Juvenile transfers to adult court: A lingering outcome of the super-predator craze


By John Kelly, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

Twenty years ago, in a speech at Keene State College in New Hampshire, then-First Lady Hillary Clinton made a comment about juvenile crime. Discussing the need for a top-level fight against gangs that harkened the mob-busting of previous decades, Clinton told reporters that “they are not just gangs of kids anymore.”

“They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators,’ ” Clinton continued. “No conscience, no empathy; we can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

The term super-predator was coined by author John DiIulio in a book that foresaw an America done in by child armies. From “Moral Poverty – and How to Win America’s War Against Crime and Drugs”:

“America is now home to thickening ranks of juvenile ‘super-predators’ – radically impulsive, brutally remorseless youngsters, including ever more pre-teenage boys, who murder, assault, rape, rob, burglarize, deal deadly drugs, join gun-toting gangs and create serious communal disorders. They do not fear the stigma of arrest, the pains of imprisonment or the pangs of conscience … At core the problem is that most inner-city children grow up surrounded by teenagers and adults who are themselves deviant, delinquent and criminal.”

DiIulio’s prose was based largely on the predictions of researcher James Alan Fox, who had forecasted a “bloodbath of teenage violence” coming in the 1990s and beyond.

None of the super-predator/bloodbath stuff turned out to be true, of course. Juvenile crime, and specifically violent crime, plummeted in the United States after the racially tinged prognostications of the time.

DiIulio, who would go on to lead the newly established Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives for George W. Bush, had publicly disavowed the super-predator comment by 2001. Fox pretty much immediately backed off his comments, conceding in a 1996 USA Todaycolumn that “I never meant there would be a blood bath. Some of it was part of getting people’s attention.”

Clinton was publicly mum on the topic for 20 years until this year’s presidential primaries, when a young protestor disrupted a fundraiser to challenge on the subject. Clinton responded in a statement to The Washington Post the next day:

“Looking back, I shouldn’t have used those words, and I wouldn’t use them today. My life’s work has been about lifting up children and young people who’ve been let down by the system or by society, kids who never got the chance they deserved. And unfortunately today, there are way too many of those kids, especially in African-American communities. We haven’t done right by them. We need to.”

In the years since the super-predator forecast, some of the harshest punishments handed down to juveniles have been rolled back. Since 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court has separately ruled the following things to be unconstitutional:

  • Death penalty for juveniles.
  • Juveniles getting life without parole for any crime other than a homicide.
  • Juveniles automatically getting life without parole under any state sentencing guideline.

In addition, several states have reconsidered their age of jurisdiction. Massachusetts and Illinois no longer consider 17-year-olds to be adults in the eyes of the law; Connecticut used to consider 16- and 17-year-olds to be adults.

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Kids and drugs: A new theory

By Karen Savage
NEW YORK — Author and reporter Maia Szalavitz, who writes about substance use and related issues recently spoke with Youth Today and JJIE about her experience and her newest book: “Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction,” released in April. Here’s Szalavitz’s take on addiction and its complexities, from her own experience and in her own words.

A sin or a learning disorder?

There’s traditionally been two ways of seeing addiction. Either it’s a sin and you’re a horrible bad person and you are just choosing to be a hedonist, or it’s a chronic progressive disease. While I certainly believe addiction is a medical problem that should be dealt with by the health system, the way we’ve conceptualized addiction as a disease is not actually accurate. Continue reading

Best-selling memoir “Hillbilly Elegy” tells an inspiring story of overcoming ACEs


In search of insight into the country’s stark cultural divides in preparation for a week of potentially difficult conversations in Kentucky where I’d be attending family reunion and 50-year high school reunion, I dove into “Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance. Throughout this mesmerizing, painful, and hilarious memoir, I kept wondering if the author might know about the ACE Study. The answer was found on page 226 when “ACEs” jumps out at me and continues for several pages. I leapt from the living room sofa and darted to the kitchen to tell my fiancé Bill about it—and practically jump for joy.

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Assisting refugees: Lessons on trauma and resilience


Lao wedding in the U.S.

Making do with what you’ve got

 There are a lot of stories about refugees in the news. Some years ago, I helped resettle refugees from the Vietnam War. Trauma and resilience define what it means to be a refugee. All of them had lived through years of warfare. They had seen friends and family members killed. They had to flee the familiar towns and villages they had lived in all their lives. They arrived in a new country with hardly any resources, in a land where nobody spoke their language or understood their customs. Could you do that?

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8 ways people recover from post childhood adversity syndrome


Cutting-edge research tells us that experiencing childhood emotional trauma can play a large role in whether we develop physical disease in adulthood. In Part 1 of this series we looked at the growing scientific link between childhood adversity and adult physical disease. This research tells us that what doesn’t kill you doesn’t necessarily make you stronger; far more often, the opposite is true.

Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—which include emotional or physical neglect; verbal humiliation; growing up with a family member who is addicted to alcohol or some other other substance, or who is depressed or has other mental illness; and parental abandonment, divorce, or loss — can harm developing brains, predisposing them to autoimmune disease, heart disease, cancer, depression, and a number of other chronic conditions, decades after the trauma took place.

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Trauma-informed Uber?


By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleOfSocialChange.org

As Los Angeles County mulls the idea of using ride-sharing services to escort foster youth to visitations with biological parents, some child-welfare experts wonder how such a service would be able to grapple with children with significant experiences of trauma and loss.

Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors members Sheila Kuehl and Mike Antonovich submitted a motion last week calling for improved family visitation, including the idea of exploring whether ride-sharing companies like Uber, Lyft or HopSkipDrive could transport children and family members to important family visits.

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We need to understand how to provide trauma-informed care



Beverly Tobiason, clinical director, Pima County (AZ) Juvenile Court Center

By Beverly Tobiason

The philosophy of trauma-informed care is becoming more and more embedded in the philosophies and practices of child-serving agencies.

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