“When Kids Get Life”

This is just some food for thought!

I recently had a very stressful debate in one of my classes about whether or not children under 18 should receive the death penalty. It reminded me of a frontline release of When Kids Get Life, which also brought up the argument of whether or not children under 18 should get life sentences.

We all know that adolescence is often characterized by increased independence and a desire for knowledge and exploration, it is also a time when brain changes can result in a myriad of high-risk behaviors, such as extreme sports without protective equipment, unprotected sexual encounters, drug and alcohol addiction, and in extreme cases, even murder. But what a lot of people don’t know is that different parts of the adolescent brain matures at different rates, and that brain development extends at least into a person’s twenties.

I once watched a film called Inside the Teenage Brain, which indicated that adolescents have an immature frontal cortex, which is responsible for their in ability to make good decisions and evaluate and understand consequences and circumstances. This immature frontal cortex, which is going through rapid changes during adolescence, is also responsible for teenage impulsivity, rapid and intense fluctuations in mood and behavior, and their inability to properly identify and understand the emotions of others. They also found that their emotional/gut responses are more activated than adults, and they are unable to organize information from the outside world. Teenagers also experience changes in their cerebellum which is involved with coordination and thinking processes.

Based on the intense and rapid brain development during adolescence, and its effect on cognition and behavior, I do not believe that children (under the age of 18) should be tried and sentenced as adults, as they do not have an adult’s ability to make proper decisions, regulate emotions, assess consequences, and organize their actions, and the information from the outside world. I also believe that sentencing minors as adults and giving them life or even the death sentence deprives them of the chance to demonstrate maturity and reform. The minor should be given the opportunity to achieve maturity of judgment and self-recognition of human worth and potential. In essence I believe that minors should be sentenced as juveniles, and given time fit by the court while allowing brain development to occur and for them to be able to demonstrate this maturity. Compared to adult offenders who have reached optimal brain development, children have a great capacity for change and rehabilitation, and sentencing them as adults ignores the scientific evidence of the reasons behind their offenses, and their ability to become a better person.

However, after my debate a lot of people felt otherwise, and believed that there is nothing wrong with children being sentenced as adults and given life or the death penalty… What do you guys think?


3 Responses to ““When Kids Get Life””

  1. 1 klew23 May 8, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    I think this post is extremely interesting. Personally, depending on the circumstance, I do not think age should be a factor in the choice of punishment. Excluding times when young minds are controlled by stronger(more mature) brains, minors ultimately use bad judgement just like the “guilty adult”. We learn right from wrong at a very early stage in life, and no matter the age anyone can decide to change. For this reason age should not be a factor, especially in murder cases.

  2. 2 alexleigh6 May 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

    I actually took this class last semester. I found this video very disturbing, and then when I watched the video on the teenage brain, it really go me to think. I had to write a paper about these two videos and what my position was on kids getting life. I found out a lot of information and discovered even more stories about young kids getting life sentences. This is a very hard decision to make, because I know that if I was one of the family members who lost their loved one, I would not want that person who hurt them to be taken out of jail.

  3. 3 french111 May 10, 2011 at 8:22 am

    This is a extremely hard decision to make because if someone deserves the death penalty than they must have done something bad enough to deserve the degree. I think that even with an immature brain they should still be able to control themselves from doing something so aweful that they get the death penalty. I think the death penalty isn’t as harsh as having life imprisonment were every day they will have to cope with the consequences of their actions.

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