Students Investigate Cruel & Unusual Punishment in the Real World
Our junior wildcats have spent the last semester exploring the Bill of Rights and its real-life applications. While studying the 8th Amendment, our wildcats have interpreted the meaning of the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” and its relevance in today’s society.
To understand what “cruel” means, students have looked at the evolution of punishments throughout history. In addition to various methods and tools used to punish criminals in medieval times, our juniors also debated the death penalty and its moral and legal implications. Through video testimonials, interviews and court cases, students examined evidence both for and against capital punishment. Our wildcats also spent time in the computer lab, researching how other countries treat criminals and then comparing international punishments to punishments for similar crimes in the United States.
In the last part of our 8th Amendment unit, classes examined how the justice system treats juveniles. Students were surprised to learn that teenagers around their age can be sentenced to life in prison for crimes committed as children. Students also investigated multiple case studies of young adults who were charged with various crimes ranging in severity from shoplifting to murder. After reading personal accounts and legal documents, students constructed arguments about whether juveniles should be tried as adults or not, keeping the 8th Amendment in mind. For their end-of-semester project, students explored the case of a 16-year old charged as an adult and sentenced to life in prison and considered the legal and ethical consequences of both her crime and punishment.
In the upcoming unit, students will continue to investigate the legal system in the United States while contrasting the American idea of justice to justice abroad. For the next few weeks, students will examine high-profile felony cases and will collect evidence for both the prosecution and defense. As students delve into the facts of the case, they will learn to think like attorneys and will present evidence-based arguments to defend their position.