Cruel and Unusual Punishment

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What is Cruel and Unusual Punishment|
Cruel and Unusual Punishment Past and Present|
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Michael Roberts|
11/29/2011|

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A young man is caught stealing food for his family. He is thrown in a jail which resembles a dungeon. It is cold in his cell and the walls are damp and smell of urine and feces. There is a bucket in the corner used for defecation. A pile of hay sits in the corner; this is the only comfort which is used for sleeping. Rats run around the cells chewing on his toes and fingers while he sleeps. The only light that he sees is from the torches placed around his cell. He is fed sparse and putrid meals once a day. Finally he goes to trial and is found guilty. His punishment is to have his hands removed from his body.

This is the legal system that used to be prevalent in the world. The punishments far outweighing the crimes committed. People are being beaten and placed in stocks for the town to see and humiliate. The punishment received by this man, while considered adequate in his time, is now considered to be cruel. What makes it cruel and unusual though? What has happened to make society view these as wrong? These types of punishment were once considered to be normal and adequate, how has that changed? How have we evolved?

The Eighth Amendment to the US Constitution states, Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. We know what excessive bail is and excessive fines, but what exactly cruel and unusual punishment? In the middle ages there were many forms of punishment. Some may result in death while others would permanently scar and disfigure someone for the rest of their life. Before the Americas were settled, England used many different forms of punishment, some of which were brought to the Americas. These included flogging “or whipping”, stocks, and the pillory. These acts were considered the norm. This was due greatly to the fact...
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