 can be subject to the punishment after being medically cleared. 

The caning will not be done in public, San Nicolas said.

While differences exist, the legality of his proposal may be weighed against judicial findings in Jackson v. Bishop, a 1968 case decided by the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which "permanently restrained" a program in Arkansas allowing prisoners to be whipped on their bare skin, citing Eighth Amendment concerns.

Resistance expected

San Nicolas expects resistance to the bill, but looks at states that use the death penalty as a form of punishment.

"It's legal in a lot of states. And so, to some, (the death penalty) may be far more unethical to do," said San Nicolas. "But it's still legal. And some people might say that's cruel and unusual, but it's a form of judicial punishment."

San Nicolas said he is not opposed to the death penalty, but sees judicial caning as a form of compromise.

"We don't seek for the death penalty, but we do want to, hopefully, try to mitigate the situation," he said. "This, in my view, may also deter criminals. (It would) maybe work with recidivism and cutting down on the population of the correction facility."

At the very least, San Nicolas said, the bill, even if it is not passed, can start a conversation about other ways of reducing the increasing crime wave.

"Especially violent crimes and so this is what I'm putting out there," San Nicolas told the Post. "And if it goes, it goes. But at least, we were able to get the public's input and maybe, hopefully, other alternatives to dealing with crime that we haven't already used."


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