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According to the 8th Amendment of the US Constitution, fines should not be imposed in excess, and neither shall excess bail be needed. It also goes against any punishment that is brutal and barbaric. The amendment is there to protect criminal defendants from getting cruel punishments from the federal government. This is for both being punished for a crime or as a price for being released before a trial.
It’s crucial to understand a few aspects of what is based on cruelty and unusual punishment and why it was so important to be added to the US Constitution.
Going back into history, George Mason is the one that included the ban of unusual and cruel punishments on the Commonwealth Declaration of Rights. This happened in 1776, and in 1791 the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution included the same concept. The bill was first adopted in England before being adopted in the US Constitution.
Before the first ratification by states, the United States Constitution, there was no Bill of Rights, and cruel punishments were not prohibited. It was only added after ratification when several debates were held regarding the use of cruel and unusual punishments and if it should be used or not. The majority supported the presence of the clause.
Under the Confederation Articles, the government wasn’t powerful, but the changes that were proposed for the Constitution gave the government more power. The most significant one included being able to come up with federal crimes and punishing offenders who commit the crimes.
The opposition team that was against the Constitution believed Congress would oppress people through brutal punishments. There was no restriction on the type of severe punishments they could think of utilizing. They thought Congress would use cruel punishments to force confessions through torture like Spain, Germany, and France.
The clause is against any brutal means of punishment towards criminals; therefore, it doesn’t allow the federal government to start practicing cruel punishments again. If the federal government tries doing anything related to cruelty in terms of punishment, it will be going against the Eighth Amendment. The majority of people believe that the clause has influenced the state and federal government’s limited power.
There are disagreements on what cruel and unusual punishments mean and how they’re carried out. One of them is how the court decides whether the caliber of punishment is cruel and unconstitutional, and what standard should be set. The next one is whether only the barbaric modes of punishment should be stopped or prohibit penalties that don’t balance with a person’s offense.
For example, consider someone violating some parking regulations and then getting sentenced to life. The third argument from proponents is whether or not the Eighth Amendment prohibits the death penalty. Many of them believe it should be categorized with the old barbaric punishments and should be removed. Another concern is whether or not some current punishments such as solitary confinement or drug execution on criminals are cruel and unusual. Those are some of the arguments weighed upon the 8th Amendment of the United States Constitution.