As a Contemporary Magistrate, I understand the complexity of moral systems developing through time, but I believe that the values outlined in the United States Constitution and assessed by the Supreme Court are of utmost importance in as. ssing a government‘s ability to pass certain laws and determine punishments for the accused. In addition to assessing the constitutionality of law and penalty, the treatment of the accused should also be addressed under current moral standards of punishment and recent viewpoints on the purpose of criminal penalties.
Due to constitutional violations on the part of the New England legislature and jury, I sincerely believe that Hester Prynne should be granted a reprieve that allows her to permanently remove the scarlet letter. By granting Hester Prynne freedom from the Scarlet “A,” the government will be setting a precedent for future decisions based on morals respecting the rights of the individual. rather than solely respecting the word of god.
In order to assess the constitutionality of the original statute by which Hester Prynne was punished.
Icite several Supreme Court Cases relevant to the discussion of adultery and similar topics. Recent interpretations of the Constitution acknowledge the right to privacy in the Constitution, a relevant concern in Hester Prynne’s initial trial. In Lawrence v, Texas (2003), the Supreme Court determined that the right to privacy, implied by the Constitution, holds true for “private. consensual sexual conduct.” including in the case of adultery. While some religions may believe adultery to be a dehumanizing action, interdicting the action goes beyond the power of government and breaches the right to privacy held by every individual, Trials for adultery had proceeded in Massachusetts until 1983, but the Lawrence v.
Texas decision represents the current interpretation of the Constitution and has set a new precedent in America. Hester Prynne was originally imprisoned and branded with the scarlet letter for adultery, which is an unpunishable act by current standards.
Because the law would likely not be considered valid in contemporary society, the law should not have been enacted at all, and Hester Prynne should be freed and compensated for her unwarranted shame, While the statute regarding adultery already exceeds the power delegated to an American democratic government, Hester Prynne’s punishment also breaks the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which says, “Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excesrireﬂnex imposed, Imr cruel and unusual [Innis/111mm inﬂicted”. In the Trap v. Dulles Supreme Court decision in 1958. regarding punishment by removal of citizenship. the court stated that taking away a person’s rights to citizenship is “more primitive than torture” because the act involves the “total destruction of the individual’s status in organized society.” Prosecutors do not remove Hester’s citizenship, but they brand her with a scarlet letter. which forces her to live alone with her daughter Pearl. destroyng her previous status in the society.
If any punishment that completely destroys an individual’s status in society may be considered a form of cruel and unusual punishment. Hester’s punishment should never have been established: a continuation of the cruel and unusual punishment would be an absurd proposal. It is true that the cruel torture of seven year‘s time cannot be retracted, but the punishment can be halted immediately. In addition to the constitutional decisions nullifying both the statute by which Hester was punished and her punishment itself. the psychological purposes of punishment should be carefully considered. In the modern day, most would agree that the purpose of punishments after crimes is to reform the offender in order to help him or her reestablish his or herself into society with the appropriate morals for living alongside other society members.
The punishment for Hester has thus far been ineffective in accomplishing this goal, isolating her from society rather than helping her reintegrate: she lives alone with her young Pearl and is viewed as an outsider by most. The branded “A” on her dress has not taught Hester how to reintegrate into society, rather it has helped her grow more detached from the roles of a woman in society. Hester no longer believes in the Puritan values, giving them up in favor much more rebellious thoughts, feminist ideas. and alternative values. If the brand remains on her chest. it will forever separate her from the rest of society, and she will never be able to fully reenter society. Had the statute been Constitutional punishment without a permanent physical mark would have allowed Hester Prynne to reenter society and reintegrate. By removing the scarlet letter from her chest now, Hester Prynne will have the potential to regain her status in organized society.
The torture and pain that Hester Prynne has suffered for seven years has been not only demoralizing and disheartening but also unwarranted. Today’s decision is not a question of whether Hester Prynne has served her sentence well or made past her sin: today’s decision is one that analyzes the success and failure of the Puritan government in designing a statute and penalty that follows the interpreted rights of an individual. By comparing decisions of Supreme Court cases in the past century to the actions of Puritan leaders. one can see that almost no part of the government’s actions leading to Hester’s prosecution was constitutional. These Supreme Court decisions represent the morals and ethics of contemporary society well, and allow me to assert that Hester Prynne should be both allowed to remove the scarlet “A” and recompensed for her suffering.