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Capital Punishment is a very controversial topic. When discussing this subject we must include several topics in order to fully understand the matter. We must discuss the history, the religious aspect, the moral aspect, the types of capital punishment, the kind of people that receive capital punishment, including there childhood. We begin with the definition and a brief history. Capital punishment is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime. The execution of criminals has been used for centuries in almost all societies.

In most situations, capital punishment was reserved for treason, murder, and espionage. In other countries, crimes such as rape, incest or adultery were treated with the death penalty. Some historical styles of the death penalties were boiling to death, crucifixion, impalement, stoning, dismemberment, sawing, and slow slicing. In 1820 Britain, many crimes were punishable by death, including shoplifting, stealing cattle, cutting down trees, and petty theft. America was influenced by Britain’s use of the death penalty more than any other country.

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When European settlers came to the new world, they brought their practices, which included capital punishment. The first execution on record, took place in the new colonies of Jamestown. The victim was accused of being a spy for Spain in and sentenced to death in 1612. The laws regarding the death penalty changed from colony to colony. Some colonies sentenced people to death for simply stealing fruit, while others only sentence for more significant crimes. (Sandiford, F 2012). During Colonial times people started to debate the death penalty.

Does the state have the power to take someone’s life? Does anyone have that kind of power? Thomas Jefferson attempted to reduce capital punishment in Virginia by introducing a bill to revise death penalty laws. The Bill stated that Capital punishment should only be used for crimes such as murder and treason. Unfortunately, the crime was defeated by one vote. Another person determined to make a change was Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was one of the signer of the Declaration of Independence. He believed that having the death penalty only increased criminal behavior.

Rush gained support from some important figures, including, Benjamin Franklin and was able to help Pennsylvania become the first stated to repeal the death penalty except for first degree murder. We began to see more change during the Abolitionist Movement. After Pennsylvania adjusted their death penalty Michigan followed suit and banned the death penalty for all crimes except for treason. At the end of the century, the world started to do the same. Countries such as, Netherlands, Costa Rica, Brazil, Venezuela, Portugal, and Ecuador began to follow in the steps of Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Although many U. S. states began abolishing capital punishment, many stated held onto the death penalty. The introduction of discretion for sentencing was perceived as victory for abolitionists. By the 1950s, the public began to turn away from the death penalty. The first case where discretion was give to the prosecutor was the case of U. S. v. Jackson. The case was regarding a provision of the federal kidnapping statue requiring that the death penalty be the sentence only if the jury sought it fit.

However, the court stated that this act was unconstitutional because the defendants could waive their right to a jury trial, therefore cancelling out a death sentence. In 1971, the Supreme Court again addressed the issues with the role of jurors and their discretion. The defendants argued it was a violation of their 14th Amendment right to due process for jurors to have unrestricted discretion in deciding whether the defendants should live or die. It was also argued that it was unconstitutional to have a sentence determined in one set of deliberations.

The Court stated that guiding capital sentencing discretion was “beyond present human ability. ” Jurors could be disqualified only if prosecutors could show that the juror’s attitude toward capital punishment would prevent him or her from making an impartial decision about the punishment. Many nations abolished or limited capital punishment. The U. S. saw a drop of executions. For instance, in the 1940’s there were 1,289 executions and only 715 in the 1950s. The 1960’s brought controversial about the legality of capital punishment and the 5th, 8th, and 14th amendment.

It was suggested that the death penalty was “Cruel and unusual” punishment, therefore it could be said it was unlawful under the 8th amendment. The numbers continued to fall in the 1960’s o 191 executions. At this time only 42% showed support for the capital punishment. Now that we are familiar with the history of Capital Punishment, why do we continue to use the death penalty? The first argument against capital punishment is, why not just send them to prison? Prison separates criminals from the general population for safety reasons.

Prison is a form of punishment that is expected to rehabilitate its prisoners. Prison is not for people who would never leave alive. Next, we have the cost of prison. Normally, the cost of imprisoning someone for life is much more expensive than executing that person. A person can argue that the cost of appeals in courts can end up being more costly than the cost of imprisonment. Lastly, we have safety. The people who are charged with the death penalty are usually extremely violent individuals. If we imprison these people, we are endangering the lives of prison staff, guards and other prisoners.

In order to be impartial we must look at reasons against capital punishment. The first reason is that taking the life of a criminal does not compensate for the crime committed. Killing someone is wrong, and two wrongs do not make a right. Next, is what if the victim is wrongly convicted? Most recently, we have the case of death row inmate, Joe D’Ambrosio. It was discovered that 10 pieces of evidence was being withheld which would was crucial in proving his innocence. Mr. D’Ambrosio was imprisoned for 20 years. If it weren’t for the crucial evidence, he would have received the death penalty.

Lastly, we have religion. Every person has the right to believe and follow any religion they wish and each religion has contradictory beliefs. For instance, the Bible clear states the death penalty as valid and just, yet at the same time murder is not allowed and salvation must be offered. Since not everyone is of the same religion and each person can even interpret the same religion differently, the role of religion concerning the death penalty is very unclear. Next, we must look at the criminals themselves. What possesses them to commit such crimes?

As social workers, we have the luxury of working in broad field. We can work anywhere from child welfare to probation or parole. Since we work in a broad field with many diverse clients we must educate ourselves in order to fully help our clients. In the case, of criminals on death row, we have to wonder what drove them to that point? I believe it’s very important to look at the criminal’s childhood. We can find many answers to our questions simply by asking questions about any childhood abuse, parenting styles, and family culture. There are several types of child abuse or neglect.

Defining abuse has been historically difficult to define which has lead to inconsistencies in policy therefore an inconsistency in the way abuse is handled. Child abuse can vary depending on the type of abuse that is being presented. Overall, it is the failure to meet the child’s needs that result in zero to little growth in numerous areas. Child abuse may be defined as a state of which the primary caretaker deliberately or by serious inattentiveness allows the child to experience suffering, and failed to provide essential necessities for the development of a person’s intellectual, physical and emotional capacities.

Child abuse may differ from other forms of abuse because it is an act of omission rather a blunt assault but it is the most common type of child maltreatment that goes unreported. (Alderette, P. 2001). The federal law defines child abuse as “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm. ” While that may the definition of child abuse or neglect in the United States of America, other countries may have a slightly different understanding of what is classified as abuse.

The cultural background of the child and their family greatly influences the level of neglect, according to our laws, the child experiences. For instance, according to the coalition for Asian American Children and Families “Asian American parents may not know which child rearing practices are considered abusive or neglectful in the U. S. Many Asian parents may choose to use traditional Asian medicine to treat ailments before seeking treatment from Western clinics or emergency rooms. ” It is nontraditional practices like hese that are dangerous and out dated and are viewed as child neglect in America. Factors like culture are very important to consider and we will look further into this factor along with the previously stated factors. We start by taking a close look at child abuse/neglect. The statistics for child neglect demonstrate the seriousness of this issue. 47% of primary caretakers suffer from substance abuse that can cause neglect. An interesting statistic is that 72% of neglected cases have found that the mother is the most neglectful parent.

Female lone parents and their children are among the most disadvantages. Child Neglect varies from the usual image we view when referring to neglect; however the effect is the same. When we think of child neglect we have a unified image of the parents not paying attention to the child but it’s more from a health aspect. It means the parent has failed to provide basic needs in order for the child to reach full health potential. The child usually seems malnourished, due to neglect that in extreme cases can become fatal. The most common risk factor is Poverty.

A parent cannot provide essential nutrients for an infant if they cannot afford them or if they are not aware of assistance, which can be given at little to no cost. Infants that are born into families that are experiencing social, economic or psychological problems are more at risk for child neglect. The primary caregiver is usually at fault by performing maladaptive behaviors such as in failing to provide routines around feeding. Other conditions may include, depression, alcohol or drug abuse, stress, and lack of affection, which is crucial to infants.

It should also be noted that females tend to be at a higher risk as well as young children (Fitzgerald, G. 2010). When referring to child neglect the most common characteristic is weight gain or abnormal weight for a child in that particular age group. When assessing child neglect it is important to review the child’s family history and gather all medical history of any eating disorders, or health related problems that may be a factor in the diagnosis. A physical examination is also necessary. It should include documentation of any growth, which includes head circumference, and any major or minor changes all around the body.

It is also necessary to monitor the child’s diet to observation his feeding behavior. There are many symptoms that can be useful in diagnosing child abuse: easily fatigued, excessive sleep, avoids eye contact, does not vocalize, irritability, delayed motor development, and lack of appropriate weight gain. Internationally, child neglect is much more common than the United States, because lack of resources. Child neglect is much higher in the United States. In a report from 1980-1989 child neglect accounted for almost 5% of hospital admissions for infants under one year old.

It has also been discovered that 10% of children in primary care show the signs of child neglect Next, we must consider the parents socio economic status. In addition to cultural influences, a child’s socio-economic status may also increase the possibility of abuse or neglect. “Frequently, neglect cases result from the families’ financial situation and lack of resources” (English, 2004). For instance, children of lower economic status are also often sent to school with out lunch. Families with very little money can hardly afford bread and milk let alone provide the balanced diet a child needs to flourish.

Children of low-income families are often severely overweight because their family cannot afford healthy food due to their financial situation. Furthermore children of poverty-stricken families are often left home alone while the parents are at work making what little money they can. The families simply cannot afford proper childcare and the waiting list for subsidized care is lengthy and has much qualification. In an effort to provide care for their children, some parents who cannot afford babysitters take their children to work. This is yet another form of neglect because the workplaces are often filthy and dangerous.

Another influence of child abuse or neglect is the parents’ citizenship status. Immigrant parents often do not have access to government-funded resources or they may hesitate to seek assistance for fear of deportation. Many resources available in the community are not multilingual which causes parents to avoid utilizing such resources. Without these resources, the children are forced to go without. In addition to their fear of the system, immigrant parents may also be more apt to neglect their children due to their lack of relatives.

These families are from another country, anyone they knew is back in their him country, when they don’t have money for childcare they also don’t have any relatives care for the child. Without access to government subsidized childcare, private childcare or relative childcare, the only choice is the leave the child home alone. According to a study performed by the Pediatric Academy of America “Hispanic and Asian adolescents were more likely to report supervision neglect and physical neglect. ” The study was conducted through interviewing 15,197 young adults.

Of the respondents 41. 5% reported supervision neglect through their lifetime, followed by 11. 8% reporting physical neglect. Although neglect is present through all ethnicities, races, and socioeconomic statuses, it seems to more prevalent in those groups who have less knowledge or less access to the system and its resources. Children of low income or minority’s families are more likely to experience neglect. As social workers, we need to make resources more available, universal, and comprehendible. The effects of Child abuse or neglect can be extensive and long term.

There are studies that have shown along with weight and height, children may also show signs of cognitive delay. In a particular study in the American Academy of Family Physicians journals, doctors assessed children at the age of six to determine if they had developmental problems being abused or neglect as children (Fitzgerald, G. 2010). Typically a child at a school age level is learning the alphabet, putting letters together to from words and beginning to read. The study showed the children had a one to two year delay, in reading at a school age level (Fitzgerald, G. 010). The developmental rate of speech varies with every child and is also related to cognitive development. Typically school age children are able to use simple, structurally complete sentences that average six to eight words, describe pictures, and have a vocabulary consisting of about twenty one hundred (Hockenberry, Marilyn J. 2005). Atypical signs of language include a lack of ability to use language and communicate. School aged children are identified as “showing signs of regressions in language” (English, 2004).

The effects of cognitive development in neglected school aged children can be related to the significant number of them, having “school related problems in ability and in academic achievement (Horton,C. , ; Cruise, T. 2001). Neglect has a great impact on the typical development in children, which may be short term, long term or even chronic. “Recent research has begun to explore other biological effects” of these children that include, “brain structures, hormone types and levels, growth patterns, and also pain threshold” (English, 2004).

Some studies are also being geared towards neglect or maltreatment possibly being risk factors for physiologically complications that lead to disorders such as (English, 2004). The developmental effect of neglect on a child biologically has a lot with the onset of the abuse. The outcome for children who experience neglect at a younger age are more likely to have more developmental challenges than that of those who where older having had an opportunity to accomplish developmental milestones (English, 2004). It is important to consider other factors such the onset, length, duration, and the age when the neglect was identified.

Whether it’s socioeconomic status, cultural, age, or race, all of these factors help in the contribution of child abuse and neglect. Depending at what age the abuse or neglect take place, the effects can be long term and effect development. All of these aspects can be used to provide reasons for crimes committed by those on death row. Development in children is crucial, and child abuse can deter that developmental and cause long-term mental ; biological effects. Michael Selsor, is a great example of a death row inmate with a bad childhood. Mr. Selsor was sentenced to death and executed in 2010.

During an interview, Mr. Selsor stated that he had a rough childhood. He was extremely disadvantaged and although he has come to peace with his parents providing a bad childhood, the effects still linger (Rushing, 2012). It is important to understand that child abuse or neglect can have that mental or health long-term effect. The child usually becomes malnourished, due to neglect that in extreme cases can become fatal or cause those long-term effects that lead to bad decision-making and in Michael Selsor’s case, murder and eventually his own death through capital punishment.

Currently in the United States Of America, there have been 1121 lethal injection executions, 157 electrocution executions, 11 gas chamber executions, 3 hangings, and 3 by firing squad, since 1976. 43% of those criminals were white, 42% were black, 12% were Hispanic, and 3% were other (lucas, 2012). These numbers are obviously down from past surveys of capital punishment because people have fought to limit the death penalty to only severe crimes. In the social work world, we are often asked to not have any judgment or bias because it will only impede the effectiveness of our help.

Being in impartial, in the case of capital punishment can be difficult. As social workers, it is our goal to help people change and better themselves. We can’t help someone if the death penalty exists, but then again, most people on death row are beyond help. Many of them do not want to change and if a person decides that they don’t want help, then it’s useless to even try. After looking at the effects of child abuse and neglect, the clear solution would be to educate parents and attempt to assist in providing a better childhood.

However, there will always be people who are just bad, even with a good childhood. All of these questions and possibilities, outcomes, and many aspects are what make capital punishment such a provocative topic. Whether, it’s the cost or the religious aspect, it will always remain controversial topic.


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