Killing kids is wrong

Our View

It’s about time the United States stopped killing children.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling last week that bans juvenile executions is another step up to the moral high ground. Before the ruling, we, along with a handful of dictatorial countries, still used the death penalty on children.

According to an article in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, the U.N. Convention of the Rights of the Child prohibits executing children. There are 191 countries that ratified the convention in 1989, making it the most widely ratified international treaty in history, but the United States was one of two countries refusing to sign. We have redeemed ourselves.

Children simply don’t have the cognitive development adults have. Hormonal, reactionary and vulnerable to peer pressure, kids cannot be held completely accountable for their actions. Killing a child who has committed a crime is a prime example of cruel and unusual punishment, prohibited by the Eighth Amendment. It isn’t effective to kill a criminal who doesn’t understand the crime committed.

Children who commit a capital crime should still be punished. The law provides long-term jail sentences for some of the most abhorrent cases. But children are malleable. They are still in the developmental stage, and rehabilitation is possible. Punishment is vital to our court system, but few can disagree that turning criminals into useful members of society trumps punishment. It’s about compassion.

Support for capital punishment changes on society’s whims. According to an article in the Journal of Criminal Justice, despite noticeable decreases in juvenile violent crime the last couple decades, society is asking for harsher punishments for children. Society doesn’t look at data.

Children cannot take part in many societal functions. They can’t vote, and they cannot serve on a jury. Because of this, children are not tried by a jury of their peers. Instead, a group of adults who have 20, 30 or 40 years to forget what life as a child is like were able to sentence that child to death — generations of disconnect.

Life, in the end, is all we have. It is something to be cherished and protected. When a person takes someone else’s life, there should be punishment involved. But taking a child’s life is something no state or no person should do for revenge.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of three members of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.