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The 8th Amendment

Article 8

The 8th Amendment to the United States Constitution is about not having excessive bail to get you out of trouble. Excessive bail is not supposed to be a thing, especially heavy fines, or cruel punishments inflicted. Cruel and unusual punishments are not directly specified in this Amendment. It means to measure a punishment’s cruelty or unusualness. In 1689, England adopted their Bill of Rights that prohibited “cruel and unusual punishments,” well before the 8th Amendment cropped up 100 years later in 1791. The first version of the Constitution, however, when ratified didn’t have a prohibition against cruel and unusual punishments, which was not added until the Constitution was ratified.

The Articles of Confederation came on November 15th, 1777. It was ratified on March 1st, 1781. The articles were responsible for creating a war-time confederation of the states, with an extremely limited central government. Congress had to conduct its own business, by directing the American Revolutionary War. Some felt that the 8th Amendment was added to the Constitution to make sure that history regarding the Inquisition did not repeat itself. Even today, the Constitution prohibits torture practices on American soil. President Obama tried to close Gitmo but the fact still remains that some feel that the detainees on this base have no Constitutional rights.

In June 2003, Gitmo housed 660 detainees but by 2016, 710 total had been transferred out leaving 61 detainees who have no Constitutional rights because the United States did use torture on them to extract confessions, while this means that history repeated itself. But back to the Articles of Confederation, because more states wanted changes to the Articles which eventually became the Constitution. The United States Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress, which declared that the existing 13 colonies of the day were independent states not subject to the rule of the crown.

Cruel and unusual punishment is something that the Constitution forbids but that the court cannot uphold unless looking at its own moral judgment as justified. The cruel and unusual punishment clause does not recommend a life sentence for a parking violation. But the death penalty may not advance public goodness because it involves killing somebody for killing somebody else, also violating a Biblical commandment of thou shalt not kill. But back in 1804 when Aaron Burr was running for Governor of New York, his opposition, Alexander Hamilton was someone he decided to kill in a duel.

At some point after Hamilton’s death, there was a demand to undo the dueling system. Our Constitution as it was in the past, accepted slavery and denied women equality as well as the right to vote. We also have a history of removing Native Americans from their land over and over again. The 8th Amendment is about the rights an accused person has to not have to be tortured into confessing. The 8th Amendment is all about prohibiting “barbaric” modes of punishment.

Persons cannot be deprived of life, liberty or property without due process. The 8th Amendment to our Constitution is about making sure everybody gets a fair trial. Solitary confinement, however, can be seen as a barbaric way of torturing criminals as is the death penalty itself. Then again if you are an eye for an eye, a death penalty is actually a good way to punish someone who already drew blood by killing a person in cold blood. It depends on your perspective on the death penalty but the 8th Amendment secures our ability to ask for due process.

Works Cited

Amendment VIII

The Constitution Debates Over the Military Prison at Guantanamo Bay

US History Documents