Category Image Laws and Courts

Cruel and Unusual Punishment Gets My Vote

By Kyle . . . In August, 2017, Federal Judge Richard Matsch ruled in a Denver federal court that the Colorado Sex Offender Registry is unconstitutional based upon the Eighth Amendment prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment and the Fourteenth Amendment tenet of due process.  This ruling was overturned by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals (Denver) in 2020.

In August, 2023, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals (New Orleans) struck down the Mississippi lifetime ban on voting for people convicted of certain felonies, saying it is unconstitutional because it inflicts cruel and unusual punishment.  The majority said, “By severing former offenders from the body politic forever, Section 241 [the lifetime-ban provision of the state Constitution] ensures that they will never be fully rehabilitated, continues to punish them beyond the terms their culpability requires, and serves no protective function to society.  It is thus cruel and unusual punishment.”

Wow.  Just ponder the harm apparently inflicted on people simply because they cannot vote.  Oh, the pain and suffering.  Your voice is never heard among the thousands or millions of others.

Yet, by comparison, this would be considered a minuscule inconvenience.

Ponder the fate of persons forced to register on a sex offender registry.  One could similarly state, “By severing former offenders from society forever, the registries ensure that they will never be fully rehabilitated, continues to punish them beyond the terms their culpability requires, and serves no protective function to society.  They are thus cruel and unusual punishment.”  Sort of the conclusion of Judge Matsch.  Thirty-five years of studies prove that the registries provide no protective function to society and don’t assist law enforcement in solving new sex offenses.

What we do know from these studies and the news is that registries lead to citizen vigilantism, enabled but not controlled by the state, something Judge Matsch discussed in his ruling.  We know that registrants are stalked, physically assaulted and murdered.  Their spouses, children and families are threatened, belittled and ostracized.  Personal property, vehicles, and homes are vandalized by these vigilantes.  Registrants are discriminated against and denied housing and employment.  Domestic and international travel is severely restricted, making travel for business, pleasure, weddings, and funerals nearly impossible in many circumstances.

Another society that placed marks on passports identifying undesirable people was Nazi Germany.

If one applies logic rather than feelings and emotions to the analysis of these two cases, the only conclusion is that sex offender registries are clearly cruel and unusual punishment and should be abolished.

Sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

a guest writer

Written by 

NARSOL accepts original, unpublished submissions no longer than 750 words and written in Word or a comparable, editable program. Whether used or not, you will be notified. All submissions are subject to editing for grammatical structures and clarity. Please specify the name you wish used as author, a sentence or two of self-identification, and a valid email address. Email as an attachment to