Pub. date: 2002 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412950664 | Print ISBN: 9780761922582 | Online ISBN: 9781412950664| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Cruel and Unusual Punishment
Steven J. Ellwanger
Protection against cruel and unusual punishment is provided by the Eighth Amendment, which states, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.” Although protection against cruel and unusual punishment is a constitutional guarantee, it is an inherently subjective concept, which, therefore, cannot be considered apart from the social and historical context in which the punishment occurs. When placed in such a context, even early punishments, with their seemingly cruel and unusual nature, reveal an intrinsic concern for the weal of society and its members. The period of the European Enlightenment, in the eighteenth century, was destined not only to leave lasting impressions regarding the social world, but also to eliminate early forms of punishment by creating a new punishment ideology and philosophical context for evaluating crimes. Indeed, not only was the purpose of punishment reoriented, but the theories that were advanced during ...