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Examples of cruel and unusual punishment

The Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides specific protections to individuals serving time for criminal convictions.

While punishment for crimes is justifiable under the law, there is a reasonable expectation of safety while in custody. Cruel and unusual punishment refers to a penalty that is inhumane or undignified.

Excessive force

When handling and transporting detainees, police officers must use an appropriate amount of force. Excessive force can occur when officers secure handcuffs too tightly or when they leave an individual handcuffed for longer than necessary. Additionally, law enforcement personnel should not leave prisoners in vehicles without heat or air conditioning, and they should not leave persons exposed to extreme weather conditions without shelter for extended periods of time.

Unsafe or degrading prison conditions

The Illinois Department of Corrections is responsible for safely housing inmates in the statewide correctional facilities. When officials and staff members are deliberately indifferent to the rights of prisoners, the outcomes can constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Examples of unacceptable conditions include:

  • Restrictions to adequate food or water
  • Overcrowding
  • Violence or sexual assault
  • Denial of medical treatment or prescribed medications
  • Mistreatment based on race, gender identity or disability

Problems can occur in a facility at any time, but employees should step in to provide remedies. When correctional staff ignores issues, it is indicative of a toxic and dangerous culture for inmates.

If you or a loved one are a victim of cruel and unusual punishment by law enforcement during incarceration, you should collect evidence of the specific misconduct and reach out to an experienced civil rights attorney.

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