cruel and unusual punishment

noun
Updated on: 15 Nov 2017

Definition of cruel and unusual punishment

: punishment that is very harsh and too severe for the crime
  • The law forbids cruel and unusual punishment.

Word by Word Definitions

cruel play
  1. : disposed to inflict pain or suffering : devoid of humane feelings

  2. : causing or conducive to injury, grief, or pain

  3. : unrelieved by leniency

unusual play
  1. : not usual : uncommon, rare

punishment play
  1. : the act of punishing

  2. : suffering, pain, or loss that serves as retribution

  3. : a penalty inflicted on an offender through judicial procedure


Law Dictionary

cruel and unusual punishment

noun cruel and un·usu·al punishment

legal Definition of cruel and unusual punishment

: punishment that is offensive to the contemporary morality or jurisprudence (as by being degrading, inflicting unnecessary and intentional pain, or being disproportionate to the offense)
  • nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted
  • U.S. Constitution amend. VIII
— see also Gregg v. Georgia — compare corporal punishment, death penalty
Note: A cruel and unusual punishment is essentially one that the courts consider to violate the Eighth Amendment based on a variety of criteria. The interpretation of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment has changed over time and has varied from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Most forms of corporal punishment formerly used at common law have been found to be cruel and unusual punishments.

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