Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Eight Amendment Essay

On this election day I thought that I might post an essay on the eighth amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and here it is:

           The eighth amendment of the Constitution promises to protect us from: excessive bails and fines and cruel or unusual punishments. Is this right still employed today? First what does the eighth amendment mean and what is it supposed to do. Second how, through bails and fines, court cases have become sources of profit for the state and finally what are the consequences of cruel and unusual punishment?
            The eighth amendment to the Constitution states: Excessive bails shall not be required nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted. But really we must ask, who determines, what is excessive and unusual? According to Noah Webster's 1828 dictionary excessive means "Beyond the bounds of justice, fitness or propriety," unusual is defined as "not common; rare." That leaves much room for interpretation.
            The courts have become a big business generating profits through revenue. Because bail is so excessive, and we have seen in cases in the average bail amounts, most arrested persons cannot post bail and are forced to use the service of a bondsman as well as an attorney. This creates more for the state to collect. It would appear, no longer are people innocent until proven guilty, which leads to an unnecessary trial and excessive fines, for the presumed guilty party in many cases. In these instances all that is required is an accusation without evidence and an expensive hearing is the result. This obviously burdens the accused person and taxpayers if a public defender is used.
            Cruel and unusual punishments hurt many more people than just the person being charged. Criminals are often inflicted with excessive punishments that may even require another trial. This provides job security for the judge, which would appear to be a conflict of interest. In cases where the criminal is sentenced to an unusually long time in prison it does nothing to reform the convicted person, but it also burdens the taxpayers by increasing their taxes and the profit made by the state. The clearest example of this case in Minnesota is the case involving Jason McLaughlin, a boy, age 15, who was sentenced to two back to back life sentences in an adult prison without opportunity for reform and no chance for parole. Most would agree that this was excessive punishment, however, the decision remains in the judges hands.
            Now that we know what the eighth amendment is, how bails and fines are for the states profit, and what the consequences are for cruel and unusual punishments, we can question if the eighth amendment is still in operation. If the American Constitution isn't protected we may become the next victim.

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