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  1. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Children and the Death Penalty

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by Lewdog, Nov 30, 2015.

    I just got the final essay question for one of my Criminal Justice classes, and it poses what could be a potentially interesting question. Given the recent heinous acts by children including their use in terrorist activities such as suicide bombings and murders, should the U.S. review and change its policy of using the death penalty on children? In 2005 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a close 5-4 decision that it is considered against the Eighth Amendment and is considered cruel and unusual punishment to put a person to death that committed an act before their 18th birthday. Do you think that it should be changed and why? Personally I sit on the fence on this one as it is believed that a child's brain is still developing the differences between right and wrong and is at a major influential disadvantage to that of an adult brain, yet I do believe there are some children that are born 'evil' and that will never change the older they get.
     
  2. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    I'm against handing out the death penalty in general, so I'm certainly against this. Besides, while you can make a case for trying an 17-year-old as an adult, I don't know how many people would seriously consider putting to death an 8-year-old. So even if such a policy were to be implemented, there would most likely be a cut-off age, and it would be more arbitrary than the current age of 18.
     
  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    This ^. The cutoff period is arbitrary.

    I'm against the death penalty because our justice system is flawed and there is no guarantee we wouldn't put an innocent person to death.

    Why not make it 21? You need to specify just what objective measure you are using to weigh the decision when you say a person is responsible/not responsible for their acts.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    No. No way. Even if there were a scenario where a child were an appropriate target for the death penalty, a child committing a terroristic act is NOT such a scenario. That child didn't come out of the womb saying, "I want to bomb somebody!" That child was taught and brainwashed. That child was under the authority of ADULTS who used the child as a weapon.

    Is the scenario supposed to be that an innately evil child just happened to be born to adults who wanted to use children as weapons? That it's pure coincidence that the evil child happened to be available to the evil adults?

    No. Just no.
     
  5. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm opposed to death sentences in general, and I'm equally against trying children as adults. As you said, Lewdog, children's brains aren't fully developed. In fact, science has concluded that the brain isn't fully developed until the age of 25.

    In my personal opinion, prison should be for rehibilitation. Take those kids who fuck up and try to help them, not kill them or make them spend the rest of their lives in jail. Certainly there are just "bad eggs" and that will obviously be determined during their stay. But I've seen far too many documentaries about children committing a crime that they didn't understand the full weight of until they were already stuck in a life sentence. I couldn't imagine them dying because of it.
     
  6. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    The brain is far too complex to say that it's fully developed at the age of 25, some people develop faster than others. Besides, different crimes can be attributed to different functions of the brain. If we go by the logic of the brain being developed, a 14 year old who premeditates, kills somebody, then hides the body should't be possible, because those are actions that belong under critical thinking, reasoning, and deduction, which are all made possible by the prefrontal cortex (the last part of the brain to develop).

    James Bulger - a two year old who was murdered by two boys barely older than 10 years old. The boys took him out of a mall, and proceeded to throw paint in his eyes, throw bricks and stones at him, and put batteries into his mouth and anus. He had so many injuries that it wasn't clear which one caused his death. One more thing, though, they left the body on a railway track in hopes a train would obliterate it enough to appear accidental. Which means they knew what they were doing was morally reprehensible. If this can be attributed to them being "bad eggs" or that their brains weren't fully developed, than we're entering very dangerous territory. As a psych major, I think using the development of the brain as a way to protect children is a bad idea, because human behaviour is far, far too obscure to pin to a certain age. We like to buy into stereotypes that children are innocent, but they're not, and many times they know full well what they're doing.
     
  7. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    The original question was about terroristic acts like suicide bombings. Unless these children were actively recruited by adults, trained to torture two-year-olds, and commanded to do so, your example doesn't seem to have much to do with the scenario. And if they were, then they are not responsible for what they were taught.

    (Though the death penalty for a child committing a suicide bombing seems like a misunderstanding of the term "suicide bombing.")
     
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  8. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    No this is to include more than just children committing terroristic stuff. This includes children who murder and other crimes as such.
     
  9. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would we want to do this? Is our instinct for revenge so desperately strong that we're willing to risk the possibility of murdering innocent CHILDREN as well as innocent adults, and spend the extra money (because the death penalty costs FAR more than life in prison) to kill children? What possible value could be drawn from this?
     
  10. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    All right, I'm going to discuss this with a fraction more calm.

    A case where the death penalty is sought costs approximately one million dollars more than a case where it isn't.

    That one million dollars represents three million dollars rather than two, for the case.

    If we don't give in to our primitive insinct to kill, we can save a million. If we can prevent the crime in the first place, we can save another two million.

    Children who commit crimes don't primarily happen through random chance. There are things that we can do.

    There's prenatal care, to prevent brain damage from alcohol, drugs, and other preventable causes. There's lead abatement. There's mental health care for parents and for children. There's availability of contraception. There's support to reduce violence in the home. There's parenting education. There's funding child protective services so that they can actually do their job.

    There are all the things that our society is not willing to pay for. The solution is not to be willing to pay what it costs for the state to wilfully murder a child. The solution is to prevent whatever destroyed that child's mind in the first place.

    AFTER all of those things, and dozens of others, are fully funded, AFTER it's a rare and astounding thing for a child to experience high levels of drugs and alcohol in utero, or for a child to be abused, or for a child to witness a street shooting, AFTER we take care of that, if we have any remaining child murderers, then...it's still cheaper to just keep them in jail than to murder them.
     
  11. Adenosine Triphosphate
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    Adenosine Triphosphate Old Scratch Contributor

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    Prepubescent children operate on a cognitive level that would be considered a very serious mental disorder in any other context. I don't believe in punishing them severely for most things, any more than I would for an adult with an IQ score of 45.

    Mid-to-late adolescence is more akin to some sort of disorder in mood and impulse control. It's like a temporary set of ADHD (cue anti-psych slogans) and anxious or depressive traits. One should beware the perils of trying to sound tough instead of actually solving the problem, but I'm not going to get a lifelong immunity from prison time because of my impairments, and I'm open to the idea of them being tried as adults for certain exceptional crimes.

    As for the death penalty—I don't support it for all the reasons @ChickenFreak listed and a few more.
     
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2015
  12. Acanthophis
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    He said including terrorism and suicide bombings, not limited to. Other than that, terrorism had nothing to do with the initial post.
     
  13. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Well the Supreme Court has already found that is is against the Eighth Amendment (Cruel and Unusual Punishment) to put a person that is mentally retarded to death. So by your argument, that would be the same thing.
     
  14. Acanthophis
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    I'd like to add that I don't support the death penalty, but I do support the concept of children being tried as adults, if the crime is heinous enough. We already use an arbitrary numeric system to decide whether or not someone is old enough to be thrown in prison, so I see no reason why we can't apply the same level of logic (or lack thereof) to determine if the crime is bad enough. We can do a 1-to-10 scale.

    Point is "they're not 18" isn't really a valid reason. It's the same stupidity used in standardized testing - you take a specific model and everybody has to live up to it. There are things I knew were morally wrong when I was 18 that my friends did not, at the same age (goes the other way around as well). It's wrong to treat them as if they function at the same cognitive level than I do, at the same age. People don't fit into archetypes very well, especially true for people going through puberty and adolescence. We should be determining these things on a personal case-by-case level, not if they're 17 instead of 18 years old, because that line of thinking automatically creates a bias in favour of one party or another.

    An 18 year old rapes and murders somebody, and is tried as an adult.
    A 17 year old rapes and murders somebody, and is not tried as an adult.

    Am I supposed to accept that the one year that separates them is so fundamentally important that we use it as a basis for criminal punishment?
     
  15. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    But we don't have a system to do that properly. We don't seem to have a single government system that isn't desperately underfunded and prone to tragic errors. A hard boundary can help prevent some of those tragic errors.
     
  16. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Most states already have a law that says if a child commits murder that they will be tried as an adult, as long as they are of a certain age, usually 14.
     
  17. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I'm sorry, I have worked in the criminal justice system and I am a senior in college studying criminal justice, and I have no clue how putting someone to death can cost so much more than putting someone in jail the rest of their life.

    I also find that argument of putting innocent people to death as an old argument. With the widening use of DNA test not only are there being more and more people being exonerated for murder and taken off death row, but less and less 'innocent' people will be put on death row.
     
  18. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    If you're arguing that it's not true, you're welcome to try to find contrary evidence. But it makes perfect sense to me. Everything about the death penalty--the trial, the prosecution, the defense, the appeals, the imprisonment, everything--is incredibly expensive. And much of that money is spent on trials where the defendant is released as well as the ones where they're convicted.

    We're willing to pay those luxury prices for the privilege of killing people. We're willing to lay off police officers, release lesser criminals from overcrowded prisons, short every other part of the criminal justice system, because we don't have enough money, and it's so very, very important to spend the money required to kill people. The lives that could be saved by those police officers or by keeping those lesser criminals in prison are apparently just not nearly as important as, again, killing people.

    What makes you think that every capital crime involves useful DNA evidence?
     
  19. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    Since the implementation of community policing practicing by the government, and the subsequent federal funding, there has actually been quite a few new police officers hired, not laid off recently. In fact, studies have shown that there has not been enough recruits to fill the needs of the departments across the country.

    Of course not every capitol crime involves DNA evidence, but quite a few do, and with the cost of doing DNA testing going down drastically, and thus the availability to of DNA testing becoming more widespread, the number of innocent people being put to death is inevitably going to go down.
     
  20. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Are you arguing that there is plenty of money for policing, DNA tests, rape kits, child protective services, all of the issues of our society? So much money, such a wonderful excess in the budget, our national deficit steadily decreasing, that we can afford to throw away money on the death penalty?

    That's not my impression.

    "Inevitably" is pretty optimistic. And none of that changes the high cost of the death penalty.
     
  21. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    No, you are putting words in my mouth and creating a strawman argument that I did not make. YOU are the one that mentioned that as a society we prefer wasting money on the death penalty in lieu of laying off law enforcement, which is well, not true.
     
  22. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    How recent is this federal funding? A little quick Googling, checking 2015 stories only:

    Alabama law enforcement facing $16 million budget cut, loss of 100 troopers
    Budget cut could trigger massive layoffs at DOT (New Hampshire)
    More Than $20 Million Cut From Michigan State Police Budget

    Maybe this federal funding all came this year, reversing all of the above? Even if it did, we're currently short on money for countless government programs, so I'm not interested in spending money on the most expensive possible way of dealing with criminals. Killing people is a lower priority than saving other people's lives.
     
  23. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not going to argue with you. I study this in college not with a Goggle search, but with text books and facts. If you don't want to believe me, then I don't really care, but I know you are wrong and that's all that matters to me. Snarkiness on your part isn't going to change the fact you are wrong either.

    Facts are, there are more law enforcement officials than ever before right now, and law enforcement officials are safer than ever.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Do you really dispute the fact that the death penalty costs more than life in prison?

    Do you really dispute the fact that the United States has underfunded social programs?

    Do you really dispute the fact of deficit budgets?

    Edited to add, from Forbes: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2014/05/01/considering-the-death-penalty-your-tax-dollars-at-work/

    And

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2011/09/22/death-and-taxes-the-real-cost-of-the-death-penalty/
     
  25. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    You are all over the place. Can't you stay on a point and make it? First you say that we need to spend more money on projects to prevent crime, then you are arguing against budget deficits. You can't fix one problem without the other. Do you plan on fixing problems with a handful of magic beans?
     
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