The Eighth Amendment – The Story of the Bill of Rights
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The Eighth Amendment – The Story of the Bill of Rights

October 15, 2019

The Eighth Amendment: Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. The Eighth Amendment prohibits excessive bail, excessive fines, and cruel and unusual punishment. This language is word for word what was in the English Bill of Rights in 1689. The Framers’ experience under British rule indicated the potential for abuse in excessive bail, which would have the effect of imprisoning someone without even being charged. The Eighth Amendment is one of the very live amendments. Lots of cases come up under the Eighth Amendment. At the time of the founding of our Constitution there was lots of punishment that was very cruel. The Framers of our Constitution didn’t want to be too specific about it because they didn’t know all of the things, the cruel, awful things that government officials could dream up. Now over the years the Supreme Court has changed its view from time to time as to what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. And the Court has looked to the evolution of our society – our civilized society. A judge alone often is involved in sentencing, setting the punishment. And where judges are acting alone, without juries, we want and need additional safeguards against them. That’s the Eighth Amendment idea. Judges acting alone need some special safeguards.

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