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Cruel and Unusual Punishment

ford_prefect
Posts: 4,139
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1/26/2015 7:17:22 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
I am curious as to what people think qualifies as such and what doesn't.

For example: most people agree imprisonment is not cruel and unusual. Most people agree that gang raping someone to death would be cruel and unusual.

What about other punishments? Flogging? Water boarding? Putting someone in stocks? Chopping off a pinky? Forcing them to eat human excrement? Malnutrition or sleep deprivation? Rape?

Also, to those who dont consider execution cruel and unusual, does the way we execute a prisoner matter? Is shooting or hanging more humane than beheading? Is electrocuting or lethal injecting better or worse than stoning or feeding alive to a crocodile? Just wondering
Maikuru
Posts: 9,112
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1/26/2015 7:46:28 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
Positive punishment (e.g. inflicting harm) is often cruel and unusual. Negative punishment (e.g. removing one's freedom) is less likely so.
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ford_prefect
Posts: 4,139
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1/26/2015 7:58:50 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/26/2015 7:46:28 PM, Maikuru wrote:
Positive punishment (e.g. inflicting harm) is often cruel and unusual. Negative punishment (e.g. removing one's freedom) is less likely so.

Thats an interesting way to think about it. Seems like a good rule of thumb
feverish
Posts: 2,716
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1/27/2015 7:02:08 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/26/2015 7:17:22 PM, ford_prefect wrote:
I am curious as to what people think qualifies as such and what doesn't.

I've always thought it was a strange term and a strange pair of criteria to use when deciding on the appropriateness of punishments.

Surely a punishment must be cruel in some way, or it would not be a punishment?

And as for the 'usualness' of it, does this imply that the acceptability of punishments is dependent on how widespread they are?

For example: most people agree imprisonment is not cruel and unusual.

I would certainly consider it cruel though it is obviously not unusual. Personally I think it's only an appropriate measure to take in the very short term or when people represent a clear danger to others.

Most people agree that gang raping someone to death would be cruel and unusual.
What about other punishments? Flogging? Water boarding? Putting someone in stocks? Chopping off a pinky? Forcing them to eat human excrement? Malnutrition or sleep deprivation? Rape?

All cruel and inappropriate in my opinion.

What are we trying to achieve in punishing people? Revenge or prevention?
ford_prefect
Posts: 4,139
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1/27/2015 3:44:48 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/27/2015 7:02:08 AM, feverish wrote:
At 1/26/2015 7:17:22 PM, ford_prefect wrote:
I am curious as to what people think qualifies as such and what doesn't.

I've always thought it was a strange term and a strange pair of criteria to use when deciding on the appropriateness of punishments.

Surely a punishment must be cruel in some way, or it would not be a punishment?

Well for example, nobody would say that putting a misbehaving child in timeout is cruel, but it is a punishment. To me, the word cruel implies that the punishment is excessively harmful.

And as for the 'usualness' of it, does this imply that the acceptability of punishments is dependent on how widespread they are?

I'm not a constitutional expert, but from what I've read of it, the language is somewhat outdated. Many of the words don't mean exactly what we would think they mean today. In this case, I think the word unusual is meant to go together with cruel. In other words, I think what the constitution meant to outlaw was "unusually cruel" punishments. But since it was written so long ago, the writing style looks strange to us.

For example: most people agree imprisonment is not cruel and unusual.

I would certainly consider it cruel though it is obviously not unusual. Personally I think it's only an appropriate measure to take in the very short term or when people represent a clear danger to others.

Most people agree that gang raping someone to death would be cruel and unusual.
What about other punishments? Flogging? Water boarding? Putting someone in stocks? Chopping off a pinky? Forcing them to eat human excrement? Malnutrition or sleep deprivation? Rape?

All cruel and inappropriate in my opinion.

What are we trying to achieve in punishing people? Revenge or prevention?

That is a good question. Personally, I would like for our punishment system to first and foremost prevent crime, but also act as retribution in cases where the offense is severe enough. For example, if a vandal damages private property and is unable to pay it back, I think it would be fair to force them to work in jail and give the money they make to the victim as restitution.

However, what if somebody intentionally pokes my eye out? I can never regain the vision from that lost eye, so should it be fair for the court to poke the offender's eye out? Or is that punishment unusually cruel?
MyDinosaurHands
Posts: 203
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1/27/2015 4:47:34 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
cruel
"causing pain or suffering"
The suffering bit means it could conceivably include imprisonment, seeing as people suffer mentality being confined to the same hostile environment for years.

unusual
"not habitually or commonly occurring or done"
This is really important. It means we cannot introduce new methods that may cause forms of suffering. So jailing people, that's been around forever. It may cause suffering, but it's not unusual, so it checks out. Water-boarding though, is cruel, and in our current climate, would be unusual.

Though under this, we could justify solitary confinement, which is increasingly being held as cruel and unusual punishment. Clearly though, it is not. Cruel? Yes. But, the "and" is very important. It requires that something be both cruel and unusual to be unconstitutional. Solitary confinement is not unusual, and therefore does not meet the standards required to be unconstitutional.
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feverish
Posts: 2,716
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1/29/2015 3:56:53 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/27/2015 3:44:48 PM, ford_prefect wrote:
At 1/27/2015 7:02:08 AM, feverish wrote:

Surely a punishment must be cruel in some way, or it would not be a punishment?

Well for example, nobody would say that putting a misbehaving child in timeout is cruel, but it is a punishment. To me, the word cruel implies that the punishment is excessively harmful.

And as for the 'usualness' of it, does this imply that the acceptability of punishments is dependent on how widespread they are?

I'm not a constitutional expert, but from what I've read of it, the language is somewhat outdated. Many of the words don't mean exactly what we would think they mean today. In this case, I think the word unusual is meant to go together with cruel. In other words, I think what the constitution meant to outlaw was "unusually cruel" punishments. But since it was written so long ago, the writing style looks strange to us.

You're right, I'm probably being way too pedantic and picky :)


What are we trying to achieve in punishing people? Revenge or prevention?

That is a good question. Personally, I would like for our punishment system to first and foremost prevent crime, but also act as retribution in cases where the offense is severe enough. For example, if a vandal damages private property and is unable to pay it back, I think it would be fair to force them to work in jail and give the money they make to the victim as restitution.

However, what if somebody intentionally pokes my eye out? I can never regain the vision from that lost eye, so should it be fair for the court to poke the offender's eye out? Or is that punishment unusually cruel?

Well, I think financial restitution is logical, if not always fair. Physical retribution on the other hand seems straight up barbaric to me; what is the benefit to you if his eye is poked out too?

I guess without going on a full on rant here, a lot of my views on punishment are expressed quite well in this debate: http://www.debate.org...
YYW
Posts: 36,303
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1/29/2015 8:00:59 PM
Posted: 1 year ago
At 1/26/2015 7:17:22 PM, ford_prefect wrote:
I am curious as to what people think qualifies as such and what doesn't.

For example: most people agree imprisonment is not cruel and unusual. Most people agree that gang raping someone to death would be cruel and unusual.

What about other punishments? Flogging? Water boarding? Putting someone in stocks? Chopping off a pinky? Forcing them to eat human excrement? Malnutrition or sleep deprivation? Rape?

Also, to those who dont consider execution cruel and unusual, does the way we execute a prisoner matter? Is shooting or hanging more humane than beheading? Is electrocuting or lethal injecting better or worse than stoning or feeding alive to a crocodile? Just wondering

I would say that cruel punishment is punishment that exceeds the harm necessary to specifically deter the criminal from committing the crime again, but unusual punishment is nothing more than any kind of punishment not conventionally doled out to criminals who commit similar crimes in a particular place.

I think the standard for what counts for cruel, though, should be a loose one. Generally, I favor labor colonies instead of prisons, but the geneva convention would regard that as a violation of prisoner's human rights. I disagree.
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