You may have heard the term cruel and unusual punishment used when someone thought something was unfair, or when they were assigned a bunch of work.  However, this is a serious term that finds its roots in the Bill of Rights that is part of the Constitution. The Constitution is one of the longest standing sets of law in our country. It was created in 1789, but the founding fathers realized that future constitutional laws and rights might need to be added at a later date. Shortly after the constitution was created, the Bill of Rights was added as an official part of the constitution. These rights are the freedoms guaranteed to each citizen of the United States and are things that can be taken away or infringed. For example the right to bear arms, free speech, and the right to a trial before peers.

The 8th amendment protects citizens from excessive bail, fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. Now, this is a pretty broad term, so it has meant many different things to many different people. Because of the vagueness of this term, there have been many Supreme Court cases on this topic to try to determine what counts as cruel and unusual.

Originally it was mostly meant in regards to torture. The amendment was to prevent officials or guards from torturing people in prison. This was in contrast to what many of the European nations allowed, and they wanted to prevent this in the United States. Over the years what counts as cruel or unusual has been expanded. For example, certain types of execution were outlawed, as was the executing of anyone that is mentally handicapped. This is also why anyone under the age of 18 can’t be given death sentence due to any crime that they commit.

There have been contradictions and changes over time, with many different cases, but at this time there have been laws or guidelines set that ensure that states don’t cross the line of cruel or unusual. An example of something that is considered too severe is a punishment that is inflicted in an arbitrary fashion. Or something that is totally rejected by society. Or a punishment that is degrading to human dignity. These are all cases that would be considered illegal to perform. These rights were created to prevent the government from being cruel or overly punishing the citizens of the United States. This is also why Americans have the right to a trial, to ensure that each person is innocent until guilty and has a fair chance before the law.