Cruel and Unusual Punishment Bleg
So, you guys have a cruel and unusual punishment clause in your constitution. But I’ve got a few questions:
1) What does this mean though? Does this mean that punishments which are cruel but commonplace or not cruel but unusual are okay? Or does it mean that only punishments which neither cruel nor unusual are allowed?
2) What’s wrong with unusual punishments? If two punishments are of equal cruelty but one is familiar to us and the other is bizarre, why is the bizarre one worse?
3) I understand cruelty to be the property of causing other people suffering. But isn’t that the point of punishment? The point of punishment, at least on its face of it, is to cause people pain in proportion to the pain they have caused others. Whatever deeper aims we have in punishing criminals, that is the short run effect of punishment. In fact, if the criminal goes through a reformative process without suffering, he has not been punished. Of course punishments are cruel, they are intended to do so. But perhaps what we mean is that punishments shouldn’t be excessively cruel, but how do we make sense of excessive? How much cruelty is too much?