The Deterrence Effect of the Juvenile Death Penalty
By Matt Beverlin Graduate Student The University of Kansas Political Science Department 504 Blake Hall Lawrence, KS 66045-2157
Presented at 2005 Annual Meeting of the Southern Political Science Association New Orleans, Louisiana January 7, 2005
Abstract This paper uses a pooled cross-sectional time series regression to determine if the juvenile death penalty has a deterrent effect on either juvenile murderers or juvenile violent criminals. Though there is much writing on the utility of capital punishment in general, there is a void in policy studies literature concerning the juvenile death penalty. This is an important policy topic due to the historically unique nature of the juvenile justice system in the United States. Traditionally, state justice systems have dealt with youth offenders in a different manner than adults, but in a political climate fostering get tough on crime policies, the original purposes of the juvenile justice system are going by the wayside. Further, it is especially timely given that the Supreme Court is now deliberating on the legality of the juvenile death penalty with Simmons v. Roper. Data gathered from 1974-2001 from all 50 states demonstrates that there is no statistically significant deterrent effect to the punishment, though there is also no discernible evidence of an increase in juvenile violence; the so-called brutalization theory. However, control variables based on sound criminal justice theory point to state economic conditions, population density, and prison population as having a noticeable effect on either juvenile murder rates or juvenile violent crime rates. This paper is an extension of the existing literature on criminal deterrence theory and the death penalty, as well as a first state-level aggregate study of the juvenile death penalty in particular.
Background on the Death Penalty The history of the death penalty in America was not written in a vacuum, as some sort of walled off history of an exceptional policy area. Rather, the policy evolution of state-sanctioned executions began when the first colonists arrived on American shores, and has continued, uninterrupted and in the mainstream of public thought, from the punishment’s colonial beginnings to the present day. As deTocqueville noted, the pilgrims brought with them a sense of civic pride and a strong set of religious beliefs; but these settlers also ferried to the new world’s shores a belief in the English legal policy of capital punishment. To understand the death penalty contemporaneously, one must understand why the policy was initially codified. The colonists wrote the death penalty into law because it served three important functions in early American society: deterrence, retribution, and penance (Banner 2002, 23). First, and the focal point of this study, it was used to deter, which means to stop further criminal action by a guilty person. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, the punishment was used to stop such far flung malfeasances as bestiality, stealing hogs, embezzling tobacco, concealing property to defraud creditors, receiving a stolen horse, squatting on Indian land, and counterfeiting; not to mention arson, rape, and murder (Banner 2002, 4-8). Second, adhering to both popular demands, as well as biblical and historical tradition, it was used to punish an individual in return for committing a crime. Third, it was used to allow an individual to achieve atonement in the eyes of a Christian God; the idea of penance. As time progressed, the death penalty has been applied to a smaller range of crimes, but consider that during this early era there were not yet prisons
to incarcerate offenders, and the populace was acting more religiously than today, due to the effusive idea of America being settled as a promised land of religious freedom. Of the three justifications for the death penalty, the one most often relied upon in modern public discourse – and challenged in turn - is deterrence. The concept of retribution for a criminal act has by no means left public debate or guiding legal rulings (Furman v. Georgia), but for two reasons it is a less important argument today than it was three hundred years ago. First, society has changed and moved away from the early American reliance on harsh religious laws, which punished by death such “sins” as adultery and witchcraft. Second, death penalty proponents increasingly rely upon the use of criminal justice statistics and the accompanying econometric analysis; this sort of analysis lends itself more readily to arguments standing on the grounds of deterrence (objective empiricism), rather than retribution (subjective morality). Penance, the third justification for state-sanctioned death, has disappeared entirely into the ether along with the historical widening of the gap between the spheres of church and state. Though the idea of penance is absence from current criminal justice discourse concerning punishment, its root word has not vanished. State and federal prisons in the United States are after all still referred to as penitentiaries, state sponsored institutions that early Americans purposely designed as a more fitting alternative to the death sentence for a crime, and as places for criminals to reach their personal penance with God. It was the rise of these institutions that intertwined with the decline of capital punishment as the early justice system’s panacea. However, today’s debate on the death penalty centers not around the eyes of God, but rather on the machinations of American justice, specifically in the form of a few
precedent setting Supreme Court decisions. Despite capital punishment’s wide usage for centuries, the Supreme Court did not address its constitutionality until the 1970’s, denying certiorari to an ever-increasing amount of challenges that arose during the 1950’s and 1960’s (Horowitz 2000, 136). Finally, in the 1972 landmark case of Furman v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional, declaring it a cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment. All state death penalty laws were therefore vacated, forcing the thirty-nine states with death penalty laws to scramble to come up with revised statutory language that would meet the new standards set by the Supreme Court. There has been much blood spilled over the death penalty, and perhaps even more ink, social scientists joining hands with lawyers in an unyielding policy debate. The large and diverse body of work on the topic includes literature that explains why most support for the death penalty comes from white Americans (Soss, Lanbein, and Metelko 2003), what public support is for the policy (Ellsworth and Gross 1994), the politics of executions juxtaposed with the politics of sentencing (Langbein 1999), what effect a criminal’s race has on death sentencing (Kleck 1981; Phillips 1986), and the influence of values on the death penalty (Mooney and Lee 2000). However, there is very little scientific treatment of the juvenile death penalty, particularly within political science, which is surprising given the recent salience of this issue following the “DC sniper case” and the Rehnquist Court’s decision to deliberate on the issue later this year. This paper will begin to fill in this literature gap by assessing the deterrent effect of the policy.
The Juvenile Death Penalty The juvenile death penalty is a topic unique unto itself within the broader topic of the death penalty as a whole, and certainly a topic worthy of a separate scholarly treatment. This is not only because of the distinct attributes of the population the policy takes aim at: 16 and 17 year olds; but also the unique nature of the American juvenile justice system, as well as the line of controlling legal cases decided relatively recently by the Supreme court, which are exclusive to this sub-population of offenders. Just as many controversial policy positions vary from state to state, some states have a legal provision to execute minors and some do not. In the instance of the policy of juvenile capital punishment however, the disparity directly decides who lives and who dies. In perhaps the ultimate case of being seventeen in the wrong place at the wrong time, Napoleon Beazley was executed in Texas on May 28, 2002, the same day Christopher Simmons was granted a stay of execution in Missouri. Both men were 17 when they committed murder and both men spent about the same amount of time on death row (Marshall 2004, 2889); the critical factor separating life from death: the state in which the crime was committed. Of course, and perhaps to further confuse things, in many states neither one would have faced the death penalty in the first place, whether they were minors or not. In an effort to clarity, the following table shows the disposition of each state on the question of the juvenile death penalty:
And the following chart shows the distribution of each category of measurement:
Based upon a respected early legal source called Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England (Bogdanski 2004, 613), Americans have supported the statesanctioned execution of minors since the earliest days of the country (Streib 1998, 1-2). In Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts in 1642 Thomas Graunger became the first minor put to death by way of state sanctioned execution in this country, for committing bestiality with a mare and a cow while 16 years old. As the book of Leviticus called for the pilgrims to do, his hanging death followed that of the mare and the cow involved, and all of the animals’ calves (Amnesty Index; Streib 2000; Streib 2003b; Bogdanski 2004, 613). Since that time it is not known with precision exactly how many juveniles have been executed, because there is no reliable count on information available before 1930 (Banner 313), but the number is thought to be around 365 (Streib 2000, 2; Bogdanski 2004, 614). Following the early adoption of English common law, the legal evolution of the juvenile death penalty amazingly does not pick up again until 1988, when the Supreme Court took on the case of Thompson v. Oklahoma.1 In Thompson v. Oklahoma, the Court ruled that a 15-year old who participated in the brutal murder of his former brother-in-law could not be put to death by the state. The court decided that neither of the two modern goals of the death penalty, deterrence or retribution, were being met by executing children so young. Those 15-years of age and younger, Justice Stevens wrote in the
Though presented with two chances, the Supreme Court avoided ruling on the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty in both 1978 with Bell v. Ohio and again in 1982 with Eddings v. Oklahoma.
decision, fell under the fiduciary obligation of the state to protect children, thus rendering retribution inapplicable, and likewise, those so young did not make decisions in a calculated way as adults are thought to do (Thompson v. Oklahoma), thus negating the deterrence effect. The question of 16 and 17-year olds’ executions could have of course been laid to rest, but the justices instead elected to draw a firm line at 15 and younger, and then stop at that point. In fact, just one year later, in 1989, after hearing the case of Stanford v. Kentucky, the court explicitly rejected the idea of excluding 16 and 17-year old perpetrators from a capital sentence. The next case in this string of precedent is Atkins v. Virginia. In June of 2002 the Supreme Court declared that the imposition of death sentences on mentally retarded offenders stands in violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Legal experts see in the logic of this decision the seeds of overturning Stanford v. Kentucky, via the potential extension of the same arguments applied to mentally retarded offenders to juveniles (Fagan 2003; Feld 2003; Streib 2003a; Bogdanski 2004; Marshall 2004). So called “death penalty exception” cases will only gain legal traction if the group of the population in question is held to be markedly different from the greater population, and thus are judged to be less culpable in the commission of a violent crime. In the case of juveniles, both national and sub-national levels of government treat them exceptionally in other public policy areas, to name just a few: military service, voting, tobacco use, the attainment of commercial operating licenses, access to abortion clinics, marriage legality, night time curfews, punishment for non-violent crime, pornography, workplace pay and safety, truancy laws, and alcohol consumption. Furthermore, psychiatrists and other mental health experts engaged in brain-based research are finding in current studies that
adolescents have an immature mental process which causes their decision-making to differ from adults (ABA; Harvard 2000; Psychiatric News 2003). Globally, the United States is in a small minority of countries with a death penalty policy that allows for the execution of juveniles.2 In fact, Iran just recently put a halt to the practice (Reuters 2003), joining the majority of nations that follow the explicit protocol of the Geneva Convention, which states that nations shall not execute juveniles (Geneva). Pointedly, public support for the death penalty for convicted murderers since the Furman decision has registered consistently between 60%-80% in poll after poll (Gallup). However, support for executing juveniles stands at just 26% (Gallup 2002) nationally. A poll of Missourians (recall that Missouri is the state that stayed the Simmons execution) conducted by the University of Missouri-Columbia Center for Advanced Social Research, showed only a 34% base of support for executing offenders under 18, and 58% support for legislators voting for a bill raising the death penalty age to 18 (University of Missouri-Columbia 2003). These sort of poll numbers make the point that a large body of Americans who want the death penalty on the books for adult murderers, do not want it there for teenagers. Beyond legal precedent, broad juvenile policy exceptionalism, cognitive research, global trends, and public opinion; there is another reason why the juvenile death penalty could be considered by some to be an antiquarian policy, or at least somewhat inconsistent. Consider that the United States has a strong tradition of a separate systemic solution for minors whom commit crime than for adults whom commit crime. Historically, the nation’s juvenile justice system sprung up in the early 1800’s as a way to
The eight countries that have executed people who were juveniles at the time of their crime, since 1990, are: China, Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and the United States (Truskett, 2004).
handle poor youth in the cities (Ferdinand 1991; Whitehead and Lab; 2004, 33). Parens Patriae, the legal concept of the state intervening as parent, has been driving American criminal justice policy regarding youths since 1839 (Ex parte Crouse). A resurgence in the ideas of rehabilitation and treatment in the 1960’s and 1970’s has been followed by a recent return to punitive action directed at teenage wrongdoers (Ferdinand 1991; Krisberg et al. 1986; Whitehead and Lab 2004, 29-47). In short, juvenile justice experts have realized that there are unique sociological and biological reasons as to why minors commit crimes, and systems have been intelligently designed and put into place to cope with such transgressions. Society of course demands quick and strong punishment for minors who perpetrate crimes, but that urge has been traditionally balanced with a legal system that recognizes the duty to answer the needs of society’s troubled young. The Deterrence Power of the Juvenile Death Penalty Myriad experts have looked at the deterrence power of capital punishment in general (Cochran, Chamlin, and Seth 1994; Peterson and Bailey 1991; Bailey 1980, 1990; Stack 1987, 1990; Sorenson et al., 1999). The results of these studies are mixed and there is no clear scholarly consensus on the issue. Early influential work on the topic was done by Isaac Ehrlich (1975, 1977), who applied an economist’s model to the question of deterrence. The underlying purpose of his writing, which no doubt inspired – or provoked - so many scholars that came after him, was:
“Hopefully, the main contribution of this research lies in the suggestion that the basic economic and econometric frameworks used by economists to explain behavior in the marketplace can also be applied in explaining criminal and perhaps some other behavior traditionally labeled as ‘deviant.’”
When he wrote he used the language of an economist: there is a supply of offenses, a demand for enforcement, and the production of means of deterrence. Though nothing is erroneous prima facie about couching policy analysis in some sort of economic metaphor, further analysis of the logic of his writings show that the approach of a rational choice theorist will not hold up in the topsy-turvy real world of juveniles committing very violent crimes. Some assumptions in his work warrant critical consideration, such as: the idea that there is a differential deterrent effect of capital punishment beyond incarcerating criminals, that execution uniquely eliminates categorically the possibility of recidivism, and that murderers plan their crimes. However, two assumptions stand out as very pertinent to the juvenile death penalty. First, the assumption that law enforcement agencies set optimal penalties so as to minimize the net social losses for crime is here being put to the test (Ehrlich 1977, 771). Even more problematic than assuming sentencing is rational, is the assumption that criminal action is rational. Some violent crime, such as street robbery, is perpetrated by a criminal acting impulsively or even shamefully; and therefore can not be studied well under a rational choice framework (Haan and Vos, 2003). Ehrlich writes “the propensity to perpetrate such crimes (murder and other crimes against person) is influenced by the prospective gains and losses associated with their commission (Ehrlich 1975, 398-399). Juvenile murderers in particular may possess conduct disorders which cause them to act irrationally (Myers and Scott, 1998). Though now years old, the journal writings of Ehrlich are the basic foundations upon which the capital punishment deterrence argument rests. Rather than becoming bellicose and enjoining a conversation in the logic of assuming juvenile criminals to be rational actors, the idea driving this paper is to test the
policy outcome of the juvenile death penalty. Put simply, does it work? Does ending the life of a guilty teenager spare the lives of innocents? Further, a review of the case summaries for current death row inmates sentenced under the juvenile death penalty show that, at a minimum, over 60% of the murders were committed during the commission of another violent crime (data from Death Penalty Information Center) such as rape, burglary, or robbery; and so by extension of that, violent crimes can be seen as the gateway to murder.3 So secondly, using the supposition that violent crime can drive up the murder rate; will violent crime committed by juveniles be lowered because of the juvenile death penalty? Hypotheses and Empirical Approach Hypotheses H1 : States which have the juvenile death penalty will not realize a significantly lower juvenile murder rate (murders perpetrated by juveniles). H 2 : States which have the juvenile death penalty will not realize a significantly lower juvenile violent crime rate (violent crime perpetrated by juveniles). H 3 : The number of juveniles sentenced to death by a state will not cause a significantly lower juvenile murder rate. H 4 : The number of juveniles sentenced to death by a state will not cause a significantly lower juvenile crime rate. H 5 : The number of juveniles executed by a state will not drive a downturn in the number of murders committed by juveniles. H 6 : The number of juveniles executed by a state will not drive a downturn in the number of violent crimes committed by juveniles.
The 19 states that have a provision for executing juveniles may legally apply that policy to non-murdering offenders, though no such sentenced individuals now sit on death row. See Table 2 for a listing of what constitutes a capital crime in the states with a sanctioned juvenile death penalty.
This paper uses data from 49 of the 50 states beginning in 1974 and extending into 2001.4 The study was chosen to begin in 1974 because of the 1972 Furman v. Georgia decision. Many states were reinstating their death penalty laws in late 1972 and 1973, so by excluding 1972 and 1973 from the study, any influence arising directly from the Furman v. Georgia court case and its immediate aftermath is nullified. Data from all 50 states is considered superior to a case study because of the unique circumstances that may or may not accompany a single execution or sentencing. Formula In words, the formula(s) being put to the test is that a state’s juvenile murder rate (or juvenile violent crime rate) is over time not a function of a state’s death penalty policy or death penalty application, but is rather a function of more theoretically sound drivers of juvenile crime: the state’s economy, unemployment rate, incarceration rate, level of urbanization, proficiency in primary and secondary education, and divorce rate. Variables First Dependent Variable: Juvenile Murder Rate. I requested original data tables from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program.5 The request was fulfilled and the information was sent to me, which listed from 1970-2001, by state, the age of the juvenile arrested for each category of 29 violent crimes tracked by the UCR Program, including for murder
If a state was missing more than five years of its pertinent crime data, it was left out of the study. The only state to have that distinction is Kansas. Of the approximate 1350 state/year observations points, 26 were left out completely due to insufficient data. That list is available from the author. 5 The data kept and distributed by the UCR Summary System is gathered on a voluntary basis from city, county, and state law enforcement agencies. It provides a nationwide view of crime unique in both its breadth and scope. The system is not without its flaws, but it is the most widely used aggregate crime data by academics and criminologists.
(FBI).6 The information requested also broke down the gender and race of the person arrested for the crime, though the information has been aggregated for this study to include all races and both genders. The rate of arrest was determined through gathering the 10-17 year old population of a state using numbers direct from the Bureau of the Census (Census), 7 and following statistical convention (Morgan Quitno for example), dividing it by 100,000. This age bracket was used as a measure of a state’s juvenile population for two reasons, the first being that it is the commonly accepted age range to calculate the juvenile crime rate (again, see Morgan Quitno series for example). Also, data analysis proves that children under age 10 rarely commit violent crimes, especially capital crimes (FBI). Murder arrest rate, of course, does not equal murders, but it is the best proxy available and I put a great amount of confidence in it.8 Especially in regards to capital murder, which often involve multiple deaths and/or the simultaneous commission of a felony, a murder is the most difficult crime to commit without an arrest being made, due to the amount of resources put into making an arrest, and the presence of at least one body.
A variety of crime data is available, such as statistics gathered from criminal prison interviewees, but no such data is free of problems. The most notable alternative to UCR data is the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), a newer measurement developed by the FBI as a compliment, but not a replacement for the UCR. Though compelling, the NCVS is inferior to the UCR for this study. First, the NCVS was foremost designed to give law enforcement agencies a measure of unreported crime; whereas the UCR is a complete set of aggregate data for crime in its totality. Second, the NCVS excludes crime committed against children under age 12. This is problematic for this study, because a frequent aggravating circumstance of a capital crime is the murder of a child. Third, the NCVS, while at times useful, is subject to a great margin of error because of the methodology used in obtaining data for it (NCJ 122705). Finally, the NCVS uses a different set of crime definitions, which could here distort the total number of robberies. The NCVS does not ask victims to ascertain the motive of a person who broke into their home. That would mean even the attempted entry into a private residence might be classified as robbery, whereas in the UCR robbery has a more strict definition, making the total number of robberies smaller and more realistic. 7 The issue of controlling for population is an important one. Beyond the usual state by state fluctuation, the juvenile population of the juvenile death penalty states has increased, while the juvenile population of the non-juvenile death penalty states has decreased. 8 The murder statistics presented here include crimes classified as non-negligent manslaughter.
Second Dependent Variable: Juvenile Violent Crime Rate. Though every juvenile now on death row is there for murder, just measuring murders is not enough. Table 2 does clearly demonstrate that – at least on the books - there are capital crimes other than murder for juveniles, but the driving reason to look at violent crime numbers is not the unlikely scenario of a juvenile execution for a crime other than murder, but rather that many murders happen during the commission of a violent crime.9 Therefore, under a rational actor model, a deliberating rapist, robber, or assaulter might consider the potential murderous repercussions of their actions and desist in their criminal planning. If that were the case, then the juvenile death penalty would cause a decline in not just murder, but also these other crimes with a potential for murder. Finally, on its own merit, it is interesting to see the relationship between the death penalty and violent crime without murder committed in a given state. The variable data also comes from the FBI, as noted above. I developed this rate number by adding together the total arrest numbers for each of four categories of violent crime. The four categories, which are standard among crime scholars, are murder itself, and then: forcible rape, robbery,10 and aggravated assault. Murder was included, despite the obvious redundancy, for two reasons. One, the model is seeking common language with the work of other scholars. Two, murder is a violent crime; leaving it out only
For recent scholarship on sexual crime and its relationship to murder see Beauregard and Proulx 2002; and Arrigo and Purcell 2001. Regarding the inclusion of aggravated assault, I hold the view that homicides are neither no more, nor no less than aggravated assaults with the outcome of the victim’s death (see especially Harris et al 2002; also Cook 1991; Pittman 1964; Zimring 1968). For a useful discussion on robbery and murder within the context of a single city environment, see Palermo et.al. 1992. 10 Robbery is usually defined as taking something with “force or fear.” A perpetrator need not be armed to make a “theft” a “robbery,” though brandishing a weapon is usually the necessary circumstance of “aggravated robbery.” Here, a robbery need not be an aggravated robbery to be counted, but must be the theft of property using force or fear, a determination ultimately made by law enforcement agencies following FBI reporting guidelines. Robbery is not to be confused with burglary, which broadly, is the act of entering a building to commit a felony.
because of its separate treatment would be illogical and tantamount to putting statistical elegance above sound reasoning. And again, the 10-17 year old age bracket was used. Independent Variable One: DPState. This is a dichotomous variable indicating the presence or absence of the death penalty, whether exclusively for adults or including juveniles as well. It is important to verify the historical accuracy of this measure, being that it is not uncommon for a state to have the death penalty one year and not the next, or vice versa.11 For the year to be coded as indicating the death penalty, the state must have had the punishment on the books for at least 51% of the calendar year. Independent Variable Two: JDPState. This is a dichotomous variable indicating the presence or absence of the juvenile death penalty, meaning the state approved execution of sixteen and seventeen year olds. Just as above, this is historically accurate. Similarly, for the year to be coded as having the death penalty, the state must have had the punishment on the books for at least 51% of the calendar year. Independent Variable Three: Juvenile Sentences. Indicates the number of juveniles sentenced to death by that state in the given year.12 Independent Variable Four: Juvenile Executions. Indicates the number of adults executed for a crime committed while a juvenile in that state in the given year. In the modern era of the death penalty (since Furman v.
Information on execution laws was gathered from and cross-checked using the following four sources: the Death Penalty Information, Streib, 2004, The Book of The States, and a variety of state-level official web resources. 12 Source on juvenile sentences and executions: Streib, 2004 and the Death Penalty Information Center.
Georgia), there have been no actual executions of a minor due to the length of the stay on death row of those juveniles convicted of a capital crime (Death Penalty Information Center), which averages out to between seven and eight years (Nice, 1992). Control Variable One: State Gross Product (per capita). It has long been held that economic conditions affect crime rates. Recent crime theorists explain that changing social structures have an impact on crime and punishment (Michalowski and Carlson, 2000), and that in particular the juvenile justice system’s ability to rehabilitate has been diminished due to society’s macro-transformations, including its economic ones (Feld, 1999). This idea that society’s macro-level changes, particularly regarding its economic class structures, has an effect on crime has been applied not only to the United States, but also to policing in Britain (Crowther, 2000), juvenile delinquency in Russia (Pridemore, 2002), drug trafficking in Puerto Rico (Montalvo-Barbot, 1997), and the increasingly mobile population of China (Curran, 1998). This study uses each state’s gross product per capita, as reported by the Bureau of Economic Analysis, as a measure of economic strength. In order to most robustly capture the economic condition of a state, as explained below, other measures are included in the model as well. Control Variable Two: Manufacturing (per capita). Economics has become ever more important to state policymakers, and has therefore attracted more attention from students of state politics (Brace and Jewett, 1995); but, there is still no consensus on measuring the economic condition of a state within the field of public policy (Smith and Rademacker, 1999). Brace and Jewett go on to write that “For at least a decade, economic development has become the Esperanto of state
politics. Virtually every policy is now weighted by its anticipated impact on economic development.” Political science studies attempting to measure state economic output have used a variety of yardsticks over the years, including, but by no means limited to: real disposable income (Niemi, Stanley, and Vogel, 1995), personal income (Chubb, 1988), and later three variations of the same (Hendrick and Garand, 1991). No one model has stuck, but some solace can be found in economic literature. In that vain, Digby (1983) looked at manufacturing employment growth while Benson and Johnson (1986) analyzed per capita manufacturing investment by state. Here the manufacturing output dollars of the state per capita is used. Control Variable Three: Per Capita Income. Information for this variable was gathered from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Control Variable Four: State Unemployment. Information for this variable was gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Unemployment (Grogger, 1991), divorce rate, and urbanization all have been shown to have at least some effect on the crime rate. For a case study of a particular metropolitan area, see Palermo et. al. (1992). Control Variable Five: National Unemployment. Information for this variable was gathered from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Looking at national unemployment as distinct from state unemployment allows the model to recognize that employment conditions cross state lines.
Control Variable Six: Divorce Rate. Divorce rate was calculated from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstracts of the United States. Control Variable Seven: Population Density. This figure was gathered from the State Politics and Policy database for 19751991, and for other years it was calculated in a similar manner using Bureau of the Census statistics and known land area figures. It is here used as a proxy for urbanization. Control Variable Eight: Tax Per Capita. This variable was included as another economic measure, one that gets at the strength of a state’s tax base, which in turn affects the state’s ability to spend on discretionary programs, such as efforts aimed at troubled youth. Also, the effect of state and local taxes on economic growth has been demonstrated previously (Helms, 1985; Kone and Winters 1993; and Mofidi and Stone, 1990) Information was gathered from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Statistical Abstracts of the United States. Control Variable Nine: Education Spending. A state’s investment in its own infrastructure, including education, is important to the overall well-being of the state’s people (Smith and Rademacker, 1999). This is a measure of spending on primary and secondary schools, and was gathered from the Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics. Control Variable Ten: Prison Population. The best predictor of incarceration rate has been demonstrated to be violent crime rate (Michalowski and Pearson, 1990), though the same scholars of incarceration have also noted that states tend to monitor each other’s incarceration rates and move towards a
sort of normative mean rate of imprisonment (Ouimet and Trembly, 1996), thus avoiding a situation of over or under incarceration. As for this study’s other dependent variable – the juvenile murder rate – research on the national level has shown that the higher the incarceration rate, the less homicides are committed (Marvell and Moody, 1997). Still, it is expected in this regression that a higher rate of imprisonment will be associated with higher crime numbers; it seems at first blush counter-intuitive, but what is happening is that states are adjusting their prisoner population based on crime trends. The more crimes, the more people collectively put behind bars. The number is drawn from the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics, and is representative of the number of prisoners per 100k people in the state’s population. Results Table 3
Discussion The Supreme Court wrote in Thompson v. Oklahoma: The likelihood that a teenage offender has made the kind of cost-benefit analysis that attaches any weight to the possibility of execution is so remote as to be virtually nonexistent. And, even if one posits such a cold-blooded calculation by a 15-year old, it is fanciful to believe that he would be deterred by the knowledge that a small number of persons his age have been executed during the 20th century. Given the mystery now surrounding the court’s opinion on this issue, and the sideline speculation accompanying the juvenile death penalty case now before them (Roper v. Simmons), it is probably apropos that in the above decision they specifically limit their finding to 15-year olds while simultaneously making a statement regarding all teenagers.
This study has shown that the presence or absence of a rarely used law has no discernible affect on the tiny portion of the juvenile population that commits violent crime. Further, when the law is indeed used, there is no affect in either the sentencing phase or the execution phase itself. Additionally, the presence or absence of the death penalty just for adults makes no difference in juvenile crime. Though the models in this study were not run with the variable, the juvenile crime results still hold when the number of adult executions is considered. What were significant to both the murder rate and the violent crime rate were a state’s incarceration rate and its education spending levels. The more people a state imprisoned proportionate to its population, the higher the rates were. The more a state spent on education, the higher the rates as well. The prison rate result is understandable, as reading the literature would lead one to expect that prison’s produce a synergistic effect; first, states that have crime problems put more people in jail cells, and second, once released, those former inmates tend toward recidivistic behavior. However, the idea that more education increases crime does not hold water theoretically. Perhaps states that spend more money on education tend to be more urbanized and thus more prone to juvenile crime problems. Though they had no effect on the murder rate, four variables did show significance in changing the overall juvenile violent crime rate: increases in GSP per capita lowered violent crime by a sizable margin, as taxes went up so did crime, manufacturing dollars per capita lowered crime, and the population density of a state raised crime more than any other factor beyond incarceration rate. As with education spending, perhaps states with a greater tax base per person tend to be
more urbanized, as it was shown that more densely populated states had more juvenile violent crime. Still, two economic input variables produced strong and theoretically sound results: the more money a state makes (state GSP) the lower its crime rate, and the same holds true for the presence of more rather than less state manufacturing income. These results support a long line of theory that a sound economy lowers crime participation. In an effort at parsimony, some input variables were left out of the models. Demographics have been shown to be a forecaster for crime (Fox and Piquero, 2003), but were here excluded to narrow the scope of inquiry. Additionally, police presence is often considered when discussing crime rates. Furthermore, police funding and officer force level data is available; and in fact was collected as part of this study. However, a literature review drew me to the conclusion that police presence does not serve in any sort of theoretically supportable way to reduce juvenile violent crime, particularly murder. In fact, I found scant scholarly evidence that policing even reduces murders committed by the overall (adult) population (White et. al., 2003). Statistical analysis of post moratorium crime data is a worthy pursuit that can enlighten criminal justice authorities as to the effectiveness of this long controversial policy area (Yunker, 2001), particularly regarding the now-beingdeliberated juvenile death penalty. Both polls and studies show that over time Americans do not back the execution of minors (Skovron, Scott, and Cullen, 1989). It is unlikely that the death penalty reinforces or enhances respect for life, opposition to interpersonal violence, respect for the law, or sympathy for the
victims of crimes (Neapolitan, 1983). Perhaps a few years from now the United States will be among the many nations who do not sanction this policy.
Minimum Death Penalty Age By State
Alaska Hawaii Iowa Kansas Maine Massachusetts Michigan Minnesota North Dakota Rhode Island Vermont West Virginia Wisconsin
Alabama Arkansas Arizona Delaware Idaho Kentucky Louisiana Mississippi Nevada Oklahoma Pennsylvania South Carolina Utah Virginia
Florida Georgia New Hampshire North Carolina Texas
California Colorado Connecticut Illinois Indiana Maryland Missouri Montana Nebraska New Jersey New Mexico New York Ohio Oregon South Dakota Tennessee Washington Wyoming
Information presented in the table is originally from the Death Penalty Information Center, and verified with Streib 2004 and The Book of the States. For update on Kansas see State v. Marsh.
Frequency of States
16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 No DP Age 16 Age 17 Age 18
Alabama Arkansas Arizona Delaware Florida Georgia Idaho Kentucky Louisiana Mississippi Nevada New Hampshire North Carolina Oklahoma Pennsylvania South Carolina Texas Utah Virginia
Table 2 Capital Offenses Among Juvenile Death Penalty States Intentional murder with 1 of 8 aggravating factors Capital murder with 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances 1st degree murder accompanied by 1 of 10 aggravating factors 1st degree murder with certain aggravating circumstances 1st degree murder, felony murder, capital drug-trafficking Murder, kidnapping with bodily injury or ransom where victim dies, aircraft hijacking, treason 1st degree murder, aggravated kidnapping Murder with aggravating factors, kidnapping with aggravating factors 1st degree murder, aggravated rape of victim under age 12, treason Capital murder, aircraft piracy 1st degree murder, with 10 possible aggravating circumstances Capital murder 1st degree murder 1st degree murder with at least 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances as defined by statute 1st degree murder with 1 of 17 aggravating circumstances 1st degree murder with 1 of 10 aggravating circumstances Criminal homicide with 1 of 8 aggravating circumstances Aggravated murder, aggravated assault by a prisoner serving a life sentence if serious bodily injury is intentionally caused 1st degree murder with 1 of 9 aggravating circumstances
Table 3 Results
Juv Murder Rate Variables JDP State DP State Juvenile Executions Juvenile Sentences Prison Population GSP Per Capita Manuf. Per Capita Per Capita Income Tax Per Capita Unemployment Population Density Education Spending Divorce
Juv V. Crime Rate
-.707 (664) -.4218 (.652) 2.13 (1.54) .08 (.65) .018 (.003) *** -.08 (.101) -6.16 (.00003) -.00002 (.0001) 1.98 (.0059) -.0785 (.116) .0003 (.0012) .0005 (.00016) ** .096 (.158)
-42.14 (26.9) 10.8 (26.16) -56.4 (39.35) -5.28 (18.55) .48 (.13) **** -9.4 (3.89) * -.0046 (.0011) *** .008 (.005) .048 (.02) * -3.14 (4.46) .269 (.049) *** .039 (.0059) *** 6.007 (6.63)
*p<.05;**p<.01;***p<.001 R squared Wald Chi Squared -
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