Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Cruel and unusual punishment is the term used to describe criminal punishment which is considered unacceptable due to the suffering or humiliation it causes on the person. Cruel and unusual punishment has a very long history and is now noted in the constitution. There are several cases that deal with the consequences of cruel and unusual punishment and the constitution also protects people from this being used on them. The government has also put restrictions on the punishment judges can give to people for committing crimes due to the history of cruel and unusual punishment.(2) Cruel and unusual punishment had been used since the beginning of time. A lot of the punishments included devices such as the breaking wheel or the rack. Punishments also included things such as boiling to death, flaying, crushing, stoning, beheading, necklacing, and execution of fire. These are just to name a few. The breaking wheel was a device used during the Middle Ages cudgeling or beating a person to death. The limbs of the accused would be tied to a giant wooden wheel that would then revolve and the accused would be hit mostly with an iron hammer. Once the accused’s bones were broken they would be left there toFigure [ 1 ] the Breaking wheel (4) die. The Rack was also a device used in the middle ages, but this machine dislocated every limb in a person’s body. The limbs were tied to a rope and then the torture would crack a handle to slowly pull the bones out of socket. Often the torture would go too far and actually pull the limbs off of the body. Flaying was a procedure that pretty much skinned the person alive. Crushing was a process used to get a plea or confession out of a person by placing heavier and heavier rocks on the person’s chest. This person would either confess or the weight of the rock would get so heavy on their chest they could no longer breathe and they would suffocate. Necklacing is a punishment that is no longer used in the United States but it still being used my other countries, mostly Africa, up until the late 1990’s. They force a rubber tire around the chest and arms of the convicted fill it with gasoline and light it on fire. It usually takes the victim about twenty minutes to die from the burns.(4)
In more recent years cruel and unusual punishment would be more along the lines of a judging sentencing a defendant to life in prison for theft. The government has said that the punishment must fit the crime to stop the use of cruel and unusual punishment. If someone feels that crime they have been given is not fair for the crime they committed they may make a case with the United States Supreme court to see if their sentence maybe overturned. Before 1791 this was not something that was allowed. You were to receive that sentence you had been given and there was nothing you could do about it. The eighth amendment of the United States Constitution states “Excessive bail shall not be required, not excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishment be imposed”.(2) This amendment was added to the constitution in 1791. This amendment was first used in the state of Virginia by George Mason and Patrick Henry. Those men decided that it should also become part of the United States Constitution so that congress did not use cruel and unusual punishment. James Madison then proposed the amendment in 1789. There have been many cases in the United States in recent years that have been thought to be using cruel and unusual punishment. Some of the cases in The United States have involved a life sentence for shoplifting in California to the possibility of a life sentence for a 12 year old boy in the state of Pennsylvania. Here are few more cases that have gotten a lot of media attention for the cruelty of their punishments.
At the age of 13 Joe Sullivan was convicted of raping a 72 year old woman. Sullivan did admit to burglarizing her mom with two other boys but says he did not go back to...
Cited: 1) Berman, Douglas A. "Examples of "over-punishment"" Sentencing Law and Policy. 15 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. <http://sentencing.typepad.com/sentencing_law_and_policy/examples_of_overpunishment/>.
2) "Cruel and Unusual Punishment." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 19 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cruel_and_unusual_punishment>.
3) Liptak, Adam. "Defining "Cruel and Unusual Punishment" When Offender Is 13." The New York Times - Breaking News, World News & Multimedia. 02 Feb. 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2010. <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/03/us/03bar.html>.
4) "Most Frightening Torture Techniques from the Middle Ages." Web log post. World Of Mysteries. 09 Mar. 2009. Web. 19 Apr. 2010. <http://worldmysteries9.blogspot.com/2009/03/most-frightening-torture-techniques.html>.
5) "Roper v. Simmons." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 15 Apr. 2010. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roper_v._Simmons>.
6) Ryan, Mary L. "Wilson Released after Two Years behind Bars for Teen Sex Conviction." CNN.com - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. 27 Oct. 2007. Web. 21 Apr. 2010. <http://www.cnn.com/2007/US/law/10/26/wilson.freed/index.html>.
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