Strapping (punishment)

For the process in packaging and materials, see Strapping.

Strapping refers to the use of a strap as an implement of corporal punishment. It is typically a broad and heavy strip of leather, often with a hard handle, the more flexible 'blade' being applied to the offender.

Probably because of the stiffness, the word "strap" is sometimes used interchangeably with a leather paddle. Other terms that are sometimes used interchangeably include whipping, lashing, and confusingly even in some official language, belting—in principle a belt is lighter, without a handle. These terms are strictly speaking reserved for other implements.

The Scottish tawse is a forked version with two or more tails, colloquially known as the belt, and was the standard implement of punishment in state schools until it was banned in 1987.[1]

The strap has also been used on minors in reformatories and in schools. The latter was particularly prevalent in Canada, applied to the student's hand, until abolished in 2004, but there, in modern times at least, it was generally made of canvas/rubber rather than leather.

Martin Tabert, a 22-year-old man arrested for vagrancy, died after being hit about 100 times[3] with a 5-foot leather strap in 1921. The strapping was punishment for Tabert failing to perform his work as part of a prison work-gang in Leon County, Florida. He was weak with malaria at the time. Sheriff J. R. Jones had "sold" the man to the head of the work-gang for a twenty-five dollar fee.[4] Cavalier County (North Dakota) States Attorney Gudmunder Grimson and New York World reporter Samuel "Duff" McCoy brought the case to national attention. The World won the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for its coverage of the incident. A ballad by Marjory Stoneman Douglas memorialized the case.[5] The whipping-boss, Walter Higginbotham, was charged with Tabert's murder but acquitted. Florida's then governor Cary Hardee outlawed the use of flogging in the wake of public outrage over the death, and brought an end to the convict lease system in the state.[6]


  1. "The Cane and the Tawse in Scottish Schools" at World Corporal Punishment Research.
  2. "The Canadian Prison Strap" at World Corporal Punishment Research.
  3. Davis, Jack E. (2009). "20. The Galley Slave". An Everglades Providence: Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the American Environmental Century. University of Georgia Press. pp. 280–282. ISBN 0-8203-3071-X.
  4. Wilson, Donald Powell (1951). My six convicts: a psychologist's three years in Fort Leavenworth. pp. 36–37.
  5. Doherty, Kieran (2002). "A Newspaper Woman". Marjory Stoneman Douglas, guardian of the 'Glades'. Twenty-First Century Books. pp. 79–80. ISBN 0-7613-2371-6.
  6. Martin Tabert's Brutal Death Leads to End of Convict Lease System.
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