A Supreme Court decision ruled Tuesday that executions of juveniles are unconstitutional. The decision effectively bars the United States from executing individuals who committed a crime at age 18 or below. It also re-opens the discussion of whether capital punishment is morally acceptable. The United States is one of only a few countries that still cling to executions as punishment, while most of the world finds the practice abhorrent. It is time the practice is abolished in the United States.
Capital punishment is often argued to be an effective deterrent. It is not. There are no signs that the death penalty is lowering the crime rate of homicides, rapes or drug-related crimes, the cases in which capital punishment is most often imposed.
Especially in drug-related cases, it is naÃ¯ve to expect a drug kingpin to be afraid of the death penalty, as such individuals routinely face mortal peril on a daily basis, be it from law enforcement or other drug cartels.
Other crimes in which the death penalty is enforced carry a sentence of life in prison as an alternative. If a life behind bars isn’t deterrent enough, a death sentence probably isn’t either.
Tuesday’s 5-4 Court decision upheld a similar decision by the Missouri Supreme Court that argued the practice should be abolished, stating, “The evolving standards of decency mark the progress of a maturing society.” It comes two years after the Court banned the execution of mentally retarded criminals.
The only other country that allowed the execution of minors is Somalia.
The death sentence has been abolished in most other countries, with the exception of such as the United States, China, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran. It is a human rights violation as established by the United Nations in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Unless we want our country to be mentioned in the same sentence as Iran, a country our government keeps chastising for human rights violations, it is time to change the law.
The death penalty is by its very nature irreversible. If mistakes are made, it is impossible to commute the sentence, as the individual in question is often already dead. Furthermore, as the purpose of a criminal justice system is the reform and reintegration of individuals into society, neither of which is possible if the convicted is dead.
The abolishment of executions of minors is another step in the right direction. It is depressing that a discussion about the execution of minors and the mentally retarded is even necessary; apparently the United States is well behind the curve on those topics.
As the self-proclaimed leader of the free world, it is time for the United States to abolish the death penalty.