Cruel and Unusual Punishment

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

What constitutes cruel and unusual punishment under the U.S. constitution?

Denial or Delay of Essential Medical Care:
Under the 8th Amendment, which addresses Cruel and Unusual Punishment and 41 U.S.C. §1983, a prisoner is entitled to be free from cruel and unusual punishment pursuant to the parameters of the Eighth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution. The prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment apply to prison conditions and, specifically, medical care when prison officials are deliberately indifferent to a prisoner’s serious medical needs and personal safety.

What do I need to prove in order to show that a governmental official was deliberately indifferent to my needs? There are two elements that must be proven: An objective component requiring that the pain or deprivation be sufficiently serious and a subjective component requiring that the offending officials acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. See Wilson v. Seiter, 111 S.Ct. 2321 (1991), See also, Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976).

Is it a violation of my 8th amendment right if I am a non-violent offender and I am put in jail with known violent offender(s) and they/he/she beat(s) me up? The “deliberately indifferent” standard may apply to more than just medical needs. The standard may apply in a situation where known violent offenders are housed with non-violent offenders. See Janes v. Hernandez, 215 F. 3d 541 (5th Cir. 2000) Note: This is a 5th Circuit case and not binding, but only influential on the 9th Circuit, which is the Circuit of Oregon.

See A map of Circuit courts

However, there are a number of Circuit Courts that have ruled similarly to the above-referenced case: In Calderon-Oritz v. Laboy-Alvarado, 300 F.3d 60 (1st Cir. 2002), the court held that the constitutional protection afforded to pretrial detained under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment is “at least as great as the Eighth Amendment protections available to convicted prisoners.” They held that prison officials must take reasonable measures to guarantee inmate safety from attacks by other inmates. In order to prove a constitutional deprivation, a plaintiff must show the deprivation is objectively, sufficiently serious and that the conditions of incarceration pose a substantial risk of serious harm which defendant(s) knew of and disregarded. The knowledge required is not knowledge that a specific harm would befall the plaintiff, but rather knowledge of facts from which the official can draw the inference that a substantial risk of harm exists. Prison officials must adopt some system of classifying and housing prisoners to assure that a prisoner’s propensity for violence as well as an inmate’s emotional and physical health be accounted for so as to minimize the risk of harm from fellow inmates.

Rape and Sexual Abuse: In Schwenk v. Hartford, 204 F.3d 1187 (9th Cir. 2000), the law was clearly established that rape and sexual abuse of inmates by guards violated the Eight Amendment, regardless of the gender of the parties involved.

Is it a violation of my 8th Amendment rights if I am not resisting arrest and a governmental official tortures me? There is U.S. Supreme Court case law that holds handcuffing inmates to a fence or a cell for prolonged periods of time as a form of punishment violated the 8th Amendment. The reasoning is that “physical abuse directed at an inmate after he terminates his resistance to authority” is unconstitutional. See: Hope v. Pelzer, 122 S. Ct. 2508 (2002).

Disclaimer: Any legal information on this site regarding Oregon or Federal law is not necessarily updated in a timely manner; neither is it a substitute for a legal analysis in relation to your case. I do not represent you and I am not your lawyer / attorney unless you have a fee agreement with me.