Research Paper on Death Penalty for Juvenile Offenders

Published: 2021-07-16
1892 words
7 pages
16 min to read
Harvey Mudd College
Type of paper: 
Research paper
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The nature and magnitude of punishment for the juvenile offenders have been an issue of concern among the human rights specialists and the related policy makers. It is a matter that requires an in-depth analysis to understand the reasons behind the crime occurrence, punishment and the possible ways to rehabilitate the concerned juvenile and to shape their lives in the right direction. This paper, therefore, provides an in-depth investigation and analysis into the issue of death penalty among juvenile offenders. In achieving this, it focuses on the various cases, the position of the Constitution and the grounds held by the human rights specialists. It argues that; even though death penalty may be a necessity for certain severe offenses, proper investigation before punishment and execution should be conducted in adherence to the constitution and exclusive rights of the Juvenile.

In the United States, the Death penalty has raised a greater friction and differing opinions among the citizens, policy makers and the members of the judiciary. The aspect of age, reasons behind discrimination in punishment application among other elements have been viewed as the cornerstones of argument (Hood, & Hoyle, 2015). Those in support hold that; even though the part of the brain that supports reasoning, that is the frontal lobe, is not entirely grown among the Juveniles, it should not be an excuse for making the wrong decision. Also, about the psychology, professionals hold that, at the age of 16years, individuals join a post-conventional stage of morality where reasoning is not different from that of an adult. Furthermore, death is severe and irretrievable, for justice attainment, similar action should be done, and finally, Jail may never be a conducive learning environment hence individuals from such areas might cause more harm than good.

Conversely, those in dispute asserts that; it is uncivilized, immoral and only discriminates on the ground of race and gender (Unnever, & Cullen, 2012). Also, brain development of the Juvenile is incomplete hence incapable of accurate comprehension of repercussions. Furthermore, Inability to contain pressure during interrogation and finally, the fact that most Juveniles have psychiatric disorders which are treatable yet undiagnosed.

Arguments in support of Death Penalty

It is a fact and beyond dispute that all human beings are born equal but that does not imply that they should all be subjected to equal treatment of the law. Some considerations including age, mental ability, the capability to hold pressure, social and other influential environmental conditions. The highlighted factors are critical in determining the nature of the decision that a Juvenile may opt to undertake with a motive of satisfying personal or needs of the peers. It is from these aspects that different individuals and experts argue resulting to differing positions on the issue. Some of the strong reasons in support of the death penalty for the Juveniles includes the following;

First, the fact that the brain capacity among the Juveniles is not fully developed is just an excuse. The part of the brain that supports reasoning ability of human beings is the frontal lobe, and it keeps on growing even up to the age of 20s. The question therefore is, what could be the difference of an individual in the ages 16, 18 and 21 regarding reasoning? The fact remains that in all cases the brain is still growing and therefore, they should all be subjected to similar law interpretation (Lambert, 2011). On a similar note, it is argued that, if age and brain development is the basis of consideration, why is it limited to the age of 16 since there is a possibility that even those in ages above 18 may be having difficulty in reasoning.

Secondly, according to the psychologists, the ability of individuals to reason is age dependent. Scientifically proven, at the age of 16 (Post-conventional stage), Juveniles are capable of reasoning and make decisions clearly as adults. There should be no valid reason, therefore, to bar them from death penalty since they are capable of distinguishing right from wrong decisions. It is therefore right and to allow them to take charge of their actions. It has been realized that most Juveniles take advantage of the freedom provided to them by the constitution to commit crimes acknowledging that regardless of the severity, the worst condition they can be subjected to is the rehabilitation centers.

Thirdly, certain criminal offenses such as death are severe and irretrievable. In a situation where a Juvenile happens to commit such a crime, an investigation should be conducted, and if by any chance he or she is identified as the victim, it is to undergo death penalty. The idea is justice attainment, provided the act was intentional. According to the human rights regulations protecting the Juveniles, the law hampers their execution by way of death and instead offers them an opportunity to change behavior and better their future through rehabilitation centers and approved schools.

Finally, detention of the juvenile as a punishment for severe crimes may never be adequate and at the same time good for the society. The jail environment is never conducive to learning, and therefore, it is impossible to convince the public that a Juvenile at age 16 may be detained and change behavior towards the right direction. For the safety of the community and prevention of future crime occurrences among Juveniles, the death penalty should not be illegalized but also executed whenever necessary.

Arguments in dispute of Death Penalty

Similar to the existence of individuals in support of death penalty among the Juveniles, there is a different group holding a contrary opinion which they justify with facts and philosophy. In their view, they assert the following;

To begin with, they believe that it is uncivilized, immoral and discriminates by race and gender (Streib, 2003). A Juvenile is someone who is still young and having brighter future a head. It is therefore imperative and sensible that they are given an opportunity even after committing a crime to reflect and change their old behavior for the sake of the future. It questions the morality of the judiciary to penalize a Juvenile severely. In the current civilized world, there are different ways of punishing a Juvenile such as detention in the Juvenile Stations or rehabilitation centers, compulsory community service among others. These are options which should be explored as an alternative to the death penalty.

Notably, for a Juvenile, detention, which is an act keeping him or her from accessing colleagues and peers is severe enough. Also, regarding race and gender, statistics show clearly that, the population of black Americans who are detained at an early age in the Juvenile stations is far more beyond the whites' population. Furthermore, before the year 2005, over 80% of the total population of the Juveniles charged were males. It is, therefore, beyond dispute to hold that the application of death penalty among the Juvenile is misleading and should never be tolerated.

Secondly, despite the position maintained by the psychologist regarding reasoning of an age 16 Juvenile, scientists maintain that at such an age the brain is not entirely developed (Aronson, 2007). Even though at the age of 18 or 20, the brain section of reasoning is still growing, the difference of 1 or 2 years is enormous and should not be considered as anything (Denno, 2005). It is therefore unlawful to hold the Juveniles accountable for an act that given time and proper guidance, only the right view may be found. The assertion from the psychologists are purely based on cases, and therefore the position of the scientists should be emphasized as individuals are different. The primary concern is whether a Juvenile is capable of accurately assessing the repercussions of an action before executing them. The fact that they are not even aware of the available laws controlling the society places them in a situation that requires consideration before the final ruling is made.

Thirdly, a good population of the Juveniles have undergone physical and mental abuses and therefore suffer from treatable psychiatric disorders making them behave contrary to the expectation of the society (Denno, 2005). It is, therefore, to diagnose the entire mental health of a Juvenile before falling for rush rulings. On a similar note, Juveniles are known to be easily convinced by adults since they have a weakness of reasoning and are less in touch with the laws. For such reasons, a Juvenile should never be subjected to harsh treatments and therefore be given considerations by the Judiciary and instead investigate in search for possible influence from the adults and older peers.

Fourthly, statistics indicate that, among the Juveniles who have been executed and are on the death row, the majority have at least experienced sexual abuse or drug addiction (Streib, 2003). Others are abandoned hence live in deplorable conditions. Those who were initially abused may commit a crime while trying to revenge their incidence. On the other hand, a section that operates on drug addiction may fall into the trap of law since their system works on impulses and imagination as opposed to reality.

In addition to this, it is a fact that no one desires to live in poor conditions and in a country where education is highly valued and areas of rescue characterized by race and gender discrimination, survival is tuff, but a one must live. In this circumstance, for the survival of a juvenile, the majority may resort to stealing as an option or engage in groups that carry out armed robbery operations. It is not that they are enjoying what they are doing, it is the situation that they are in that makes them behave the way they do. In a circumstance where they are arrested, it is only fair that the charges are placed considering the life challenges that the Juveniles have undergone and the likelihood of them changing to be of good to the society (Streib, 2003). Chances are therefore high that the nation is losing individuals capable of making a bigger impact on the livelihood of the community members and the State at large.

Finally, Juveniles are weaker and therefore incapable of handling pressure from the authority (Steinberg, 2013). During an interrogation, it is easier for a Juvenile to confess for having committed a certain crime which in reality they never committed. At the stations, the motive of those in authority is to identify the culprit and ensure that justice is achieved without investigating the matter fully to determine the facts behind the words. To avoid this, it is prudent that the counselors or psychologists be given an opportunity to interrogate the Juveniles since, in their operation, professionalism is embraced in a friendly way as opposed to authority personnel who are threatening.

Where the Death Penalty Stands

On October 13th, 2004, Roper V, Simmons case was heard by the United States Supreme court (Alford, 2005). Within the court, several oral arguments and presentations were made regarding the Juvenile death penalty. In the process, it was clear that even among the Judges, interpretation of the law posed a challenge resulting in differing positions. The divisive issue led to a voting where the ruling ended in a 5-4 in dispute and to outlaw the death penalty. It, therefore, concluded that the criminal offenses against the Juvenile are banned, and hence they should not be executed instead, the alternative approach should be considered to solve the matter and rehabilitate the Juvenile (Calabresi, & Zimdahl, 2005).

Also, as it currently stands globally, except Somalia that suffers political instability, United States is another country that also practices Juvenile death penalt...

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