The Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the infliction of “cruel and unusual punishments.” Virtually every state constitution also has its own prohibition against such penalties.
Drug courts are a variation of the current push for alternative sentencing. Founded in the late 1980s, they originally dealt with first-time drug offenders but now admit some recidivists. They were born of skepticism about the efficacy of traditional courts dealing with substance abusers. Their ultimate goal is rehabilitation.