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Framing Individualized Sentencing for Politics and the Constitution
American Criminal Law Review  (IF3.455),  Pub Date : 2021-09-01, DOI:
Meghan J. Ryan

For decades, there was not much growth in the U.S. Supreme Court’s interpretation and application of the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments. In recent years, though, the Court has expanded the Amendment’s scope to prohibit executing intellectually disabled and juvenile offenders, to ban capital punishment for all non-homicide offenses against individuals, and to for-bid life-without-parole sentences for juveniles when that punishment was mandatorily imposed or imposed on non-homicide offenders. With changing politics and a changing Court, any further expansion of Eighth Amendment protections will likely be difficult for years to come. With the recent confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as the newest Supreme Court Justice, the Court has become even more conservative. Politics certainly influences law, even at the Supreme Court level, so future changes in politics even outside the Court could affect Eighth Amendment interpretations. When making Eighth Amendment arguments to the Court, then, framing is important.