The Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the use of cruel or unusual punishment or excessive fines or bail during criminal proceedings. Examples include executions that cause unnecessary pain to the convict and bail of an amount that is not directly correlated with the severity of the crime.
The Eighth Amendment is most commonly quoted in reference to cruel or unusual punishment, a phrase which is often applied to the death penalty. Some states have abolished the death penalty altogether, reasoning that taking someone’s life is too cruel a punishment for any crime. This means that, in these states, no matter how heinous or severe a crime has been committed, the person convicted cannot be sentenced to execution.
In the states that still use the death penalty, there has been a considerable amount of reform and innovation to ensure that the process is humane as possible. The Eighth Amendment led to the eradication of hanging as a form of execution, as it was judged to be too painful. The most common type of execution is now lethal injection, which is supposed to lead to minimal pain and discomfort for the recipient, though this too has been questioned. Cruel and unusual punishment is also used to refer to some hands-on interrogation techniques used by police and other officials.