The rates of Recidivism have continued to rise despite the dedicated efforts against the same. More than a third of the minor and major offenders are being rearrested within 6 months of their release. Most of the arrests are attributed to new crimes as well as the violation of parole requirements. In an attempt to curb such ridiculous numbers of habitual offense tendencies, the federal and the local governments have set up laws that have proven effective so far. However, several court cases have argued in favor of the eighth amendment by citing that some of these state statutes and laws are inherently harsh and disproportionate. There is still hope that the constitutional amendments will continue to revise the laws to fit the reasonability status. If the government succeeds in this aspect, it should invest in an embodiment of the law reforms and stringent measures like home monitoring as well as the introduction of literacy programs that work more effectively.

The government has continually enacted statuses and laws that have come a long way towards curbing recidivism.  According to Rains, ’insofar as these laws doubled the sentence and ignored life,  they deter offenders from recommitting crimes’ (311), hence, they could not have been handier. In 1996, the government set the Washington habitual crime statute for all the offenders who committed a second offence and third petite larceny. Furthermore, the statute dictated that those who committed the third larceny and offence should face life imprisonment under the code (Wash. Rev. Code § 9.92.090 [1996]). Additionally, the California statute on the same, also known as the three-strike law, posits that the system had the mandate to increase the sentence in the event that the offender committed more crimes. In this accord, second and third-time offenders received double and triple sentences of the initial one. These sentences have received intense backlash from the public in recent years. For instance, in the Supreme Court case Ewing v. California, the defendant argued against this case of felony citing that the sentencing robbed individuals of minor felons of an opportunity to go back to the society as reformed individuals. The Supreme Court upheld the case accordingly. More importantly, the aspect of recidivism has always not been at the forefront because the government seems to concentrate on more appealing matters like drugs and firearms. More serious implementation of the statutes might just be the panacea to this biting issue that America faces.

In a bid to strike a balance between the harsh statutes and the eighth amendment, the Congress passed several laws that have come to effect ever since. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement act of 1994 mandated a life imprisonment charges for the offenders who committed violent acts as well as those who committed three to four crimes. In addition, the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA) of 1984 applied to previous convicts whose repeat offense is the possession of weapons and firearms. It ruled that in these cases, the court should apply an enhanced conviction for all the felons possessing firearms if they have over two prior convictions. In such a case, a state-imposed maximum imprisonment of ten years or more.

On numerous occasions, the recidivism statutes have been presented before the ‘supreme court and have overcome multiple challenges founded on double jeopardy’ (Rains 311). Still, these statutes have proceeded to dispense judgment in unconstitutional cases. Checks and balances of the eighth amendment have come in handy in ensuring a neutral ground. The amendment posits that extent of the punishment granted to the offender should always be proportionate to the criminal offense committed. It prohibits court cases from demanding excessive bails, inflicting odd punishments, as well as imposing excessive fines to the defendant. However, much controversy continues to cloud the factor of the term ‘cruel and unusual’. The amendment encloses a number of principles that enforce and argue for proportionality with respect to punishments regarding repeat crimes. According to Frase, ‘excessive fines and forfeitures limitation are expressively forbidden in the eighth amendment’ (602). The case further cites that, since forfeitures serve to deter retributions as well as deterrence, it comes in handy in applying utilitarianism excessiveness. Another limitation imposed by this amendment is the long sentence clause. In Solem v. Helm case, the court held that ‘in assessing the defendants’ crime in relation to the sentence, the court focused on retributive elements’ (Fraser 602). Thereby, when it comes to the cases of long sentences, the eighth amendment prohibits any imprisonment beyond the suggestions. For that, the court should consider the harm that the crime caused, the culpability of the defender, and the goal of deterrence expected.

Several court cases have come out to support the aspect of extended sentencing for repeat offenders.  To start with, in the case Hutto v Davis, the defendant received forty years imprisonment and a fine of $ 20, 000 for possession of drugs with an intention to distribute (Frase 578). The previous conviction was 20 years but the jury, upon the review of the previous convictions of the offender, doubled the charges according to the state’s statute regarding repeat offenses.  In another case, Solem V. Helm, Helm received life imprisonment without parole following Dakota’s Four Strike recidivism (Frase 579). However, it was later established that his sentence violated the eighth amendment because all his priors were minor offences.  In Lockyer v Andrade, the particular court decided that the Supreme Court had erred a great deal in overturning a three strike charge because the procedural context violated the reasonableness of the matter.

Supreme Court cases have extended the focus on both the area of the concern and the method of punishment employed to pass judgment to the offenders. In 1982, Justice Field dissented that the aspect of the prohibition against cruel punishments should be directed to cases that are greatly disproportionate to the crime charged.  In Spencer v Texas, 385 US. 554 (1967), the petitioner presented a case against the Texas court ruling on habitual criminal Statute.  In the case, the defendant introduced indictment allegations and proof of his previous convictions. Spencer argued that the court ignored the evidence of past convictions despite having full knowledge of their existence citing that it violated the fourteenth amendment due to process clause. The court dismissed the case citing that recidivism statutes are valid and that matters such as past convictions were not valid during the proceedings. Consequently, the defendant cited that ‘Petitioners claim that this procedure violates the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth’ (Wash. Rev. Code § 9.92.090 [1996])

In United States v. Rodriquez, the Supreme Court received an appeal case from the court of Appeal, Ninth circuit where Rodriquez felt that the approach of the government regarding the imprisonment terms that an offender should receive would require the ACCA to intervene and solve the disputed acts. In the anticipated Supreme Court decision, the jury would determine whether the ACCA decisions of increased sentence days applied in Rodriquez’s felon of possession of firearms.  Fundamentally, the decision guides courts regarding the application of proportionality rule in repeat cases.


Recidivism entails numerous entwined factors such as the eighth amendment excesses as well as the intended deterrence set by the criminal justice system. Therefore, for the courts to employ the factor successively, they must apply proportionality of punishments according to the constitutional right of the offender. The research has reviewed different laws, statutes, and constitutional amendments that are fundamental in regulating recidivism cases.  It discusses that the congresses’ violent crime Control, Law Enforcement Act and the Armed Career Criminal Act have been implemented to mandate prolonged prison terms for a repeat offender. Additionally, statutes such as the Washington Habitual Crime and the California Statute impose specific punishments that include increasing the offense based on the criminal act. However, some of the sentences are unfair, especially when priors or current offences are minor. Such charges violate the eighth amendment, which favors the offenders’ right to fair sentence and moderately lenient punishments. In fact, several court cases and Supreme Court decisions, have favored the eighth amendment. Such determinations are controversial, especially when the defendant is a threat to society. While repeat offenders should be charged accordingly, the sentences should not violate the requirements of the law as enshrined in the constitution.  

Works Cited

Frase, Richard. Excessive Prison Sentenses, Punishment Goals, and the Eighth Ammendment: ‘Proportionality’ Relative to What? Minn. L. REV, vol. 89, 2005, p. 571.

Rains, Cameron Jay. “Recidivism and the Eighth Amendment–Is the Habitual Offender Protected against Excessive Punishment.” Notre Dame Law Review vol. 55, no. 2, 1979, pp. 305-320.

Spencer v. Texas, 385 U.S. 554 (1967)

Wash. Rev. Code § 9.92.090 [1996]


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