Juvenile Offenders And Capital Punishment Essay, Research Paper
Although there are many different views and points to look at when discussing capital punishment, juvenile offenders should be excluded from the death penalty, because capital punishment is cruel, inhumane and barbaric. Capital punishment does not belong in the penal system of any modern, progressing culture. Is it really up to our justice system to decide one’s fate? Is it up to our nation to decide whether to kill or not to kill the killers?
When turning on the television, radio, or simply opening the local newspaper, one is bombarded with news of arrests, murders, homicides, serial killers, and other things. So what should be done about this crime rate? More and more children are becoming murderers. The reason is obvious: they see that if they kill someone they go to jail, get the death penalty, and the government, who they know as the “good guy” kills them for punishment. Lesson learned: the finger is pointing to its own actions. Learning morals is only as hard as people make it. Why complicate things?
Sentencing children to death reflects a conflict between a criminal justice system that has grown more punishing and our basic understanding that all children can grow to lead normal and productive lives if given nurturing and positive support. (1) As the Supreme Court recognized, “Youth crime as such is not the offender’s fault; offenses by the young also represent a failure of family, school, and the social system, which share responsibility for the development of America’s youth.” (2)
This national failure can be seen in the lives of every child on death row. Dalton Prejean’s life is one example. When only two-week’s old, Dalton was abandoned by his mother. (1) By the age of 13, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic. Although considered a “danger to himself and others,” Dalton was released from medical care when funding for treatment was cut. Thereafter, at age 17, he killed a police officer. Despite a good testimonial for trade of sentence, Dalton was executed in 1990.(3)
Instead of concentrating on the needs of children like Dalton to cure youth violence, lawmakers are supporting part of legislation to execute children just into their teens. (4) Execution of minors in spite of their crimes breaks humanitarian principles. Criminologists have found that minors are more likely than adults to act on impulse, under the influence of others, and with little understanding of long-term effects. (5) Adolescents has less room to control their actions and to think in long-range terms than adults. (2)
Abolitionists believe that the criminal should repay the victim’s family with the criminal’s own income from employment or community service. There is no doubt that someone can do more alive than dead. By working, the criminal unintentionally “pays back” society and also their victim and/or the victim’s family. There is no reason for the criminal to receive any payment for his work. Money is of no value in jail. One of the most well known examples of the criminal giving to the progress of society is the case of Leopold and Loeb.(6) Leopold and Loeb were nineteen years old when they committed “The Crime of the Century.” In 1924 they kidnapped and murdered a fourteen year old boy just to see what it was like. They were both spared the death penalty and sentenced to life imprisonment. Together, their accomplishments include working at hospitals, teaching illiterates to read, creating a correspondence school, making significant developments in the World War II Malaria Project and writing a grammar book. “An inestimable amount of people were directly helped by Leopold and Loeb; both of them making a conscious commitment to atone by serving others.” (6)
Abraham Lincoln declared, “All men are created equal.” This statement of truth has obviously been left out of consideration in the court room. The man that sits upon the bench in this room is no more entitle to justice than the one that sits in the defendant’s seat. Everyone deserves a second chance because they are all capable of reformation. Is the reasoning not simply to teach a lesson that one punishes another? The offender should have the chance to go back into the world and prove himself honorable. Must we commit a crime to justify another? If capital punishment was only based on punishing the wrongdoers, there would be no one left to inject the needle or pull the lever. Everyone would be trying to fit into the chair.