Hope v. Pelzer, 536 U.S. 730, 8 (2002)

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Cite as: 536 U. S. 730 (2002)

Opinion of the Court

a substantial risk of harm of which the officers were aware. Moreover, the court relied on Circuit precedent condemning similar practices6 and the results of a United States Department of Justice (DOJ) report that found Alabama's systematic use of the hitching post to be improper corporal punishment. 7 We agree with the Court of Appeals that the attachment of Hope to the hitching post under the circumstances alleged in this case violated the Eighth Amendment.

" '[T]he unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain . . . constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.' " Whitley v. Albers, 475 U. S. 312, 319 (1986) (some internal quotation marks omitted). We have said that "[a]mong 'unnecessary and wanton' inflictions of pain are those that are 'totally without penological justification.' " Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U. S. 337, 346 (1981). In making this determination in the context of prison condijob. During the June incident, Hope was involved in an altercation with prison guards. There is nothing in the record, however, claiming that he refused to work or encouraged other inmates to refuse to work. Therefore, it is not clear that the solution to his hitching post problem was to ask to return to work. Second, Hope was placed in a car and driven back to Limestone to be cuffed to the hitching post on both occasions. Given the facts, it is improbable that had Hope said, 'I want to go back to work,' a prison guard would have left his post at Limestone to drive Hope back to the work site. It is more likely that the guards left Hope on the post until his work detail returned to teach the other inmates a lesson." 240 F. 3d, at 980.

6 "Since abolishing the pillory over a century ago, our system of justice has consistently moved away from forms of punishment similar to hitching posts in prisons. In Gates v. Collier, 501 F. 2d 1291 (5th Cir. 1974), in regard to 'handcuffing inmates to the fence and to cells for long periods of time' and other such punishments, we stated that '[w]e have no difficulty in reaching the conclusion that these forms of corporal punishment run afoul of the Eighth Amendment, offend contemporary concepts of decency, human dignity, and precepts of civilization which we profess to possess.' Gates, 501 F. 2d at 1306." Id., at 979.

7 The DOJ report apparently was not before the District Court in this case, but the Court of Appeals took judicial notice of the report and referenced it throughout the decision below. Id., at 979, n. 8.


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