Chris Mallett, Ph.D., J.D., LISW
Socio-Historical Analysis of Juvenile Offenders, Criminal Law Bulletin (2003), 39(4), 455-468
Socio-Historical Analysis of Juvenile Offenders on Death Row
Christopher A. Mallett, Ph.D., J.D., LISW
Cleveland State University
2121 Euclid Avenue, CB #324
This paper reviews all current eighty death row inmates who were sixteen and seventeen at the time of capital
offense commission, focusing on their socio-historical backgrounds, searching for common themes among these
Socio-historical factors include poverty, mental health/psychiatric disorders, abuse/neglect, family
dysfunction, organic brain damage, drug and/or alcohol addictions, school failure/MRDD, and child
welfare/juvenile justice involvement.
Records were obtained through all available resources including published
reports, court and trial documents, current and past defense attorneys, advocacy groups, and the inmates/families
The paper’s first thesis is that these youth “never had a chance” because of their socio-historical
The paper’s second thesis is that the systems designed to support at-risk youth (family,
education, mental health, juvenile justice, and child welfare) failed for these juveniles.
Executing these juvenile
offenders is against their legal rights because jury trials are not presented this mitigating evidence of their
childhood and adolescent socio-historical backgrounds.
This study finds systemic incompetence of counsel.
These juvenile offenders’ legal rights are not upheld within the current death penalty system.
The death penalty
should be abolished for sixteen and seventeen year-old offenders.
The childhood and adolescent experiences of juvenile offenders currently on death
row were extremely difficult.
Severe abuse and neglect, impoverished backgrounds,
psychiatric disorders, disorganized family structures, substance abuse addictions, mental
retardation, significant school failure rates, and brain damage mark these offenders’ histories.
These adolescents received little support in avoiding their ultimate death row sentence, even
with significant involvement in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.
Socio-historical background information must be presented at the mitigation phase of
a death penalty case.
Sentencing juries too often have not considered and/or been offered the