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

March 1, 2024 in PRINT EDITION

Preempting Private Prisons

Abstract: In 2019 and 2021, respectively, California and Washington enacted laws banning the operation of private prisons within each state, including those operated by private companies in contracts with the…
Read More
March 1, 2024 in PRINT EDITION

Speaking Back to Sexual Privacy Invasions

Abstract: Many big players in the internet ecosystem do not like hosting sexual expression. They often justify these bans as a protection of sexual privacy. For example, Meta states that…
Read More
March 1, 2024 in PRINT EDITION

From Precedent to Policy: The Effects of Dobbs on Detained Immigrant Youth

Abstract: In June 2022, the United States Supreme Court released the historic decision Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, holding that the U.S. Constitution does not protect an individual’s right to an…
Read More