GOP Montana Legislator Wants State To Spank Criminals

Montana State Rep. Jerry O’Neil (R) is sponsoring a bill to allow defendants to “bargain with the court” to receive “corporal punishment in lieu of incarceration.” The bill would apply to not just misdemeanor crimes, but also felonies — though the bill requires that the “exact nature of the corporal punishment to be imposed” be “commensurate with the severity, nature, and degree of the harm caused by the offender.”

John S. Adams, who covers the Montana legislature for the Great Falls Tribune, wrote : “The measure is already raising eyebrows and is sure to catch the attention of those on the lookout for ‘bat crap crazy’ legislation this session. Republican leadership has been doing its best to tamp down any potential bills the other side might use to embarrass the GOP as they work to craft a budget. This one apparently didn’t get tamped.”

Then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) observed, in a 2011 interview, that some Montana legislators “draft bills just to get an effect from the people,” but “unfortunately, it kind of makes some of them look bat-crap crazy.”

O’Neil, a long-time state lawmaker, has been the subject of controversy in the past: last November he requested to receive his legislative salary in gold and silver, incorrectly interpreting a provision of the U.S. Constitution that prevents states from minting their own paper currency. More recently, he said that the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy “came at an opportune time” for U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), she has been working on an assault weapons ban for years.