Thursday, April 21, 2011

Judicial Activism in the One Prisoner-One Cell Debate: Reagan in Retrospect

Thirty years ago today, President Ronald Reagan frustratingly noted in his diary:

A federal judge has ruled that more than 1 prisoner in a cell constitutes cruel and inhuman punishment.  We actually have states unable to send a convicted man to prison unless they release another prisoner in his place.  Bureaucracy is still messing things up.
This represented but one shot in the ongoing war over the definition of the Constitutional prohibition against “cruel and unusual punishment.”  Though this particular instance of Left wing judicial activism was effectively squashed by an 8 to 1 Supreme Court ruling, the battle rages on. 

After all, if one’s political opponents contend that the Constitution is a “living breathing document” (i.e.,  a piece of literary play-doh to be molded and shaped into whatever form the political masters deem best) then surely nothing as inconsequential as precedent need be adhered to. 

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