This case requires us to decide whether the use of excessive physical force against a prisoner may constitute cruel and unusual punishment when the inmate does not suffer serious injury. We answer that question in the affirmative.
At the time of the incident that is the subject of this suit, petitioner Keith Hudson was an inmate at the state penitentiary in Angola, Louisiana. Respondents Jack McMillian, Marvin Woods, and Arthur Mezo served as corrections security officers at the Angola facility. During the early morning hours of October 30, 1983, Hudson and McMillian argued. Assisted by Woods, McMillian then placed Hudson in handcuffs and shackles, took the prisoner out of his cell, and walked him toward the penitentiary's "administrative lockdown" area. Hudson testified that, on the way there, McMillian punched Hudson in the mouth, eyes, chest, and stomach while Woods held the inmate in place and kicked and punched him from behind. He further testified that Mezo, the supervisor on duty, watched the beating but merely told the officers "not to have too much fun." App. 23. As a result of this episode, Hudson suffered minor bruises and swelling of his face, mouth, and lip. The blows also loosened Hudson's teeth and cracked his partial dental plate, rendering it unusable for several months.
Hudson sued the three corrections officers in Federal District Court under Rev. Stat. § 1979, 42 U. S. C. § 1983, alleging a violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments and seeking compensatory damages. The parties consented to disposition of the case before a Magistrate, who found that McMillian and Woods used force when there was no need to do so and that Mezo expressly condoned their actions. App. 26. The Magistrate awarded Hudson damages of $800. Id., at 29.
We granted certiorari, 499 U.S. 958 (1991), to determine whether the "significant injury" requirement applied by the Court of Appeals accords with the Constitution's dictate that cruel and unusual punishment shall not be inflicted.
In Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986), the principal question before us was what legal standard should govern the Eighth Amendment claim of an inmate shot by a guard during a prison riot. We based our answer on the settled rule that "`the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain . . . constitutes cruel and unusual punishment forbidden by the Eighth Amendment.' " Id., at 319 (quoting Ingraham v. Wright, 430 U.S. 651, 670 (1977)) (internal quotation marks omitted).
What is necessary to establish an "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain," we said, varies according to the nature of the alleged constitutional violation. 475 U. S., at 320. For example, the appropriate inquiry when an inmate alleges that prison officials failed to attend to serious medical needs is whether the officials exhibited "deliberate indifference."
By contrast, officials confronted with a prison disturbance must balance the threat unrest poses to inmates, prison workers, administrators, and visitors against the harm inmates may suffer if guards use force. Despite the weight of these competing concerns, corrections officials must make their decisions "in haste, under pressure, and frequently without the luxury of a second chance." 475 U. S., at 320. We accordingly concluded in Whitley that application of the deliberate indifference standard is inappropriate when authorities use force to put down a prison disturbance. Instead, "the question whether the measure taken inflicted unnecessary and wanton pain and suffering ultimately turns on `whether force was applied in a good faith effort to maintain or restore discipline or maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.' " Id., at 320-321 (quoting Johnson v. Glick, 481 F.2d 1028, 1033 (CA2), cert. denied sub nom. John v. Johnson, 414 U.S. 1033 (1973)).
Many of the concerns underlying our holding in Whitley arise whenever guards use force to keep order. Whether the prison disturbance is a riot or a lesser disruption, corrections officers must balance the need "to maintain or restore discipline" through force against the risk of injury to inmates. Both situations may require prison officials to act quickly and decisively. Likewise, both implicate the principle that "`[p]rison administrators . . . should be accorded wide-ranging deference in the adoption and execution of policies and practices that in their judgment are needed to preserve internal order and discipline and to maintain institutional security.' " 475 U. S., at 321-322 (quoting Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 547 (1979)). In recognition of these similarities, we hold that whenever prison officials stand accused
Extending Whitley `s application of the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" standard to all allegations of excessive force works no innovation. This Court derived the Whitley test from one articulated by Judge Friendly in Johnson v.Glick, supra, a case arising out of a prisoner's claim to have been beaten and harassed by a guard. Moreover, many Courts of Appeals already apply the Whitley standard to allegations of excessive force outside of the riot situation. See Corselli v. Coughlin, 842 F.2d 23, 26 (CA2 1988); Miller v. Leathers, 913 F.2d 1085, 1087 (CA4 1990) (en banc), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 1109 (1991); Haynes v. Marshall, 887 F.2d 700, 703 (CA6 1989); Stenzel v. Ellis, 916 F.2d 423, 427 (CA8 1990); Brown v. Smith, 813 F.2d 1187, 1188 (CA11 1987). But see Unwin v. Campbell, 863 F.2d 124, 130 (CA1 1988) (rejecting application of Whitley standard absent "an actual disturbance").
Under the Whitley approach, the extent of injury suffered by an inmate is one factor that may suggest "whether the use of force could plausibly have been thought necessary" in a particular situation, "or instead evinced such wantonness with respect to the unjustified infliction of harm as is tantamount to a knowing willingness that it occur." 475 U. S., at 321. In determining whether the use of force was wanton and unnecessary, it may also be proper to evaluate the need for application of force, the relationship between that need and the amount of force used, the threat "reasonably perceived by the responsible officials," and "any efforts made to temper the severity of a forceful response." Ibid. The absence of serious injury is therefore relevant to the Eighth Amendment inquiry, but does not end it.
With respect to the objective component of an Eighth Amendment violation, Wilson announced no new rule. Instead, that decision suggested a relationship between the requirements applicable to different types of Eighth Amendment claims. What is necessary to show sufficient harm for purposes of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause depends upon the claim at issue, for two reasons. First, "[t]he general requirement that an Eighth Amendment claimant allege and prove the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain should . . . be applied with due regard for differences in the kind of conduct against which an Eighth Amendment objection is lodged." Whitley, supra, at 320. Second, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments "`draw[s] its meaning from the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society,' " and so admits of few absolute limitations. Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337, 346 (1981) (quoting Trop v. Dulles, 356 U.S. 86, 101 (1958) (plurality opinion)).
The objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim is therefore contextual and responsive to "contemporary standards of decency." Estelle, supra, at 103. For instance,
In the excessive force context, society's expectations are different. When prison officials maliciously and sadistically use force to cause harm, contemporary standards of decency always are violated. See Whitley, supra, at 327. This is true whether or not significant injury is evident. Otherwise, the Eighth Amendment would permit any physical punishment, no matter how diabolic or inhuman, inflicting less than some arbitrary quantity of injury. Such a result would have been as unacceptable to the drafters of the Eighth Amendment as it is today. See Estelle, supra, at 102 (proscribing torture and barbarous punishment was "the primary concern of the drafters" of the Eighth Amendment); Wilkerson v. Utah, 99 U.S. 130, 136 (1879) ("[I]t is safe to affirm that punishments of torture . . . and all others in the same line of unnecessary cruelty, are forbidden by [the Eighth Amendment]").
That is not to say that every malevolent touch by a prison guard gives rise to a federal cause of action. See Johnson v. Glick, 481 F. 2d, at 1033 ("Not every push or shove, even if it may later seem unnecessary in the peace of a judge's chambers, violates a prisoner's constitutional rights"). The Eighth Amendment's prohibition of "cruel and unusual" punishments necessarily excludes from constitutional recognition
In this case, the Fifth Circuit found Hudson's claim untenable because his injuries were "minor." 929 F. 2d, at 1015. Yet the blows directed at Hudson, which caused bruises, swelling, loosened teeth, and a cracked dental plate, are not de minimis for Eighth Amendment purposes. The extent of Hudson's injuries thus provides no basis for dismissal of his § 1983 claim.
The dissent's theory that Wilson requires an inmate who alleges excessive use of force to show serious injury in addition to the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain misapplies Wilson and ignores the body of our Eighth Amendment jurisprudence. As we have already suggested, the question before the Court in Wilson was "[w]hether a prisoner claiming that conditions of confinement constitute cruel and unusual punishment must show a culpable state of mind on the part of prison officials, and, if so, what state of mind isrequired." Wilson, supra, at 296. Wilson presented neither an allegation of excessive force nor any issue relating to what was dubbed the "objective component" of an Eighth Amendment claim.
Wilson did touch on these matters in the course of summarizing our prior holdings, beginning with Estelle v. Gamble, supra. Estelle, we noted, first applied the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause to deprivations that were not specifically part of the prisoner's sentence. Wilson, supra, at 297. As might be expected from this primacy, Estelle stated the principle underlying the cases discussed in Wilson: Punishments "incompatible with the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society" or "involv[ing] the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" are "repugnant to the Eighth Amendment." Estelle, supra,
The dissent's argument that claims based on excessive force and claims based on conditions of confinement are no different in kind, post, at 24-25, and n. 4, is likewise unfounded. Far from rejecting Whitley `s insight that the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain standard must be applied with regard for the nature of the alleged Eighth Amendment violation, the Wilson Court adopted it. See Wilson, 501 U. S., at 302-303. How could it be otherwise when the constitutional touchstone is whether punishment is cruel and unusual? To deny, as the dissent does, the difference between punching a prisoner in the face and serving him unappetizing food is to ignore the "`concepts of dignity, civilized standards, humanity, and decency' " that animate the Eighth Amendment. Estelle, supra, at 102 (quoting Jackson v. Bishop, 404 F.2d 571, 579 (CA8 1968)).
Respondents argue that, aside from the significant injury test applied by the Fifth Circuit, their conduct cannot constitute an Eighth Amendment violation because it was "isolated and unauthorized." Brief for Respondents 28. The beating of Hudson, they contend, arose from "a personal dispute between correctional security officers and a prisoner," and was against prison policy. Ibid. Respondents invoke the reasoning of courts that have held the use of force by prison officers under such circumstances beyond the scope of "punishment" prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. See Johnson v. Glick, supra, at 1032 ("[A]lthough a spontaneous attack by a guard is `cruel' and, we hope, `unusual,' it does not fit any ordinary concept of `punishment' "); George v. Evans, 633 F.2d 413, 416 (CA5 1980) ("[A] single, unauthorized assault by a guard does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment
We take no position on respondents' legal argument because we find it inapposite on this record. The Court of Appeals left intact the Magistrate's determination that the violence at issue in this case was "not an isolated assault." App. 27, n. 1. Indeed, there was testimony that McMillian and Woods beat another prisoner shortly after they finished with Hudson. Ibid. To the extent that respondents rely on the unauthorized nature of their acts, they make a claim not addressed by the Fifth Circuit, not presented by the question on which we granted certiorari, and, accordingly, not before this Court. Moreover, respondents ignore the Magistrate's finding that Lieutenant Mezo, acting as a supervisor, "expressly condoned the use of force in this instance." App. 26.
The judgment of the Court of Appeals is
Justice Stevens, concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.
In Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986), the Court held that injuries to prisoners do not constitute cruel and unusual punishment when they are inflicted during a prison disturbance that "indisputably poses significant risks to the safety of inmates and prison staff" unless force was applied "`maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of causing harm.' " Id., at 320-321 (citation omitted). The Court's opinion explained that the justification for that particularly high standard of proof was required by the exigencies present during a serious prison disturbance. "When the `everpresent potential for violent confrontation and conflagration' ripens into actual unrest and conflict," id., at 321 (citation omitted), then prison officials must be permitted to "take
Absent such special circumstances, however, the less demanding standard of "`unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain' " should be applied. Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 104 (1976) (quoting Gregg v. Georgia, 428 U.S. 153, 173 (1976) (joint opinion of Stewart, Powell, and Stevens, JJ.)); see Unwin v. Campbell, 863 F.2d 124, 135 (CA1 1988) (opinion of Campbell, C. J.) ("[W]here institutional security is not at stake, the officials' license to use force is more limited; to succeed, a plaintiff need not prove malicious and sadistic intent"); see also Wyatt v. Delaney, 818 F.2d 21, 23 (CA8 1987). This approach is consistent with the Court's admonition in Whitley that the standard to be used is one that gives "due regard for differences in the kind of conduct against which an Eighth Amendment objection is lodged." 475 U. S., at 320. In this case, because there was no prison disturbance and "no need to use any force since the plaintiff was already in restraints," App. 27, the prison guards' attack upon petitioner resulted in the infliction of unnecessary and wanton pain. Id., at 28.
Although I think that the Court's reliance on the malicious and sadistic standard is misplaced, I agree with the Court that even this more demanding standard was met here. Accordingly, I concur in Parts I, II—A, II—B, and II—C of the Court's opinion and in its judgment.
Because I was in the dissent in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312, 328 (1986), I do not join the Court's extension of Whitley `s malicious-and-sadistic standard to all allegations of excessive force, even outside the context of a prison riot. Nevertheless, I otherwise join the Court's solid opinion and judgment that the Eighth Amendment does not require a showing of "significant injury" in the excessive-force context. I write separately to highlight two concerns not addressed by the Court in its opinion.
Citing rising caseloads, respondents, represented by the Attorney General of Louisiana, and joined by the States of Texas, Hawaii, Nevada, Wyoming, and Florida as amici curiae, suggest that a "significant injury" requirement is necessary to curb the number of court filings by prison inmates. We are informed that the "significant injury requirement has been very effective in the Fifth Circuit in helping to control its system-wide docket management problems." Brief for Texas et al. as Amici Curiae 15.
Since the burden on the courts is presumably worth bearing when a prisoner's suit has merit, the States' "concern" is more aptly termed a "conclusion" that such suits are simply without merit. One's experience on the federal bench teaches the contrary. Moreover, were particular classes of cases to be nominated for exclusion from the federal courthouse, we might look first to cases in which federal law is not sensitively at issue rather than to those in which fundamental constitutional rights are at stake. The right to file for legal redress in the courts is as valuable to a prisoner as to any other citizen. Indeed, for the prisoner it is more valuable. Inasmuch as one convicted of a serious crime and imprisoned usually is divested of the franchise, the right to file a court action stands, in the words of Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356, 370 (1886), as his most "fundamental political right, because preservative of all rights."
Today's ruling, in any event, does not open the floodgates for filings by prison inmates. By statute, prisoners—alone among all other § 1983 claimants—are required to exhaust administrative remedies. See 94 Stat. 352, 42 U. S. C.
§ 1997e(a); Patsy v. Board of Regents of Florida, 457 U. S.
I do not read anything in the Court's opinion to limit injury cognizable under the Eighth Amendment to physical injury. It is not hard to imagine inflictions of psychological harm—without corresponding physical harm—that might prove to be cruel and unusual punishment. See, e. g., Wisniewski v. Kennard, 901 F.2d 1276, 1277 (CA5) (guard placing a revolver in inmate's mouth and threatening to blow prisoner's head off), cert. denied, 498 U.S. 926 (1990). The issue was not presented here, because Hudson did not allege that he feared that the beating incident would be repeated or that it had caused him anxiety and depression. See App. 29.
As the Court makes clear, the Eighth Amendment prohibits the unnecessary and wanton infliction of "pain," rather than "injury." Ante, at 5. "Pain" in its ordinary meaning surely includes a notion of psychological harm. I am unaware of any precedent of this Court to the effect that psychological pain is not cognizable for constitutional purposes. If anything, our precedent is to the contrary. See Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 734 (1972) (recognizing Article III standing for "aesthetic" injury); Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 494 (1954) (identifying school-children's
To be sure, as the Court's opinion intimates, ante, at 9, de minimis or nonmeasurable pain is not actionable under the Eighth Amendment. But psychological pain can be more than de minimis. Psychological pain often may be clinically diagnosed and quantified through well-established methods, as in the ordinary tort context where damages for pain and suffering are regularly awarded. I have no doubt that to read a "physical pain" or "physical injury" requirement into the Eighth Amendment would be no less pernicious and without foundation than the "significant injury" requirement we reject today.
Justice Thomas, with whom Justice Scalia joins, dissenting.
We granted certiorari in this case "limited to the following question," which we formulated for the parties:
Guided by what it considers "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society," ante, at 8 (internal quotation marks omitted), the Court today answers that question in the negative. I would answer it in the affirmative, and would therefore affirm the judgment of the Fifth Circuit. I respectfully dissent.
The Magistrate who found the facts in this case emphasized that petitioner's injuries were "minor." App. 26, 28. The three judges of the Fifth Circuit who heard the case on
In my view, a use of force that causes only insignificant harm to a prisoner may be immoral, it may be tortious, it may be criminal, and it may even be remediable under other provisions of the Federal Constitution, but it is not cruel and unusual punishment. In concluding to the contrary, the Court today goes far beyond our precedents.
Until recent years, the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause was not deemed to apply at all to deprivations that were not inflicted as part of the sentence for a crime. For generations, judges and commentators regarded the Eighth Amendment as applying only to torturous punishments meted out by statutes or sentencing judges, and not generally to any hardship that might befall a prisoner during incarceration. In Weems v. United States, 217 U.S. 349 (1910), the Court extensively chronicled the background of the Amendment, discussing its English antecedents, its adoption by Congress, its construction by this Court, and the interpretation
Surely prison was not a more congenial place in the early years of the Republic than it is today; nor were our judges and commentators so naive as to be unaware of the often harsh conditions of prison life. Rather, they simply did not conceive of the Eighth Amendment as protecting inmates from harsh treatment. Thus, historically, the lower courts routinely rejected prisoner grievances by explaining that the courts had no role in regulating prison life. "[I]t is well settled that it is not the function of the courts to superintend the treatment and discipline of prisoners in penitentiaries, but only to deliver from imprisonment those who are illegally confined." Stroud v. Swope, 187 F.2d 850, 851-852 (CA9), cert. denied, 342 U.S. 829 (1951). See also Sutton v. Settle, 302 F.2d 286, 288 (CA8 1962) (per curiam), cert. denied, 372 U.S. 930 (1963); United States ex rel. Atterbury v. Ragen, 237 F.2d 953, 954-956 (CA7 1956), cert. denied, 353 U.S. 964 (1957); Banning v. Looney, 213 F.2d 771 (CA10 1954) (per curiam); Sarshik v. Sanford, 142 F.2d 676 (CA5 1944). It
We made clear in Estelle that the Eighth Amendment plays a very limited role in regulating prison administration. The case involved a claim that prison doctors had inadequately attended an inmate's medical needs. We rejected the claim because the inmate failed to allege "acts or omissions sufficiently harmful to evidence deliberate indifference to serious medical needs." Id., at 106 (emphasis added). From the outset, thus, we specified that the Eighth Amendment does not apply to every deprivation, or even every unnecessary deprivation, suffered by a prisoner, but only that narrow class of deprivations involving "serious" injury inflicted by prison officials acting with a culpable state of mind. We have since described these twin elements as the "objective" and "subjective" components of an Eighth Amendment prison claim. See Wilson v. Seiter, 501 U.S. 294, 298 (1991).
We have never found a violation of the Eighth Amendment in the prison context when an inmate has failed to establish either of these elements. In Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337 (1981), for instance, we upheld a practice of placing two inmates in a single cell on the ground that the injury alleged was insufficiently serious. Only where prison conditions deny an inmate "the minimal civilized measure of life's necessities," id., at 347, we said, could they be considered cruel and unusual punishment. Similarly, in Whitley v. Albers, 475 U.S. 312 (1986), we held that a guard did not violate the Eighth Amendment when he shot an inmate during a prison riot because he had not acted with a sufficiently culpable state of mind. When an official uses force to quell a riot, we said, he does not violate the Eighth Amendment unless he acts "`maliciously and sadistically for the very purpose of
We synthesized our Eighth Amendment prison jurisprudence last Term in Wilson, supra. There the inmate alleged that the poor conditions of his confinement per se amounted to cruel and unusual punishment, and argued that he should not be required in addition to establish that officials acted culpably. We rejected that argument, emphasizing that an inmate seeking to establish that a prison deprivation amounts to cruel and unusual punishment always must satisfy both the "objective component . . . (Was the deprivation sufficiently serious?)" and the "subjective component (Did the officials act with a sufficiently culpable state of mind?)" of the Eighth Amendment. Id., at 298. Both are necessary components; neither suffices by itself.
These subjective and objective components, of course, are implicit in the traditional Eighth Amendment jurisprudence, which focuses on penalties meted out by statutes or sentencing judges. Thus, if a State were to pass a statute ordering that convicted felons be broken at the wheel, we would not separately inquire whether the legislature had acted with "deliberate indifference," since a statute, as an intentional act, necessarily satisfies an even higher state-of-mind threshold. Likewise, the inquiry whether the deprivation is objectively serious would be encompassed within our determination whether it was "cruel and unusual."
When we cut the Eighth Amendment loose from its historical moorings and applied it to a broad range of prison deprivations, we found it appropriate to make explicit the limitations described in Estelle, Rhodes, Whitley, and Wilson. "If the pain inflicted is not formally meted out as punishment by the statute or the sentencing judge, some mental element must be attributed to the inflicting officer before it can qualify," Wilson, 501 U. S., at 300 (emphasis in original)—thus, the subjective component. Similarly, because deprivations
Given Estelle, Rhodes, Whitley, and Wilson, one might have assumed that the Court would have little difficulty answering the question presented in this case by upholding the Fifth Circuit's "significant injury" requirement.
The Court purports to derive the answer to this case from Whitley. The sum and substance of an Eighth Amendment violation, the Court asserts, is "` "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain."` " Ante, at 5 (quoting Whitley, 475 U. S., at 319). This formulation has the advantage, from the Court's perspective, of eliminating the objective component. As noted above, however, the only dispute in Whitley concerned the subjective component; the prisoner, who had been shot, had self-evidently been subjected to an objectively serious injury. Whitley did not say, as the Court does today, that the objective component is contextual, and that an Eighth Amendment claim may succeed where a prisoner is not seriously injured. Rather, Whitley stands for the proposition that, assuming the existence of an objectively serious deprivation, the culpability of an official's state of mind depends on the context in which he acts. "Whitley teaches that, assuming the conduct is harmful enough to satisfy the objective component of an Eighth Amendment claim, see Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337 (1981), whether it can be characterized as `wanton' depends upon the constraints facing the official." Wilson, supra, at 303 (emphasis modified). Whether officials subject a prisoner to the "unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" is simply one way to describe the state of mind inquiry that was at issue in Whitley itself. As Wilson made clear, that inquiry is necessary but not sufficient when a prisoner seeks to show that he has been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.
Perhaps to compensate for its elimination of the objective component in excessive force cases, the Court simultaneously
The Court's attempts to distinguish the cases expressly resting upon the objective component are equally unconvincing. As noted above, we have required an extreme deprivation in cases challenging conditions of confinement, Rhodes v. Chapman, 452 U.S. 337 (1981). Why should such an objectively
The Court's attempted distinction of Estelle is also unpersuasive: "Because society does not expect that prisoners will
At bottom, of course, there is no conclusive way to refute the Court's assertions about our society's "contemporary notions of decency." That is precisely why this Court has long insisted that determinations of whether punishment is cruel and unusual "should be informed by objective factors to the maximum possible extent," Rhodes, supra, at 346 (internal quotation marks omitted).
The Court attempts to justify its departure from precedent by saying that if a showing of serious injury were required, "the Eighth Amendment would permit any physical punishment, no matter how diabolic or inhuman, inflicting less than some arbitrary quantity of injury." Ante, at 9. That statement, in my view, reveals a central flaw in the Court's reasoning. "[D]iabolic or inhuman" punishments by definition inflict serious injury. That is not to say that the injury must be, or always will be, physical. "Many things— beating with a rubber truncheon, water torture, electric shock, incessant noise, reruns of `Space 1999'—may cause agony as they occur yet leave no enduring injury. The state is not free to inflict such pains without cause just so long as it is careful to leave no marks." Williams v. Boles, 841 F.2d 181, 183 (CA7 1988). Surely a prisoner who alleges that prison officials tortured him with a device like the notorious "Tucker Telephone" described by Justice Blackmun, ante, at 14, has alleged a serious injury. But petitioner has not alleged a deprivation of this type; the injuries he has alleged are entirely physical and were found below to be "minor."
If the Court is to be taken at its word that "the unnecessary and wanton infliction of pain" upon a prisoner per se amounts to cruel and unusual punishment, the implications of today's opinion are sweeping. For this formulation replaces the objective component described in our prior cases with a "necessity" component. Many prison deprivations, however, are not "necessary," at least under any meaningful definition of that word. Thus, under today's analysis, Rhodes was wrongly decided. Surely the "double celling" of inmates was not "necessary" to fulfill the State's penal mission; in fact, the prison in that case had been designed for individual cells, but was simply overcrowded. 452 U. S., at 343. We rejected the prisoners' claim in Rhodes not because we determined that double celling was "necessary," but because the deprivations alleged were not sufficiently serious to state a claim of cruel and unusual punishment. After today, the "necessity" of a deprivation is apparently the only relevant inquiry beyond the wantonness of official conduct. This approach, in my view, extends the Eighth Amendment beyond all reasonable limits.
Today's expansion of the Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause beyond all bounds of history and precedent is, I suspect, yet another manifestation of the pervasive view that the Federal Constitution must address all ills in our society. Abusive behavior by prison guards is deplorable conduct that properly evokes outrage and contempt. But that does not mean that it is invariably unconstitutional. The Eighth Amendment is not, and should not be turned into, a National Code of Prison Regulation. To reject the notion that the infliction of concededly "minor" injuries can be considered either "cruel" or "unusual" punishment (much less cruel and unusual punishment) is not to say that it amounts to acceptable conduct. Rather, it is to recognize that primary responsibility for preventing and punishing such conduct rests not with the Federal Constitution but with the laws and regulations of the various States.
Petitioner apparently could have, but did not, seek redress for his injuries under state law.
Because I conclude that, under our precedents, a prisoner seeking to establish that he has been subjected to cruel and unusual punishment must always show that he has suffered a serious injury, I would affirm the judgment of the Fifth Circuit.
A brief of amici curiae urging affirmance was filed for the State of Texas et al. by Dan Morales, Attorney General of Texas, Will Pryor, First Assistant Attorney General, Mary F. Keller, Deputy Attorney General, and Michael P. Hodge, Charles A. Palmer, Sharon Felfe, and Adrian L. Young, Assistant Attorneys General, joined by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Warren Price III of Hawaii, Joseph B. Meyer of Wyoming, Frankie Sue Del Papa of Nevada, and Robert A. Butterworth of Florida.
"Louisiana state courts are open to prisoners for the purpose of suing prison personnel who have caused them unjustified wrongs. For example, see Parker v. State, 282 So.2d 483, 486-87 (La. 1973), cert. denied, 414 U.S. 1093 (1973); Anderson v. Phelps, 451 So.2d 1284, 1285 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1984); McGee v. State, 417 So.2d 416, 418 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir.), writ denied, 420 So.2d 871 (La. 1982); Neathery v. State, 395 So.2d 407, 410 (La. Ct. App. 3d Cir. 1981); Shields v. State Through Dep't of Corrections, 380 So.2d 123 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1979), writ denied, 382 So.2d 164; Craft v. State, 308 So.2d 290, 295 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir.), writ denied, 319 So.2d 441 (La. 1975), cert. denied, 423 U.S. 1075, 96 S.Ct. 859, 47 L. Ed. 2d 84 (1975); Lewis v. Listi, 377 So.2d 551, 553 (La. Ct. App. 3d Cir. 1979); Bastida v. State, 269 So.2d 544, 545 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1972); Adams v. State, 247 So.2d 149, 151 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1971); St. Julian v. State, 98 So.2d 284 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1957); Nedd v. State, 281 So.2d 131, 132 (La. 1973), cert. denied, 415 U.S. 957, 94 S.Ct. 1484, 39 L. Ed. 2d 572 (1974); Mack v. State, 529 So.2d 446, 448 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1988), writ denied, 533 So.2d 359 (La. 1988); Walden v. State, 430 So.2d 1224 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1983), writ denied, 435 So.2d 430 (La. 1983); White v. Phelps, 387 So.2d 1188 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1980); Hampton v. State, 361 So.2d 257, 258 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1978); Davis v. State, 356 So.2d 452, 454 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1977); Betsch v. State, 353 So. 2d , 359 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1977), writ refused, 354 So.2d 1389 (La. 1978); Williams v. State, 351 So.2d 1273 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1977); Jones v. State, 346 So.2d 807, 808 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir.), writ refused, 350 So.2d 671 (La. 1977); Walker v. State, 346 So.2d 794, 796 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir.), writ denied, 349 So.2d 879 (La. 1977); Raney v. State, 322 So.2d 890 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1975); and Bay v. Maggio, 417 So.2d 1386 (La. Ct. App. 1st Cir. 1982)." Brief for Respondents 42-43, n. 38.
Petitioner has not disputed the existence or adequacy of state-law remedies for his injuries.