Judges are granted the power and the privilege to exercise discretion over criminal cases. Once a defendant is convicted of a crime by a jury, the judge has the ability to determine the severity of the sentence that the criminal will face, as long as it does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and impose a form of cruel and unusual punishment.
Cruel and unusual punishments are penalties that are considered to be unsuitable or unsatisfactory due the the physical and emotional pain that they cause the victim. These penalties may be excruciatingly painful or they may be degrading and humiliating.
Cruel and unusual punishments are considered to be unacceptable in the United States. In many cases, a sentence that is handed down to a criminal by a judge will be considered to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment if the punishment is disproportional to the crime that was committed.
The judge has the ability to determine the punishment that a criminal will receive. In some instances, an individual who is responsible for committing a crime will be sentenced to a much more severe punishment than another offender who is responsible for the same crime. Each judge is permitted to use their discretion when deciding on an appropriate punishment for criminals.
Despite the legislation outlawing judges from imposing cruel and unusual punishments upon convicts, many individuals are sentenced to penalties that can be considered to be forms of cruel and unusual punishment.
For example, sentencing an individual to capital punishment for a crime that they committed when they were under the age of eighteen is a type of cruel and unusual punishment. After a great deal of debate, the Supreme Court prohibited the use of the death penalty on juvenile offenders. A current subject of heated debate is the sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for juveniles.
Mandatory sentencing laws support forms of cruel and unusual punishments, especially in the case of drug offenses. Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that on average, an individual who is charged with a first time drug offense receives a longer prison sentence than a first time offender who is responsible for manslaughter, burglary, assault, or sexual abuse. Individuals who know that a drug offense is taking place and do nothing to stop it may be charged with aiding and abetting, even if they had no part in the crime.
There is a mandatory minimum sentence for drug violations, in which an individual who is charged with a drug offense will be sentenced to jail time with no chance of parole. The punishment is often disproportional and severe for the crime that was committed. Despite the fact that cruel and unusual punishments are prohibited in the Constitution, many harsh and relentless sentences continue to be handed to offenders