In the current society, youths, regardless of social origin, gender, or country are subject to high individual risks. The society presents to them opportunities, which are sometimes beneficial but also potentially harmful at times. Equally, some youths take advantage of the available illegal opportunities and commit offenses such as being drug addicted or becoming violent against their peers or to the society. In regard, the change from childhood to a young adult is increasingly complex as well as confusing in all societies. The analysis of various juvenile delinquent cases enables one to understand its concept, the reason for ruling out life sentence among the juveniles, and the possible prevention measures.
Juvenile Delinquent refers to minors or people under the age of eighteen years old who have violated the law by committing unlawful acts. Any act that is against the law is a crime. However, when committed by a minor it is not termed as a crime, but a delinquent act. In this regard, children also get into the criminal justice system if they are found running afoul of the law. The procedures carried when minor have committed a crime differs from the ones of an adult offender. The juvenile court systems, as well as the detention facilities in all the states, are specifically for the underage offenders. However, the justice systems sometimes charge the minors as adults if they turn to be persistent offenders or if the crime is severe. There are two categories of offenders, the first one is the repeat offender. They are also known as life-course-persistent offenders. These delinquents start showing or offending signs of being antisocial during early teenage years. After that, they begin engaging in a life of crime and sometimes become aggressive in their behaviors especially when they get into adulthood. The second category is the age-specific offenders, the ones in this category start their juvenile delinquent behaviors during the adolescence stages of life. Unlike the repeat offenders, the juvenile delinquent practices end after one becomes an adult. However, these victims experience mental health problems in their future age. Some of them also end up engaging in substance abuse. As a result, they have higher financial problems in their adulthood than the people who never practiced juvenile delinquencies.
Within the previous paragraphs, the justice system considers repeated delinquent acts similarly to crimes enacted by adults. Such crimes have occurred in the past, but the victims placed a re-examination and their opinions reduced on the base that they were underage when they did a delinquent act. Roper V. Simmons is one of the juvenile delinquent cases that have occurred in the past. In 1993, a seventeen year old, Christopher Simmons planned to burglarize a certain woman’s home and murder her. He plotted the crime with to friends of his, however, later on one of the friends decided to back out of the plan. Simmons later broke in the household, tied her, than drove and dropped her into a river to her death. After they were caught, Simmons opened up to the act as to what they had done and even forwarded a re-enactment about their plot. The evidence showed that Simmons planned the act and boasted about committing the murder. In effect to the seriousness of this incident, Simmons was found guilty and was imposed a death penalty. Later Simmons filed direct appeals and other forms of relief petition, however the court never considered and did not find any of them justifiable. Eventually, Simmons filed a post-conviction relief petition in the Missouri court. This was after the ruling within the Atkins V. Virginia dilemma dictated by the US Supreme Court. The ruling within this case ruled out the death penalty for the mentally disabled offenders. Missouri Supreme Court employed this reasoning to the under aged offenders and granted it to the US Supreme Court, which determined and granted certiorari. In effect, the Simmons sentence was reduced to life without parole. It is later mentioned that Simmons was exposed to alcoholism and substance abuse since the age of fourteen.
Graham V. Florida exhibits a similar juvenile delinquent case. This particular incident was based on robbery offenses that was enacted by an underage offender. As a sixteen year old, Graham pleaded guilty on his wrongdoing and after serving in a county jail for twelve months, he was again accused of home-invasion robbery. At this time, Graham was still under probation. He was released from jail but was not ready to change his criminal lifestyle. Through the actions he committed, the Florida court dictated his fate by putting him to life in prison. Notably, there was no way of offering parole since the Florida government diminished the system. Graham created a petition fighting against his punishment by emphasizing the Eighth Amendment. Although Florida Supreme Court did not approve it, the Supreme Court of US granted certiorari. The US Supreme Court followed the principle that sentencing a life in prison to a juvenile offender without parole and as a result of the non-homicide offense violates the Eighth Amendment.
The case of Miller V. Alabama is also a juvenile delinquent incident. This case involves a fourteen year old Evan Miller who was accused of murdering Cole Cannon. He beat him using a baseball bat, put him in his house and then set it on fire. The court ruled life imprisonment without parole. Miller filed a motion arguing that according to the Eighth Amendment prohibition, the ruling was cruel and unusual punishment. Although the Alabama Supreme Court did not review, the Arkansas Supreme Court confirmed it, and in response the United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Today, it is not constitutionally permissible to sentence a death penalty on a minor who broke the law. The court barred the death sentence for under eighteen as well as the mentally disabled for various reasons. Firstly, according to the national census, the executions for juveniles who are under eighteen years are rare. Secondly, many states nationally reject the imposition of the death penalty on the offenders under eighteen years. Thirdly, it is not rational to treat the adult offenders similarly with the juveniles especially on death as the ultimate punishment. Notably, the juveniles lack a sense of direction as well as their maturity level in comparison to adults. The juveniles are also highly susceptible to pressures and negative influences. More so, the character of the juveniles is not as well formed as among the adults. Fourthly, the goals and deterrence don’t depict adequate justification on the death penalty imposition for the juveniles. Lastly, the US Supreme Court is the only one that has the mandate of giving official sanction on the execution of the underage offenders.
The society can prevent juvenile delinquency by involving both the private and government agencies. However, in most cases, these agencies can only play a high role in minimizing the repeat offenders. On the other hand, the parents and society have a great role in preventing the age-specific delinquents. The agencies employ various services such as substance abuse treatment, individual counseling, family counseling, family planning counseling, and parenting education in an attempt to mitigate the juvenile delinquents. Educating and encouraging the minors also contribute significantly as it promotes social cohesion, and guides children in making correct choices throughout their day to day lives as well as help them in practicing self-control.
In conclusion, the banning of capital punishment on under aged offenders is a human and rightful way of handling minor offenders. Notably, there is hope that these kids may change in the future. Most of the time, as stated earlier, their reasoning capacity is not mature. Some of them may be resulting in wrong-doing as a result of poverty, peer influence, or to have something to brag about. Some reasons also tie in to their mental state, most juveniles are experiencing some type of mental health issue such as anxiety, ADHD, depression etc. and sometimes, can cause a child to make the wrong decision. Some reasons are not permanent in the children’s lifetime. However, although the system in many countries has banned capital punishment on juvenile delinquents, the parents, society, and the government has a role in developing ways of minimizing the crimes among the juveniles. The parents should ensure responsible parenting as well as the government should provide adequate guidance and counseling services.
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