I’ve long thought that our courts have misinterpreted the restriction against cruel and unusual punishment. The constitution does not say cruel “or” unusual. To me the obvious meaning is that punishment not be arbitrary, the whim of some judge or governor intent upon making the punishment fit the crime. In fact the restriction is in keeping with the tradition in Britain that everyone is equal before the law. Thus a rich man and an ordinary citizen should be fined a similar percentage of their worth. Likewise, everyone, rich or poor, is entitled to bail if there is little risk therein. If he cannot afford anything bail should be set at $ 0.00. But the founders hardly meant that punishment should be no more than rehabilitation any more than they meant that the restriction applied only to capital cases. By definition a society exists to protect its members from the common foe. Why should punishment not be both cruel and usual for those who have decided to prey upon it: defrauders, con men, muggers, computer hackers, and mortgage bankers? By definition such persons cannot be members of the society. Why is it that we reserve the death penalty for murderers who offend against only one family while letting those outsiders who prey on the whole society live. Though I doubt that in practice I could refuse a plea for mercy if I were a governor, in principle I do feel that these are the people who deserve the most cruel punishments, just so long as they knew what was coming their way when they set upon a life of crime – that cruel would be the usual outcome. Likewise, a spell in prison should not be a rite of passage as it can be when incarceration is short. It should be obvious that the way to break the chain of daddy to son criminality is to keep these two separated for many years. Does this punish families? Yes. Life is tough but the responsibility of government is first to the society it represents, not to individuals be they criminals, their families, or even the victims.