Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2023

Status

Accepted

Abstract

Is punishment generally exempt from the Constitution? That is, can the deprivation of basic constitutional rights—such as the rights to marry, bear children, worship, consult a lawyer, and protest—be imposed as direct punishment for a crime and in lieu of prison, so long as such intrusions are not “cruel and unusual” under the Eighth Amendment? On one hand, such state intrusion on fundamental rights would seem unconstitutional. On the other hand, such intrusions are often less harsh than the restriction of rights inherent in prison. If a judge can sentence someone to life in prison, how can a judge not also have the power to strip someone of the right to marry, or speak, as direct punishment? Surprisingly, as this Article reveals, existing law offers no coherent explanation as to why rights-violating punishments somehow escape traditional constitutional scrutiny. Yet the question is critical as courts—often in the name of decarceration—increasingly impose non-carceral punishments that deprive people of constitutional rights

GW Paper Series

2023-25

Included in

Law Commons

COinS