In 2005, the death penalty for juvenile offenders was abolished in the USA by a Supreme Court ruling. The table below shows the minimum age at which the the death penalty could be applied to juveniles prior to the ruling. In states not included in the list the minimum age was 18 years.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice — Capital Punishment, 2005 (table 3):
Executions of child offenders since 1990.
The chart below shows executions of child offenders throughout the world between 1990-2005 as recorded by Amnesty International.
Any person sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) is condemned to die in prison. In 2007, the USA and Israel were the only two countries in the world known to have juvenile offenders serving life without parole. In February 2008, the Center For Law and Global Justice at the University of San Francisco confirmed with Israeli officials that juvenile offenders serving life sentences are now entitled to parole reviews. No known cases exist in the eight other countries which have not officially declared LWOP unlawful. That leaves the United States, with more than two thousand such cases, as the only country in the world known to either issue the sentence or to have juvenile offenders serving LWOP. You can download the University of San Francisco’s report as a PDF document: http://www.usfca.edu/law/docs/sentencing_our_children
Update: On June 25, 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a mandatory sentence
of juvenile life without parole is unconstitutional. The decision does not prohibit life-without-parole sentences for juveniles, but it prohibits states from making them automatic, as the court noted that 28 states have done. (Boston Globe news story)
United States government data on child maltreatment deaths
The U.S. government keeps statistics on child abuse in America. Each year, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), within the department of Health and Human Services, publishes a report. The most recent figures cover the period 2005-2006. A breakdown of maltreatement deaths – State by State – is available here:
On average, there were 2.04 deaths per 100,000 children in 2006. The map shows the 16 States with more than the average number of maltreatment deaths. Texas had the highest fatality rate at 3.96 per 100,000. Ten of the States are in the Bible Belt — an informal term for American States where socially conservative Evangelical Protestantism is a dominant part of the culture, an area covering the Southern States and Missouri.
Update – Data for 2007.
At the beginning of April 2009 the Administration for Children and Families released its report for 2007. Child maltreatment deaths had increased to 2.35 per 100,000 children, on average. Once again, there were 16 States with more than the average number of maltreatment deaths. Colorado had the average number, but the rate in Mississippi had increased, resulting in 11 Bible Belt States with more than the average number of maltreatment deaths. The rankings had changed. Kentucky had the highest fatality rate at 4.08 per 100,000 children. You can see the latest figures here:
The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre publishes reports analyzing the performance of the wealthy nations of the OECD in meeting the needs of their children. Report Card No.5, “A league table of child maltreatment deaths in rich nations”, revealed that only two member nations exceeded 2 maltreatment deaths per 100,000 children: The United States of America and Mexico.
Figure 1a in the report shows the annual number of deaths from mistreatment of children under the age of 15 years averaged over a five year period and expressed per 100,000 children in the age group. The USA and Mexico were bottom of the league.
Figure 1b combined data for deaths from ‘purposely inflicted’ violence with deaths classified as ‘of undetermined intent’. The rankings changed somewhat as a result. At 3.7 per 100,000 Portugal had the highest combined figure. Once again, of the remainder, only the United States of America and Mexico exceeded 2 child deaths per 100,000.