Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors


Capital punishment for juvenile offenders is a contentious issue that requires fast action to eradicate it as a form of penalty. Juvenile delinquents are incapable of reasoning like their counterparts adults but face harsh punishments in various US states and worldwide. Individuals at this age are subject to various cognitive and psychosocial stimuli they cannot handle as adolescents, making the death penalty cruel and unjust. The study of this phenomenon indicates that incarceration at a young age for prolonged periods may lead to violent behavior while one has not fully developed to discern the extent of their actions’ consequences. Determining proper punishment for juvenile offenders should address these issues and result in accurate sentencing. Reducing support for capital punishment worldwide makes this an interesting topic, as people feel more strongly against the practice when it involves minors. Capital punishment should be alleviated in favor of less barbaric punishment.


Capital punishment, the death penalty, is the most extreme sentence an individual can get. A sizeable population conducts erroneous actions without foresight and insight as adults. Teenagers between sixteen and seventeen are less likely to exhibit more insight than adults as they are immature. Imposing the death penalty on younger people does not serve justice as they cannot fully understand their actions’ consequences. I want to study the impact of the death penalty on the younger generation. This study is important to discern the inequality posited by the criminal justice system in the USA concerning imposing the death penalty on individuals younger than eighteen years.

The research illustrates the skewed nature of these sentences and elicits proof of young people’s immaturity and their capacity to make bad decisions leading to capital punishment. It has practical significance as further development will enable advocacy groups to pressure governments into revoking the death penalty for young people. The paper theoretically showcases the death penalty as barbaric and an institution that should be abolished. It contributes to a new understanding of the death penalty and its influence on younger generations, challenging existing knowledge of minors’ capacity to make informed decisions like adults.

Literature Review

US society recognizes children as minors below eighteen years of age without the capacity to operate as an adult. In this way, the law employs specific measures to protect minors from the consequences borne by their actions. The American Civil Liberties Union claims the law aims to improve the harm incurred when children commit criminal activities, giving them a chance to rehabilitate themselves (ACLU, 2022). It is interesting to consider the law prevents people below eighteen years from voting, serving on juries, and in the military. However, some US states deem minors capable of making informed decisions and can be executed for their criminal activities before reaching adulthood. The country’s Supreme Court dictates that people aged fifteen or younger should not be executed for crimes. Nineteen states posit laws that authorize executing minors who commit crimes between sixteen and seventeen years. These jurisdictions have imposed 226 death sentences on minors since 1973; of these juvenile offenders, 22 have been executed, while 82 are on death row (ACLU, 2022). This is a large number of juvenile offenders within a limited period.

The US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment outlaws inflicting cruel and unusual punishment. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court has never considered any method used when executing prisoners as cruel and unusual punishment. The constitution exhibits various challenges to the contemporary primary design of executing prisoners, lethal injection (Dow & Newberry, 2019). These issues involve a problem with determining the possibility of this method inflicting unreasonable pain on death row inmates. In this article, the researchers assess the jurisprudence of the Eighth Amendment, including scientific and legal limitations, providing various modification suggestions (Dow & Newberry, 2019). The Supreme Court consistently illustrates the death penalty cannot be considered intrinsically cruel and unusual. In this way, such a sentence categorically adheres to the Eighth Amendment.

Nonetheless, litigation on capital punishment has not been reduced, with most of these issues focusing on Justice Blackmun’s statement involving ‘tinkering with the machinery of death.’ This issue may pose a problem for future generations as the significance of decades of tinkering has refined the selection process for individuals appropriate for the death penalty from a myriad of convicts that commit homicide. However, the authors claim that various execution modes violate the Eighth Amendment and can be labeled cruel and unusual such as execution via a firing squad or electrocution (Dow & Newberry, 2019). This indicates the death penalty is a cruel and inhumane practice that needs eradication before younger generations are exposed to it and become indifferent to its barbaric nature.

Icenogle and various peers conducted a study on the legal purpose of law and how it affects juvenile individuals’ capacity to make decisions based on cognitive and psychosocial development. Every country differentiates between adults and minors for varying legal purposes (Icenogle et al., 2019). Contemporary cases at the US Supreme Court regarding juveniles’ legal status seek psychological science to determine the just nature of these boundaries.

Icenogle and these experts conducted a research study involving adolescents’ cognitive capacity and how they develop psychosocially (2019). Its aim concerns these individuals’ logical thinking to determine if they can think clearly when facing excitement, emotional, and risky situations. This study illustrates that adolescents gain full cognitive capacity at about age 16 while attaining psychosocial maturity beyond 18 years (Icenogle et al., 2019). In this way, the researchers showcase that juveniles can make deliberative decisions by the time they reach 16 years (Icenogle et al., 2019). However, they frequently make immature decisions when facing arousing stimuli. The study posits that reasonable evidence suggests that situations requiring cognitive capacity should have a different judgment from those needing psychosocial maturity. It is relevant to the study as juveniles facing the death penalty may not realize the consequences of their actions.

The United States has the largest number of individuals incarcerated globally. However, little research exists about the longitudinal connection evidenced between people incarcerated before turning eighteen years and their health outcomes as adults. The researchers used the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescents to Adult Health and a weighted multivariate logistic regression to determine the link between continuous mass incarceration for a specific period and adult health results (Barnert et al., 2017). This includes depressive symptoms, functional limitations, suicidal thoughts, and general health. In this instance, cumulative incarceration during one’s formative years exhibited a connection between adults’ poor mental and physical health. In this instance, the incarceration of a minor for continuous periods results in aggravated criminal behavior that may be mitigated at a young age (Barnert et al., 2017). Countries can reduce this issue at a young age and prevent some individuals from facing the death penalty. Minors are easier to rehabilitate than their adult counterparts, illustrating the relevance of this study in the research. While it does not relate to capital punishment by determining whether it is a positive or adverse issue for minors, it provides a solution to juvenile incarceration.

There is extensive research concerning incarceration’s negative health, economic, and social impact in the US. Nonetheless, there is limited information regarding the injurious influence of lengthy incarceration as one grows from an adolescent to an adult (Esposito et al., 2017). The researchers utilize an analytical approach, using the previously used study method by Barnert and their colleagues. In this instance, the study indicates that experiencing incarceration at a young age likely leads to depression and negatively influences one’s health status (Esposito et al., 2017). Nonetheless, it does not impact the possibility of developing hypertension as an adult. This scenario illustrates that people are prone to develop long-term issues in adulthood when jailed as adolescents. While the study does not delve deeper in the subject, this connection may result in violent behavior that may result in these young people getting the death penalty if their criminal activities make them eligible for this issue.

It is important to discern the notion of capital punishment among college students. Nonetheless, fewer studies illustrate the underlying validations behind their support or opposition. Additionally, limited research illustrates whether law enforcement majors view the subject differently from other criminal justice majors. This study accurately records the death penalty perception in the US using a Midwestern university (Sethuraju et al., 2016). The results show there is no difference between these majors’ perceptions. Nonetheless, the US exhibits a growing dissent for the death penalty based on 2013 Gallup poll results. In this instance, white persons, republicans, males, and individuals with little education expressed higher support for capital punishment than non-white people, highly educated, independents, females, and democrats (Sethuraju et al., 2016). The study indicates the death penalty’s support is waning and the government should note this issue involves adults. The situation is likely to be worse for juvenile offenders as capital punishment illustrates they were tried as adults.


Imposing the death penalty on juvenile offenders violates their rights as they do not have the mental and psychosocial ability to make these decisions. Furthermore, violent behavior in young people is likely a product of continuous incarceration over greater periods. Alleviating these factors may allow these people to get rehabilitated, as it is easier to do so with young people than with adults. Public support for the death penalty is continually decreasing. While the debate for adults continues, it is prudent to alleviate this sentence in minors as it is cruel to neglect their age when enforcing capital punishment.


ACLU. (2022). Juveniles and the death penalty. American Civil Liberties Union.

Barnert, E. S., Dudovitz, R., Nelson, B. B., Coker, T. R., Biely, C., Li, N., & Chung, P. J. (2017). How does incarcerating young people affect their adult health outcomes? Pediatrics, 139(2).

Dow, D. R., & Newberry, J. R. (2019). Conceptual and Scientific Defects in the Supreme Court’s “Method of Execution” Jurisprudence. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 92(4), 793–803. Web.

Esposito, M., Lee, H., Hicken, M., Porter, L., & Herting, J. (2017). The consequences of contact with the criminal justice system for health in the transition to adulthood. Longitudinal and Life Course Studies, 8(1).

Icenogle, G., Steinberg, L., Duell, N., Chein, J., Chang, L., Chaudhary, N., Di Giunta, L., Dodge, K. A., Fanti, K. A., Lansford, J. E., Oburu, P., Pastorelli, C., Skinner, A. T., Sorbring, E., Tapanya, S., Uribe Tirado, L. M., Alampay, L. P., Al-Hassan, S. M., Takash, H. M., & Bacchini, D. (2019). Adolescents’ cognitive capacity reaches adult levels prior to their psychosocial maturity: Evidence for a “maturity gap” in a multinational, cross-sectional sample. Law and Human Behavior, 43(1), 69–85.

Sethuraju, R., Sole, J., & Oliver, B. E. (2016). Understanding death penalty support and opposition among criminal justice and law enforcement students. SAGE Open, 6(1).

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LawBirdie. (2023, May 10). Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors. Retrieved from


LawBirdie. (2023, May 10). Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors.

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"Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors." LawBirdie, 10 May 2023,


LawBirdie. (2023) 'Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors'. 10 May.


LawBirdie. 2023. "Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors." May 10, 2023.

1. LawBirdie. "Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors." May 10, 2023.


LawBirdie. "Alleviating the Death Penalty for Minors." May 10, 2023.