Guest Blog: Cruel and Unusual Punishment


By Paige Pippin*

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Cruel and unusual punishment is prohibited under our Eighth Amendment rights given by the Constitution. There are many things that we may consider as cruel and unusual; some of them the courts have agreed upon, and some of them they haven’t. Our prison system here in the U. S. is far from perfect. The conditions are awful in some units. Does this constitute as cruel and unusual punishment?

There is an ongoing investigation, for example, of a prisoner’s death that happened earlier this year in New York. Jerome Murdough was arrested for trespassing misdemeanor charges after sleeping in a stairwell in Harlem’s public housing building. He was a homeless former Marine, and since he wasn’t able to make the $2500 bail, he was sent to Rikers Island (New York’s main jail). He was taking psychotropic medicine, which can make someone sensitive to heat (The Guardian 2014). His jail cell was 101 degrees when they found him unresponsive. His internal body temperature was 103 degrees and his autopsy released just this month showed that he died from hyperthermia (Garbus 2014). Now Murdough’s mother is fighting against the wrongful death of her son.

This is just one of many cases across the U.S. If conditions would have been better monitored, maybe this man would still be alive. Cruel and unusual punishment is not an issue of the past; it is going on every day around us. Some might say that these people deserve it because they are murderers or rapists, but most of the prisoners in the system are serving time for non-violent offences.

What do you think? Should there be stricter policies for the conditions of prisons?

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Paige Pippin is from Denton, Texas and is a Criminal Justice major with a minor in Legal Studies. She is in the Honors College, the Criminal Justice Fraternity Lambda Alpha Epsilon, and Crime Victims Service Alliance. She loves being active and her favorite thing to do is play volleyball. She absolutely loves it here in Huntsville and after she graduates in the summer, she plans on going to law school.

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