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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: June 2020

Introduction

Summary

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution proscribes governments from imposing “cruel and unusual punishments,” as well as excessive bail and fines. The Amendment has roots in a similar provision in the English Bill of Rights, which historically sought to prevent extreme punishments like the whipping, pillorying, defrocking, and life imprisonment of Titus Oates for perjury. Despite the historical importance of the Amendment, U.S. courts and scholars have given the Amendment and its prohibitions relatively little attention. In particular, the Supreme Court has construed its text quite narrowly, especially outside of the capital context.