Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Essay by luckycharm24College, Undergraduate December 2008

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�PAGE � �PAGE �1� Cruel Punishment

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Drury University

Cruel and unusual punishment is the cause of many legal arguments in our criminal justice system today. These words are specifically prohibited by the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution but are nowhere universally defined. Cruel and unusual punishment has been a concern of the justice system since the 1689. Historically, cruel and unusual punishment was first questioned and shown concern about in the English Bill of Rights signed by King William III and Mary II, which specifically put forward a right to freedom from such punishments. In the founding years of America, colonists wanted to take the concept from the English Bill of Rights and adopt it to our own rights. This same concept against cruel and unusual punishment is also used by many other countries around the world such as Canada and European nations. Although at times the definition is unclear and has changed drastically over time, this amendment has helped to shape the court systems today and has helped to protect the equal rights of all citizens.

Originally, the sole purpose of this amendment was to place limits on the power of the new government and it has definitely evolved to fit today's society and law system.

'Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment inflicted' is stated in the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution. Perhaps one of the best descriptions of how to look at cruel and unusual punishment was made by the Lynch Court: 'A penalty offends the proscription against cruel and unusual punishment when it is 'so disproportionate to the crime for which it is inflicted that it shocks the conscience and offends fundamental notions of human dignity' (In re Lynch (1972) 8 Cal.3d...