The Eighth Amendment is the US Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The Amendment was put into the Constitution as a part of the Bill of Rights during the debates about the future of the nation (Walmer & Prabhu, 2016). Namely, the framers of the Constitution were concerned about the power of government, as they had just thrown off an oppressive regime in the form of the British Empire. They had also seen the leaders of Europe utilize various execution tactics to consolidate their power. The Eighth Amendment, then, was designed as a limit on this power, providing protection to citizens along the way (Lain, 2016). Its application in the modern times demonstrate that its use has been in line with the goals of the framers.
The Eighth Amendment has been used in modern times in the context of the death penalty. It has limited who the government could kill and what methods they could use. Roper v. Simmons is perhaps the most consequential of these new Supreme Court rulings. In this case, the Court used the Eighth Amendment to decide that people who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes could not be sentenced to death. The Court reasoned that it was cruel and unusual to punish a person for crimes committed when they were not even adults (Benekos & Merlo, 2016). This is certainly a showing of the limits of government power. Namely, it limits the power of state governments to impose the ultimate penalty. Over time, what has constituted cruel and unusual has shifted with society’s changing and evolving standards. Still, this accomplishes the goal of the Amendment as it was originally written.
The framers of the Constitution meant to limit government power as much as they could. Perhaps no power is greater than the power to punish. In its application today, the Eighth Amendment plays out this desire of the framers.