Pub. date: 2005 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952514 | Print ISBN: 9780761927310 | Online ISBN: 9781412952514 | Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution forbids “cruel and unusual punishments.” The federal courts have sought to address how this is to be applied in the context of prisons. At what point do prison conditions become so egregious and inhospitable that the government has, in essence, inflicted cruel and unusual punishment upon prisoners? The U.S. Supreme Court first became involved in the field of prisoners' rights in 1964, under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren. By the early 1970s, federal district courts, which had been empowered by the Warren Court to play a key role in evaluating the constitutionality of prison conditions, began to apply the Eighth Amendment to state and federal prisons. As a result, by 1986 “in thirty-seven states correctional administrations or individual prisons were operating under federal court orders” (Rosenberg, 1991, p. 306). Despite the potential for change, however, most agree that the interventions by ...