Document Type



Political Science


At the turn of the 20th century, the United States was widely considered to be a world leader in matters of child protection and welfare, a reputation lost by the century’s end. This paper suggests that the United States’ loss of international esteem concerning child welfare was directly related to its practice of executing juvenile offenders. The paper analyzes why the United States continued to carry out the juvenile death penalty after the establishment of juvenile courts and other protections for child criminals. Two factors allowed the United States to continue the juvenile death penalty after most states in the international system had ended the practice: the politics of American federalism and a system of racial subordination that excluded some juvenile offenders from the umbrella of child protection measures, a conclusion suggesting that racial prejudice has interfered with U.S. compliance with international norms of child welfare and juvenile justice.