The Bill of Rights: The Eighth Amendment

What is cruel and unusual punishment?



To embed this piece of audio in your site, please use this code:

<iframe src="" style="height: 115px; width: 100%;"></iframe>

The Bill of Rights has guaranteed our freedoms and rights for over 200 years. In this regular series, Dean Leonard Baynes with the University of Houston Law Center looks at how they relate to society today.

“The Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishment. When the Constitution was ratified, this protection was not included. Some worried that this exclusion would make the federal criminal process abusive like the Spanish Inquisition.”

“The phrase ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ is not defined. But it generally refers to punishment that fails to meet socially decent standards – if it is overly painful, tortuous, degrading, humiliating or grossly disproportionate to the crime committed.”

“The Supreme Court has ruled that the death penalty does not inherently violate the Eighth Amendment. However, laws, making the death penalty mandatory or leaving the jury or trial judge no discretion, are cruel and unusual.”

For more stories from Briefcase, click here