In South Carolina on June 16th, 1944, a tragic event occurred resulting in the death of a child. George Stinney, Jr., a fourteen-year-old black boy, was executed and holds the unfortunate distinction of being the youngest person to be executed in the United States during the 20th Century. Stinney’s conviction arose from his use of a railroad spike to murder two young white girls named Betty June Binnicker (11 years old) and Mary Emma Thames (8 years old). The trial itself lasted for three hours with an all-white jury deliberating for just 10 minutes before sentencing George Stinney to death by electric chair.
During the execution of Stinney, which occurred six weeks later, prison guards encountered difficulty in securely fastening him to the electric chair due to his small stature. He had a height of 5′ 1″ and weighed slightly over 90 pounds. As a consequence of the electrocution process, his adult-sized mask became loose from his head. On the sixtieth anniversary of his execution, a surviving family member who happens to be Betty June Binnicker’s sole living sibling recounted this incident (source: “George Stinney Youngest Executed” www.soundportraits.org). On March 1, 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to apply capital punishment on individuals below 18 years old.
The decision made aimed to protect the well-being of juvenile offenders, but there are still many issues within the juvenile justice system. These include insufficient protection for juveniles and their unfair treatment compared to adult offenders in non-violent crime cases. This practice is both unconstitutional and cruel because juveniles do not fully understand their actions, have potential for rehabilitation, and face significant risks in adult correctional facilities.
Typically, it is against the constitution to treat juvenile delinquents as adults due to their limited understanding of the crimes they have committed. Steven Smith’s article “Juveniles Should Not Be Placed in Adult Prisons” states that juveniles are inherently immature. Recent scientific research and technological advancements permit the examination of both children and adult brains. Dr. [Author]’s study titled “Adolescent Brain Development and Legal Culpability” delves into this subject.
According to Adam Ortiz’s discovery reported on www.galegroup.com, the brain’s natural pruning process, which improves its efficiency, is not finished until individuals reach the age of 21 or 22. Ortiz also argues that because juvenile brains, especially the frontal lobes, are not fully developed, young people lack the ability to perform essential adult functions such as planning, anticipating consequences, and controlling impulses. Hence, it is crucial to grant juveniles the opportunity to both live and learn. Additionally, it is unreasonable to believe that juveniles can make flawless cognitive and responsible decisions.
According to Ortiz, adolescence is a period of transition from childhood to adulthood, characterized by incomplete development. It involves substantial changes in emotions, hormones, judgment, identity, and physical growth. These changes are so profound that they are challenging for experts and parents to fully understand their impact (www.galegroup.com). To further demonstrate the lack of awareness among children regarding their criminal behavior, Dr. Richard E. Redding conducted a study.
Professor Redding, from Villanova University School of Law and Drexel University in Pennsylvania, conducted a psychological study called “What Juvenile Offenders Know About Being Tried as Adults.” In this study, he shared his genuine opinions on the use of transfer laws by various states. These laws are employed to transfer violent juvenile offenders from the juvenile justice system to the adult court system with the aim of deterring them from committing crimes.
A study conducted in Dekalb County, Georgia aimed to deter juveniles from committing crimes. The study interviewed 37 juvenile offenders to assess their understanding and belief in facing consequences. The focus was on their awareness of transfer laws and the possibility of receiving adult sentences. The results revealed that most of these young individuals were not aware of such laws. This highlights the importance of comprehending these laws as a means to discourage criminal activities (Redding www.galegroup.com).
A study conducted by Redding found that 30.3% of participants knew that juveniles could be tried as adults before committing a crime, but none of them believed they would face trial in adult court. Many participants only realized the severity of their penalties after being incarcerated. One offender expressed this perspective, saying “When they caught me, I thought my momma would just come get me, and I wouldn’t even have to spend the night. Somebody should have told us; I never knew” (www.galegroup.com). Redding’s study effectively demonstrated the lack of awareness among most juvenile offenders regarding “transfer laws.” Charging juveniles as adults is deemed unfair due to their limited understanding of their actions and potential adult charges. Additionally, treating young delinquents as adults violates constitutional principles since children can be rehabilitated. According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary, rehabilitation refers to restoring someone’s usefulness in society (www.merriam-webster.com).
In her article titled “Teenage Criminals Should Not be Charged as Adults,” Lisa Young contends that the most effective strategy for curbing youth crime involves enhanced endeavors to identify and offer support to at-risk youths before they resort to criminal activities (www.galegroup.com). Young underscores the significance of specifically targeting first-time offenders for tailored intervention upon their involvement with the justice system (www.galegroup.com). Nevertheless, despite acknowledging the necessity for guidance and therapy for juvenile offenders, the problem lies in their insufficient access to adequate assistance.
According to Mary Dallao’s study at a boot camp in California, hardcore boot camps are considered the most effective method for deterring youth crime (www. galegroup.com). In her research, Dallao interviews a young man named Ben who shares his experience at the camp. Ben confirms that the first day at the camp was indeed the worst, as he was confined to his room with a paper-covered window that prevented any outside view.
At 2 o’clock, the door opened and I was taken down to the cellblock to participate in calisthenics. Unfortunately, I vomited. The instructors continuously push and challenge us with various exercises and drills, which proved difficult for me due to my lack of physical fitness. The initial day of this experience was known as “Hell Day”, intended to demonstrate their seriousness. Following the calisthenics, my head was shaved. Exhausted, I found myself locked in my cell after the intense day, questioning how I had made such a terrible mistake (source: www.galegroup.com).
The comments made by Ben, a young man, strongly support the belief that juveniles should not be treated as adults in legal matters. It is argued that juvenile boot camps can effectively address the needs, concerns, and successful rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. Dallao’s study highlights the various goals of a juvenile boot camp, including identifying disruptive individuals, teaching rituals and protocol, promoting teamwork, and fostering high standards of conduct. Additionally, Dallao asserts that discipline becomes less strict as the program progresses after the initial boot camp phase establishes rules and barriers.
The boot camp for children has a three-phase structure. Phase one focuses on education and the development of a positive peer culture within a modified therapeutic community. Phase two offers job development and pre-vocational experiences. Phase three consists of six to twelve months of intensive community supervision. This boot camp is specifically designed for the needs of children, not adults. During phase two, Ben successfully obtained his GED and Bachelor’s Degree, crediting the boot camp for his achievements. Ben’s experience emphasizes why juveniles should not be treated as adults in the legal system. It is both unjust and a disservice to deny a child with potential the opportunity to improve their education and career prospects. Moreover, charging juvenile delinquents as adults is unconstitutional and puts them in great danger within adult jails and prisons. On a completely unrelated note, Tony was an unusually attractive serial killer.
At the age of sixteen, he possessed long blond hair, creamy white skin, and a slim, trim figure that instantly aroused desire among the adult convicts upon entering the C-Unit dayroom. What’s more, Tony had previously been initiated into the ways of jail life at the county jail prior to his trial, enabling him to anticipate and even exhibit eagerness for what lay ahead. He had developed a professional approach to penitentiary relationships and now preferred to be referred to as Tonya. Every Thursday marked the arrival of commissary day, during which he adorned himself with plucked eyebrows and lipstick, along with “Daisy Duke” short-shorts. If you supplied him with two packs of menthols from the canteen, he would be at your disposal for a duration of thirty minutes.
Mocking his customers for paying him to end their lives was something he did regularly. This behavior stemmed from the fact that he, like many inmates, was HIV-positive. Tony, who had been a serial killer, had contracted the virus years ago when he was sexually assaulted by another prisoner. His goal now was to intentionally spread this deadly sentence to as many other prisoners as possible. While killing people made up just one part of his daily activities (www.findarticles.com), Jens Soering reveals in “Turning Tony into Tonya” that Tony served time in prison after being convicted of stabbing a fellow student at his high school with a pencil. He was eventually released in 2001.
According to a report from www.findarticles.com, Tony faced trial as an adult for his crime during a time when school shootings were getting significant media coverage, showing a strict stance on crime. Before being convicted and imprisoned, Tony lived a typical teenage life. However, things dramatically changed after he contracted the HIV virus while seeking revenge against someone at school. His time in prison was characterized by constant sexual assault and objectification, resulting in serious harm to his overall well-being and hindering his psychological growth.
It is essential for a 16-year-old to have constant adult supervision in order to protect them from dangers such as rape and HIV infection. Without proper supervision, the young person becomes vulnerable and encounters further difficulties like attempting suicide, contracting STDs, experiencing emotional problems, and developing self-hatred. Moreover, in adult correctional facilities, young teenagers are often referred to as “boy,” a term that denotes sexual exploitation within prison jargon.
According to research by Jens Soering, juvenile offenders in adult jails or prisons face a significant risk of sexual assault (www.findarticles.com). Consequently, it is crucial to place them in juvenile detention centers to ensure their safety and mental well-being. Additionally, transferring them to an adult setting heightens their vulnerability to negative psychological consequences and further mistreatment.
Two methods are used to achieve this: verbally and psychologically. In the verbal approach, adult inmates use threats of rape, assault, and murder against juvenile offenders, leading to their fear and psychological problems that need intervention from a psychologist. On the psychological level, young people in adult prisons typically have lengthy sentences due to serious crimes they have committed. Research indicates that these youth often experience feelings of helplessness, abandonment, and profound loneliness. Additionally, their social relationships are frequently disrupted.