The death penalty is, “the penalty of execution, administered to someone lawfully sentenced of a capital crime.” Research has shown that the Death Penalty for Juveniles in many states’ have obtained authorization to the execution of adolescents, this act started as early as 1973, 226 juveniles have been given the death penalty since then. Over 20 adolescents thus far have been put to death, and 82 remain in “waiting” status on death row. These statistics are astonishing and yet gut wrenching. With the unsure blame being, the effects of these children who are being neglected and abused, juveniles should not be punished with the death penalty.
The death penalty being given to Juveniles is a very controversial topic, some would agree, and others would not with this decision. Meanwhile the re-establishment of the death penalty in 1976 when the Supreme Court ruled 22 more juveniles had been executed for crimes committed while they were under the age of 18. (Node,39) Many rallied together to decide if this act was in violation of the eighteenth amendment which is the prohibition against harsh and rare punishment.
To think that children would be slayed for a premature mistake is a hard thing to cope with. Many would say that the death penalty both cruel and yet unusual should only be given to adults. Juveniles given the death penalty is now legalized nationwide. Children are encouraged to be progressive, discover life through their own lens, and from the mistakes that they make along this journey they are guaranteed to embark on lifelong lessons.
In the United States the death penalty is typically given to those whom have committed first-degree murder, with non-murder crimes with different variations from state to state. As harkening as it is these children are tried as adults once they reach a certain age dependent upon the criteria of the state they reside in.
The first juvenile given the death penalty in the United States was Charles Rumbaugh this 17-year-old young man was executed for killing 58-year-old Michael Fiorillo during a jewelry store robbery. According to research Rumbaugh was not killed until 10 years later of being convicted of the crime. Rumbaugh was the first juvenile offender for 21 years to be executed in the USA. (Node,54) Prior to this murder Rumbaugh had numerous reported behavior issues starting at the age six.
Had juvenile correction facilities been implemented when Rumbaugh started showing signs of delinquent acts this could have been avoided. Juvenile delinquency starts from a void that is being avoided or running a deficit. The juvenile correction system is in place to rehabilitate the minds of these youth to make them self-reflect and make the conscious decision to change their behavior so that long term they will be better adults. These children’s potential of rehabilitation is very high because the mind of a child is still easy to influence, no child is beyond the possibility for redemption. Though, there are a few of our youth population who are very dangerous and are not as quickly to respond to opportunities to reform themselves. The question still stands, “should established devices for transferring or waiving juvenile court jurisdiction in these exceptional cases take away these ‘special rights’ and subject the youth to the full range of penalties for criminal behavior including, in some jurisdictions, execution” (Thomson vs. State, 1986:784). Is it fair that these children who are performing the same malicious acts as some adult offenders under subjection to the harshness of the illegal courts and the conclusiveness of the death penalty?
“Every death penalty case in the state of South Carolina costs taxpayers about 1.1 million. That is near three times the cost of imprisoning someone in a single cell at the highest security level for 40 years.” (Executions cost South Carolina Millions: Newspaper 2016) Juveniles who are convicted are on death row for approximately thirteen or more years, during that time frame of the inmate waiting, more money has been spent on heightened security, isolation within prison, appeals, and court time. All this money could have been spent on a more effective cause such as rehabilitation and counseling of these youth to really find the underlying issues within the child that cause them to get to where they are.
What happens to a child that they get to the place of wanting or having the desire to murder another person.? What is the juvenile correction system doing to understand the juvenile murderers/ delinquents just assumption, exterior perceptions on the criminal’s intellect, or just going strictly off what is seen in black and white? I cannot believe that these children are lifetime criminals, I believe that they are fixated into circumstances that to their premature minds are unbearable. Children go through so many feelings and emotions that go unheard; no emotional support or connection from anyone at home, being placed in foster care, and peer pressure from those around them making them believe that they must be this and that. Adults such as educators, parents, and even those within the community have the responsibility to engage and steer the youth surrounding them so that they have a committee of emotional and moral support (Bartollas and Schmallager 41). Research has proven that, most juvenile murderers have openly stated that they were disregarded in some way, bullied by peers, or just felt like they had no since of belonging and were just fed with their reality. Adults have the option to take medication to cope with life’s ongoing tribulations, whereby our undeveloped youth must cope with these things and if they aren’t sure on hot to utilize their resources then bad things start to take place.
The case of Atkins v. Virginia, declared by the U.S. Supreme Court that the mentally handicapped limited to our youth would not under most circumstance be punished to the death penalty, which this would be essential to the cause opposing to juveniles being given the death penalty. It is not deprived of or justified that these adolescents have committed terrible crimes and yes indeed, they should most definitely be held accountable for their actions, nevertheless firm extenuating conditions disprove the need for a death penalty (Bartollas and Schmallager 79). Additional studies have shown that the abuse and ongoing neglect adolescents experienced at your ages of their lives can create aggressive behavior in the long run. It is known to most that growing up in circumstances which affect children in their emotions as well as physical growth can so easily convince these children that violence is the way. Under such circumstances it is unfair to hold children entirely at fault. It is very informative to view the statistics and realize the childhood juvenile offenders. More than likely these troubled youth feel the need to defend themselves and execute absurd behavior. Oppose to those brought up ‘properly’ will be better able to think through problems more logically oppose to a child that is not, those who are not as privileged will rely on the only thing they know, or which feels most natural: violence. It is benign for us to assume that when a serious mistake takes place, the law must chastise these minors. In this case the penalty should not include death.
According to (Cameron: blog) “Adolescents who commit murder should suffer consequences since they are old enough to know right from wrong. Most, however, are unable to understand the total repercussions of their acts on themselves or their victims. Real justice is not a life for ‘a life,’ especially a life that has just begun.”” Their immaturity, less education, and less intelligence make the teenager almost incapable of evaluating the aftermath of their conduct on other hand they are being led by emotion or peer pressure than is an adult. The reasons why juveniles are not trusted with the same responsibilities of an adult are also why their careless conduct is not as morally wrong in contrast to an adult” (Bartollas and Schmallager 79).
Victim’s rights advocates protested a further narrowing of the number of individuals who were eligible for the death penalty. It’s been argued that the Courts should not group juveniles together as a class of defendants, but instead “acknowledge that they are all different with respect to their experience, maturity, intelligence and moral culpability (Cameron; Blog).
In conclusion, Debate about the use of the death penalty for juveniles has grown more intense over the years considering the demand for harsher punishment of serious and violent juvenile offenders, altering insights of public safety, and worldwide challenges to the death penalty’s legality would help diminish this act and save our youth. Advocates see its use as a preventive against similar crimes, a suitable authorization for the command of certain serious crimes, and a way to maintain public safety by putting these juveniles away. Adversaries believe that it is a deterrent and is inherently cruel and point to the risk of wrongful conviction. “The constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty has been the subject of intense national debate in the last decade. Several Supreme Court decisions and high-profile cases have led to increased public interest and closer examination of the issues by academics, legislators, and policymakers (Node, 92).