The Death of a Child On June 16th, 1944, the state of South Carolina executed George Stinney, Jr. He was fourteen years, six months, and five days old—the youngest person ever executed in the United States in the 20th Century. Stinney, who was black, was convicted of murdering two white girls, Betty June Binnicker, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 8, with a railroad spike. The trial lasted three hours, and the all-white jury deliberated for 10 minutes before sentencing George Stinney to death in the electric chair.
At Stinney’s execution six weeks later, the guards had difficulty strapping him to the electric chair (he was 5′ 1″ and weighed just over 90 pounds). During the electrocution, the jolt shook the adult-sized mask from his head. On the sixtieth anniversary of his electrocution, one of the last surviving members of George Stinney’s family as well as the only living sibling of Betty June Binnicker recalls the event (“George Stinney Youngest Executed” www. soundportraits. org) On March 1, 2005, the United States Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional to sentence minors under the age of 18 to the death penalty.
This decision made history, as it was among the first to protect the general welfare of juvenile offenders. Although juveniles may not be sentenced to death, there are still several problems that exist in the juvenile justice system. Juveniles are not protected in the juvenile justice system; they are often charged as adults for non-violent crimes. It is unconstitutional to incriminate juvenile delinquents as adults; it is a cruel and unusual punishment because they lack cognizance of the crime, they can be rehabilitated, and they are placed in great danger in adult jails and prisons.
To begin, it is unconstitutional to incriminate juvenile delinquents as adults because children lack cognizance of the crime in which they committed in most cases. According to Steven Smith’s “Juveniles Should Not Be Placed in Adult Prisons” juveniles are immature by definition (www. galegroup. com). Due to scientific research and technological advances, scientists were successfully able to “map” the brains of children and adults. In the study “Adolescent Brain Development and Legal Culpability,” Dr.
Adam Ortiz discovered that a naturally occurring pruning process, which makes the brain’s operation more efficient, is not completed until age 21 or 22” (www. galegroup. com). Ortiz goes on to say “Because the brains of juveniles, particularly the frontal lobes, are not fully developed, youths lack the ability to perform critical adult functions, such as plan, anticipate consequences, and control impulses” (www. galegroup. com). Juveniles have to be allowed the right to both live and learn. Furthermore, it is absurd to believe in the notion that juveniles are capable of making cognitive, responsible decisions without flaw.
Ortiz also believes that adolescence is a transitional period of life during which a child is becoming, but is not yet an adult. An adolescent is at a crossroads of changes, where emotions, hormones, judgment, identity, and the physical body are so in flux that expert researchers, as well as parents, struggle to fully understand their impact” (www. galegroup. com). To further support the belief that children lack cognizance of the crime in which they committed in most cases, a study was performed by Dr. Richard E. Redding. Dr.
Redding is a professor of law at Villanova University School of Law and a research professor of psychology at Drexel University in Pennsylvania. He is responsible for perhaps one of the best psychological studies of his time. From Redding’s study “What Juvenile Offenders Know About Being Tried as Adults” he lays several truthful opinions. With the belief that harsh punishment with deter juveniles from committing crimes, most states have imposed transfer laws, with which violent juvenile offenders are transferred from the juveniles justice system to the adult court system.
However, these transfer laws cannot act as a deterrent if juveniles do not understand the laws and believe they will be enforced against them. To determine if they were aware of transfer laws and the possibility of receiving adult sentences, 37 juvenile offenders in Dekalb County, Georgia, were interviewed. Important findings emerged including that most juveniles were unaware of transfer laws, and the fact that an understanding of the laws may be have deterred them from committing the crime in the first place. (Redding www. galegroup. com)
According to Redding’s findings from the study, 30. 3% of study participants knew before they committed the crime that juveniles could be tried as adults and none of the participants thought that they would or could be tried in adult court. Many participants were faced with reality after incarceration that they were actually facing severe penalty for the crimes in which they committed as one offender stated, “When they caught me I thought my momma would just come get me, and I wouldn’t even have to spin the night. Somebody should have told us; I never knew” (www. galegroup. om). Redding’s study successfully proved that most juvenile offenders are unaware of “transfer laws. ” It is unfair to charge juveniles as adults because they lack pure cognizance of the crime in which they committed and are unaware that they could or would be charged as adults. Next, it is unconstitutional to incriminate juvenile delinquents as adults because children have the opportunity to be rehabilitated. According to Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary the definition of rehabilitation is the restoration of someone useful in society (www. merriam-webster. com).
According to Lisa Young, author of “Teenage Criminals Should Not Charged as Adults,” increased efforts to identify and provide services to at risk youths before they commit crimes is the best and most logical way to prevent youth crime (www. galegroup. com). Young goes on to say, “Once juveniles are caught in the justice system, it is critical to target first-time offenders for special intervention. (www. galegroup. com). It is clear that juvenile offenders need direction and therapy, but the problem is that they are not receiving the maximum amount of assistance possible.
Certainly there are many methods for the successful rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. According to Mary Dallao’s “Rehabilitation Programs Can Reduce Youth Violence,” hardcore boot camps are the best method for deterring youth crime (www. galegroup. com). Dallao conducts a study at a boot camp located in California. She interviews a young man named Ben. Before being sent to the camp, I heard how the first day was the worst day, and what I heard was correct. I arrived at the camp, and I was locked in my room with a piece of paper over the window so that I could not see out.
At 2 o’clock, the door opened, and I was herded down to the cellblock to do calisthenics. I threw up. They push you and push you, and make you do all kinds of exercises and drills. It’s hard when you are not in shape. The first day was called “Hell Day”. It is meant to be the day when we learn that they mean business. After calisthenics, I got my head shaved. When I was locked in my cell after Hell Day, I was so tired. I just keep asking myself, ‘How did I ever mess up this bad? ’ (www. galegroup. com).
The comments that the young man, Ben, made thoroughly support the belief that juveniles should not be charged as adults because juvenile boot camps can address the needs, concerns, and the successful rehabilitation of juvenile offenders. According to Dallao’s study, the juvenile boot camp has several goals: identifying disruptive individuals, instilling rituals and protocol, introducing teamwork and cultivating high standards of conduct. She also states, “After the boot camp phase establishes these rules and sets barriers, discipline become less rigid as the program progresses.
The boot camp has three phases: 1. Phase one, which focuses on education, as well as the development of a positive peer culture in a modified therapeutic community. 2. Phase two offers job development and pre-vocational experiences. 3. Phase three provides six to twelve months of intensive community supervision. The boot camp is well structured and specifically focuses on the needs of children not adults. During phase two of the program Ben got his GED and earned his Bachelor’s Degree. Ben states, “I never would have been in this place in my life without the help of the boot camp” (www. alegroup. com). Ben’s story is all the more reason as to why juveniles should not be charged as adults. Giving up on the life of juvenile offenders is not only wrong, but it would be a shame to do that to a child who has nothing but potential. If Ben had been charged as an adult, he would have never had the chance to shine and enhance his educational and career opportunities. Lastly, It is unconstitutional to incriminate juvenile delinquents as adults because they are placed in great danger in adult jails and prisons. Tony was the prettiest serial killer you would ever meet.
He was sixteen years old, with long blond hair, creamy white skin and a slim, trim figure, he drove all the adult convicts wild with lust as soon as he stepped into the C-Unit dayroom. Best of all, Tony had already been “broken in” at the county jail before his trial, so he knew what to expect and even showed some enthusiasm. he had professionalized his approach to penitentiary love and now preferred to be called Tonya. Every Thursday was commissary day, so he dolled himself up with plucked eyebrows and lipstick and “Daisy Duke” short-shorts. If you brought him two packs of menthols from the canteen, he was yours for half an hour.
He laughed at his customers because they were paying him to kill them: He was HIV-positive, like so many inmates. Tony was a serial killer. Long ago, one of the convicts who had forced sex on him had infected him, now he was intentionally passing that death sentence on to as many other prisoners as he could. Killing people was simply one of several projects he undertook each day (www. findarticles. com). According to Jens Soering “Turning Tony into Tonya,” Tony was released from prison in 2001. He was convicted of stabbing another student at his high school with a pencil.
Tony was convicted of this crime at a time when school shootings were a major news headline, so the prosecutor tried Tony as an adult, “tough on crime! ” (www. findarticles. com). Tony was a normal teenager before he was convicted and sent to prison and infected with the deadly HIV virus. His entire life was ruined by his adolescent decision to take revenge on someone at school. While incarcerated in prison, Tony’s complete life transformed as he was repeatedly raped and used for sexual fancy, all at the expense of his own personal happiness and psychological development.
A child, 16 years of age, should never be placed in the type of environment that lacks the supervision of an adult who can offer protection and ensure that the child is rehabilitated not raped and infected with HIV. Placing a child in this sort of environment will do nothing but create bigger problems such as suicide attempts, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, interpersonal emotional issues, and self-hate. Young teenagers who are sent to adult prison are often referred to as “boy,” which is prison slang for sex slave.
According to research performed by Jens Soering, 8 out 10 juveniles that are placed in adult jails or prisons will be raped while they are incarcerated (www. findarticles. com). Juvenile offenders should remain in juveniles detention centers for the sole purpose of protecting them from rape and psychological tragedy. Furthermore, juvenile offenders are also placed in danger of harmful psychological effects of adult jails or prisons. In most cases, when juvenile offenders are transferred to an adult setting they are often victimized.
This is performed in two ways: Verbally- Adult inmates threaten to rape, assault, and murder juvenile offenders. They are often very frightened by this, which causes psychological issues that require the professional treatment of a psychologist. Psychologically- Youth incarcerated in adult prisons are usually serving lengthy sentences because of the severity of the crimes they committed. Studies show that youth often feel helpless, abandoned, and extremely lonely. Most of their social relationships are often disrupted.