The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has published a report stating that Republican State Senator Brice Wiggins is sponsoring a bill to the 2012 regular session of the Mississippi Legislature that could sentence a parent to prison for spanking their own child.
If convicted, the minimum sentence would be 10 years in prison.
The maximum sentence would be life in prison.
As stated in the proposed bill:
A personshall be guilty of felonious abuse of a child if the person intentionally and in a manner causing bodily harm shall:
Whip, strike or otherwise abuse any child except as a result of reasonable discipline, in self-defense or in order to prevent bodily harm to a third party.
As the HSLDA correctly points out, “Unfortunately, the terms ‘bodily harm’ and ‘reasonable discipline’ are not defined in the proposed law, so it would be up to judges to determine whether parents had crossed the line and committed a crime worthy of imprisonment.”
According to current Mississippi law (§97-5-39(2(m). [Criminal Code]) it is required that a physician determine if a parent utilizing corporal punishment to discipline a child has actually committed a case of child abuse:
“Physical discipline (not to include any form of sexual abuse) performed on a child by a parent, guardian or custodian shall only be deemed to be abuse under this paragraph when a licensed physician has determined that physical injury has occurred.”
The HSLDA asks:
“Would bodily harm include inflicting pain or leaving red marks or bruises on a child? Is it reasonable discipline to use a switch, a paddle, or other object in spanking a child?
Obviously there are differing opinions on this subject, and because of this, any child abuse legislation must precisely define terms to ensure that parents maintain the right to administer reasonable corporal discipline without fear of being imprisoned.”
On Senator Wiggins website, there is no mention of the bill or his sponsorship thereof.
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