Constitution Day, September 17, is the anniversary of the day in 1787 when the United States Constitution was signed. Though the Bill of Rights was not ratified until 1791, Sidelines will be breaking down one of the first ten amendments each day between now and September 17.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The eighth amendment protects citizens suspected or convicted of a crime from being unfairly punished by the U.S. government. By limiting the allowable punishments, the eighth amendment prevents the mistreatment of criminals.
The idea of the eighth amendment is to spare citizens from being over persecuted by their government, therefore limiting the penal system to acts of rehabilitation, not revenge.
While a crucial amendment, the ambiguous parameters of “cruel and unusual,” and “excessive,” have been disputed in lawsuits and even in Supreme Court cases since 1791. Still loosely defined, the eighth amendment has been used in cases as recently as Glossip v. Gross, a supreme court case heard in 2014 that debated the “cruelty” of a specific injection used in lethal injections. In April of 2015, the Supreme Court affirmed, in a 5-4 vote, that the medicine being given to inmates before a lethal injection was cruel, therefore violating the eighth amendment.