What Amendment Outlaws Cruel and Unusual Punishment?


Quick Answer

The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution outlaws cruel and unusual punishment. This amendment is part of the Bill of Rights added to the Constitution at the instigation of moderate Anti-Federalists.

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What Amendment Outlaws Cruel and Unusual Punishment?
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Full Answer

The text of the amendment says that "cruel and unusual punishments" shall not be inflicted. This text is almost identical to a part of the English Bill of Rights of 1689. Though the Eighth Amendment itself is clearly worded, the exact definition of "cruel and unusual" has long been a subject of debate in the courts of the United States. Furman v. Georgia, for example, identified four criteria by which to determine whether a punishment was, in context, cruel and unusual. Other cases, such as Wilkerson v. Utah, identified specific punishments that are always considered "cruel and unusual."

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