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Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

Some ideas should not be banished

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Now here's an idea worth considering. Banishment. That's right, banishment, an ancient form of punishment that has been around since the beginning of time, dating back to the Greeks and Romans. It was once a popular form of punishment but has now virtually vanished from the scene. Except in Georgia.

A district attorney in Georgia has been using banishment on criminals for quite some time with a good track record. Used primarily for drug dealers, the state and the defendant reach an agreement that in lieu of jail time the criminal agrees to leave a certain area (county or city) for the length of his sentence. The prosecutor says it separates drug dealers from their routine customers and, more importantly, it works.

Of course civil libertarians think banishment is like stocks and whipping posts - relics of the past that should be abandoned and forgotten. But I suspect that banishment is quietly used more often than we might think.

I vividly remember many years ago - probably 30 years now - a certain fella was part of the drug culture and, instead of jail time, the lawyers got together and agreed that the defendant would leave this area and not return for a lengthy period of time. He did and used that time to gain an education, enter a career and become highly productive. He later returned to this area and remains productive to this day.

So what would be wrong with Scott County or Sikeston using banishment as a punishment tool? Seems to me that the threat of jail time is rapidly losing its edge as a deterrent. So why not tell a drug dealer that he can go to prison or he can leave Southeast Missouri for five years. If he breaks that agreement, he automatically heads to prison for the entire length of the sentence. In some cases, the physical separation could potentially work wonders. In others, of course, it might just be shifting our problem on to others.

Those in the lawyering business tell me that in many ways, banishment remains alive and well. It might be as simple as someone agreeing to join the military instead of facing consequences with the law. But the Georgia example of banishment is a bit more formal. And I think it would work.

Some might actually advocate the return of stocks and the whipping post. I stop short of that notion however. But the concept of banishment might have a place in today's society.

And our area might just be the place to rekindle an age-old practice.



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