Essay on Death Penalty Applied to Juveniles

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Death Penalty Applied to Juveniles

     In 1643 a sixteen year old boy was put to death for sodomizing a cow.
Three hundred and fifty years later, sixteen states have legitimized the
execution of juveniles. Four of those twelve states have lowered the legal age
of execution to twelve. For whatever reasons the death penalty has been
supported by the public since this country's existence. In this day and age of
increasing violence, both juvenile and adult, it is time to re-examine the use
of the death penalty as the ultimate solution to crime. The social repercussions
of enforcing the state executions of juveniles far outweigh any of the benefits
that may be gained.

     The cry for the death penalty is most loudly heard when referring to it
as use of a deterrent. According to Allen Kale "it is estimated that about 76%
of the American public support the use of the death penalty as a deterrent,
however that support drops to less than 9% when referring specifically to
juveniles." (Kale 1) The mindset of the American public seems to be drastically
different when dealing juveniles. And yet, with only 9% of the public supporting
the policy, it remains in effect.

      Another strong outcry for the death penalty comes from those wanting
restitution for the death of a loved one. It is the thought that a life is the
ultimate price to pay which fuels this argument. The delineation between adults
and juveniles is much less clear on this point. Age doesn't seem to make much of
a difference when dealing with restitution. Putting an individual to death seems
to put the minds of certain individuals at ease. This argument is what makes
that 9% seem to be the vast majority.

     The distinction between juveniles and adults is a very important one.
It is often a deciding factor when one is choosing to support the death penalty
or not. Although the difference often consists of just a few short years, it is
those years which make all the difference. Often its deterrent effect and costs
are greatly affected by age and maturity. In fact, most theories and reasons for
supporting the death penalty are flawed when applying them to juveniles.

     The debate over whether or not the death penalty is an effective
deterrent is likely to continue as long as it is in place. However, its
deterrent effect towards juveniles is more obvious. There ar...

... middle of paper ...

...t costly, racist, and ineffective policy ever enacted in this country.

     Clearly there are issues surrounding the death penalty which need to be
addressed. If it is to continue to be used it must be re-examined. There are
several factors which need to be taken into consideration; not simply the sleep
that families can get after an execution. Whether it's the costs, its use as a
deterrent, the death penalty continues to fail its intended purpose. This is not
something to be ignored, and it is not something that "they" have to deal with.
The impacts of the death penalty affect us all. If nothing else these juveniles
are simply too young.

Works Cited

Bright, Steven. Young Blood. New York: Hampton and Row, 1993

Fox, James. "Innocent Killers. Christian Science Moniter 12 Feb. 1996: 71-72

Heft, Henry. "Deterring Juveniles." A.B.A. Journal June 1989: 30

Horwitz, Carl. "Effective Means of Deterring Criminals." Crime and Criminals

Kale, Allen. "How does the public feel?" Time Aug. 1995: 35

Radic Steve. "Searching For Answers." Criminal Justice Ethics July 1996: 5

Strieb, Victor. Imposing the Death Penalty on Children. California: Sage, 1987

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