Criminal Justice becomes a very debatable subject especially when children are involved; the difficult bit comes in when crime, the death penalty and the children are to be mixed up the same scenario. The great questions asked will always be, whether a death penalty has any effects on the society or the rights of the children. Normally, anyone who commits a crime must pay for it and this is ensured by the justice, however the effects on children on the sentences given in crime have given this notion a different view. This paper tackles the contentious issue of whether the juvenile offenders should face the death penalty.
Ever since 1962 when the first American juvenile offender was executed, there have been approximately other 362 sentenced for capital punishment in the different states. The juvenile system of justice was separated from the adult system in 1899; this was in an aim to protect the children from the cruel punishments of the courts and foster the rehabilitation of the children. This was a noble ideas but the idea of capital punishments was developed to ensure society abstains from such crimes. There seems to be a conflict of interest since one would also say that juvenile courts should give the death penalty to children. However, how does this affect the future generations and the desired change in society?
According to Child Welfare League of America those who argue that juveniles should face the death penalty claim that the juvenile violence rate is higher in the US than in other countries that are developed (Tuell, 2000). In addition, cases of juveniles involved in homicides were increasing than the cases of adult homicides since the 1990’s. They also argue that juveniles lack consciousness and became disobedient to officers that are meant to rehabilitate them. Also they foresee the rate of crime going down when juveniles face the death penalty.
Those who oppose death penalty for juveniles argue that the juveniles will undergo ruthless emotional and physical trauma and abuse. They argue that the children should be given another chance in life to prove that they are worth in life. The capital punishments deterrent purpose does not apply to the juveniles just as in adults since the children can be molded and professionally counseled to ensure they change. Those who oppose fight for the questioning of the retributive function of the death penalty especially when the crime is committed by a minor. In fact, insisting on the juveniles to face the death penalty will not bear the expected results especially because the child may not have done the crime knowingly. For this reason, there should be a very effective, precautionary and a long lasting solution to ensure the juveniles are rehabilitated back to the society. This will be only be effective of the society i.e. the school, family, and community is involved in the rehabilitation of the youths.
In my opinion, the death penalty should be abolished especially for the juveniles; the aim of punishment is not to banish the children and separate them from society but to correct them and make them fit in society. This can only be when we aim to correct the children with love, care and compassion; this will make them know their mistakes and correct them. Indeed, executing the juvenile offenders can only lead to loss of talented children who would have possibly made the best out of their lives and benefit society.
Juvenile execution will also lead to social break down and tremendous implications. This means that the society has begging questions of morality, punishment and in the notion of crime. There is also need to conform to the international law where juveniles need to be protected from abuse or torture. Children are so sensitive when such cruel form of punishment; children need not learn from the brutal ways of justice such as corporal punishment and death penalties they need to be taught about life in a delicate way to avoid them translating the brutal means to society.
Society also has a role to play in the moral, intellectual, physical and emotional development of the children. This means that society is to blame for the children that commit crimes since they learn this from the society; therefore instead of condemning the child and letting them face the wrath of the criminal justice systems the society should focus of changing the social settings to make it favorable to the children. The society should understand the stages of development of the child and adolescent and ensure they are able to correct the society and integrate the children as appropriate.
It does not mean that juveniles should not be held responsible for committing crimes, they should be; but there should be the re-examination of their conduct in the context of the society to know what actually made the child commit the crimes. This will help to correct the failed systems and practices in the society, school, family and community at large. The death penalty will only deny the child another chance in life and lead to more failures in society. Giving the second chances in living to the juveniles will help act as a testimony to others that life offers many things and engaging in crime will deny an individual the positive things in life.
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International law has always been opposed to capital punishment on the children below 18 years; this aims to protect them from abusive society. Without a doubt the objectives of punishment is deterrence and retribution; however these two factors may be limited in action when it comes to juveniles. In opposing the death penalty on juveniles one will argue that for retribution the child is less culpable and hence apply the most excessive retribution will not be justified. On the other hand, when the justice system applies death penalty as a form of punishment for deterrence then it will be weakened by the fact that children may not be in a position to carefully consider the impacts of the decisions made before they take action. In this regard, subjecting the juveniles to a death penalty will seem unfair and unjustified.
Society cannot judge the juveniles just as they do for adults; juveniles are not able to take full account of their actions just as the adults do. It is therefore not fair for any society to employ similar measures of justice among the adults and children. They lack maturity, have an under developed intellect of responsibility; also they are susceptible to peer pressure and negative influence such that the environment tends to control their actions; and more important is that they do not have a fixed character. In their early life children are struggling to identify their character and hence if they are exposed to negative influence such as crime they will tend to believe that it is the right path. In this view, the death penalty would be very unjustified to be applied on any child.
In correcting and rehabilitating the children justified measures should be taken to ensure children are correctly molded back to society. Death penalty for juveniles is not a justified means to correct the injustices made; neither does two wrongs make a right. What should be focused on is the correction of the failed social systems rather than subjecting children to brutal injustice.
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