Skip to main content
PRINT EDITION

Obstacles to Proving 24-Hour Lighting is Cruel and Unusual Under Eighth Amendment Jurisprudence

By December 1, 2022January 17th, 2023No Comments

Abstract: Twenty-four-hour lighting causes sleep deprivation, depression, and other serious disorders for incarcerated individuals, yet courts often do not consider it to be cruel and unusual. To decide if prison conditions violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, courts follow a two-part inquiry that requires examining the intent of prison officials (known as the subjective prong) as well as the degree of seriousness of the alleged cruel or unusual condition (the objective prong). Incarcerated individuals often file complaints challenging 24-hour lighting conditions. Whether they succeed on these claims may depend on the circuit in which they reside. Judges have broad discretion in deciding what type of evidence satisfies each prong of the inquiry, and there is great room for differing opinions and outcomes based on how judges view a particular set of facts.

This unpredictability and inconsistency in outcomes could be improved by eliminating the subjective component of the Eighth Amendment test and focusing solely on objective harm resulting from constant illumination, similar to the approach taken with respect to reasonableness inquiries under the Fourth Amendment. Shifting the focus of the analysis to whether 24-hour lighting causes a sufficiently serious deprivation of basic human rights would result in a more objective approach and provide plaintiffs with a clearer understanding of the proof needed to secure a favorable outcome. A plaintiff who can show objectively serious or extreme harm suffered as a result of constant illumination should prevail on an Eighth Amendment challenge.

Download the Full Article

Other Articles from WLR Print Edition

December 1, 2022 in PRINT EDITION

A Call to Abolish Determinate-Plus Sentencing in Washington

Abstract: For certain incarcerated individuals who commit sex offenses, Washington State’s determinate-plus sentencing structure requires a showing of rehabilitation before release. This highly subjective “releasability” determination occurs after an individual…
Read More
December 1, 2022 in PRINT EDITION

When Uncle Sam Spills: A State Regulator’s Guide to Enforcement Actions Against the Federal Government Under the Clean Water Act

Abstract: The U.S. government is one of the largest polluters on the planet. With over 700 domestic military bases and countless more federal facilities and vessels operating within state borders,…
Read More
December 1, 2022 in PRINT EDITION

Sex Trait Discrimination: Intersex People and Title VII After Bostock v. Clayton County

Abstract: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects employees from workplace discrimination and harassment on account of sex. Courts have historically failed to extend Title VII protections…
Read More