CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Sun Apr 24, 2016 11:57 pm

American Slavery, Reinvented: The Thirteenth Amendment forbade slavery and involuntary servitude, “except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.”
by Whitney Benns
September 21, 2015

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Image

Crops stretch to the horizon. Black bodies pepper the landscape, hunched over as they work the fields. Officers on horseback, armed, oversee the workers.

To the untrained eye, the scenes in Angola for Life: Rehabilitation and Reform Inside the Louisiana State Penitentiary, an Atlantic documentary filmed on an old Southern slave-plantation-turned-prison, could have been shot 150 years ago. The imagery haunts, and the stench of slavery and racial oppression lingers through the 13 minutes of footage.

The film tells two overlapping stories: One is of accomplishment against incredible odds, of a man who stepped into the most violent maximum-security prison in the nation and gave the men there—discarded and damned—what society didn’t: hope, education, and a moral compass. Burl Cain, the warden of Angola Prison, which is in Louisiana, has created a controversial model for rehabilitation. Through work and religion, they learn to help each other, and try to become better fathers to their children on the outside. Perhaps the lucky few even find redemption.

But there is a second storyline running alongside the first, which raises disquieting questions about how America treats those on the inside as less than fully human. Those troubling opening scenes of the documentary offer visual proof of a truth that America has worked hard to ignore: In a sense, slavery never ended at Angola; it was reinvented.

* * *

Some viewers of the video might be surprised to learn that inmates at Angola, once cleared by the prison doctor, can be forced to work under threat of punishment as severe as solitary confinement. Legally, this labor may be totally uncompensated; more typically inmates are paid meagerly—as little as two cents per hour—for their full-time work in the fields, manufacturing warehouses, or kitchens. How is this legal? Didn’t the Thirteenth Amendment abolish all forms of slavery and involuntary servitude in this country?

Not quite. In the shining promise of freedom that was the Thirteenth Amendment, a sharp exception was carved out. Section 1 of the Amendment provides: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Simply put: Incarcerated persons have no constitutional rights in this arena; they can be forced to work as punishment for their crimes.

Convict leasing was cheaper than slavery, since farm owners and companies did not have to worry about the health of their workers.


Angola’s farm operations and other similar prison industries have ancestral roots in the black chattel slavery of the South. Specifically, the proliferation of prison labor camps grew during the Reconstruction era following the Civil War, a time when southern states established large prisons throughout the region that they quickly filled, primarily with black men. Many of these prisons had very recently been slave plantations, Angola and Mississippi State Penitentiary (known as Parchman Farm) among them. Other prisons began convict-leasing programs, where, for a leasing fee, the state would lease out the labor of incarcerated workers as hired work crews. Convict leasing was cheaper than slavery, since farm owners and companies did not have to worry at all about the health of their workers.


In this new era of prison industry, the criminal “justice” system, the state determined the size of the worker pool. Scores of recently freed slaves and their descendants now labored to generate revenue for the state under a Jim Crow regime.

* * *

More than a century later, our prison labor system has only grown. We now incarcerate more than 2.2 million people, with the largest prison population in the world, and the second highest incarceration rate per capita. Our prison populations remain racially skewed. With few exceptions, inmates are required to work if cleared by medical professionals at the prison. Punishments for refusing to do so include solitary confinement, loss of earned good time, and revocation of family visitation. For this forced labor, prisoners earn pennies per hour, if anything at all.

Angola is not the exception; it is the rule.

Over the decades, prison labor has expanded in scope and reach. Incarcerated workers, laboring within in-house operations or through convict-leasing partnerships with for-profit businesses, have been involved with mining, agriculture, and all manner of manufacturing from making military weapons to sewing garments for Victoria’s Secret. Prison programs extend into the services sector; some incarcerated workers staff call centers.

Given the scope and scale of prison labor in the modern era, one could reasonably expect some degree of compliance with modern labor standards. However, despite the hard-won protections secured by the labor movement over the past 100 years, incarcerated workers do not enjoy most of these protections.

Employment law makes the status of the worker as an “employee” a critical distinction. If you are an employee, you get protections; if not, you don’t. Courts look to the character of the relationship between the parties and aim to assess, first, whether the employer has sufficient control over the work conditions and, second, whether the relationship is primarily of an economic character.

Incarcerated workers are not expressly excluded from the definition of employee in workers’ protection statutes like the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or the National Labor Relations Act. However, in the cases where incarcerated workers have sued their prison-employers to enforce minimum wage laws or the FLSA, courts have ruled that the relationship between the penitentiary and the inmate worker is not primarily economic; thus, the worker is not protected under the statutes. By judging the relationship between prisons and incarcerated workers to be of a primarily social or penological nature, the courts have placed wage and working condition protections out of reach for incarcerated workers.

Incarcerated persons or, more specifically, the “duly convicted,” lack a constitutional right to be free of forced servitude. Further, this forced labor is not checked by many of the protections enjoyed by workers laboring in the exact same jobs on the other side of the 20-foot barbed-wire electric fence.

* * *

Angola for Life raises questions about the potential rehabilitative nature of prison labor. Work, warden Cain posits, is an important part of the rehabilitative process. Prison labor provides a way to pay society back for the costs of incarceration, as well as a pathway to correct deviant behavior and possibly find personal redemption.

Meaningful work helps cultivate self-esteem, self worth, and the sense that one’s existence on this Earth matters. Yet, while some form of work for the incarcerated may be important, the current form is troubling. These workers are vulnerable to the kind of workplace exploitation that America has otherwise deemed inhumane.

Another justification for compulsory prison labor comes from a fairness concern. Why should prisoners sit with idle hands when the rest of us must work to put a roof over our heads and food in our bellies? Perhaps the low-to-no wages paid to incarcerated workers are a form of pay garnishment, a sort of compensation for the costs of room and board?

Yet those costs are not fairly calculated. The American criminal-justice system is rife with fees that shift the financial burden of incarceration to the charged and convicted and their families. Like the “company store” in isolated mining towns which overcharged workers of old, prisoners are left open to similar forms of exploitation.

Finally, some would argue that regardless of its harsh nature, prison labor is simply a matter of just deserts. Don’t workers behind bars deserve less than equal treatment? After all, they are murderers, criminals, all manner of sinners and deviants. The appeal of this argument lies in its simplicity: People who do not behave like decent human beings do not merit being treated like decent human beings.

There is much to say of the inadequacy of this sort of eye-for-an-eye philosophy and the importance of resisting such a reflex in the realm of state action and public policy. As Ta-Nehisi Coates described in his Atlantic cover story, a series of risk factors—including mental illness, illiteracy, poverty, and drug addiction—drastically increase the chance that one will end up among the incarcerated. By one report’s measure, more than half of the inmates in jails and prisons in the United States are suffering from mental illness of some kind. These risk factors are social-welfare and public-health issues. America makes the choice to respond to these outcomes with the penal system, but there are other ways.

There is one further reason to be concerned about the system of prison labor. A brief moment of dialogue in the first few minutes of the video between the inmate driving a buggy and the Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg hints at this:

Elderly Inmate: I got locked up July 25, 1981.

Reporter: What was the charge?

Elderly Inmate: Second-degree murder.

Reporter: Did you do it?

Elderly Inmate: Nah.

Reporter: But you’re here.

Elderly Inmate: I’m here.


Maybe we believe him. Likely we don’t. Whether we believe this particular inmate or not, ample experience and research point us to an uncomfortable reality: There are innocent men at Angola. We don’t know which they are, but we do know they are there, and they are disproportionately likely to be black. In American criminal justice, “duly convicted” doesn’t always mean what we wish it to.

* * *

Individual stories are compelling. For the slave toiling in the antebellum south, a kindly master was a godsend. Burl Cain may be the very best that the inmates of Angola prison could hope for, a rare thoughtful, kindly, creative sort of warden. He is almost certainly a man trying to do the best he can for a population damned and forgotten by society with the resources he has available.

But individual narratives are not enough. When we focus on the individual, it’s easy to miss the context. The context here is undeniable, and it is made clear by the very first frames of Angola for Life.

As the camera zooms out and pans over fields of black bodies bent in work and surveyed by a guard, the picture that emerges is one of slavery. It is one of a “justice” system riddled with racial oppression. It is one of private business taking advantage of these disenfranchised, vulnerable workers. It is one of an entire caste of men relegated, as they have long been relegated, to labor for free, condemned to sow in perpetuity so that others might reap.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Mon Apr 25, 2016 12:01 am

The Prison Industry in the United States: Big Business or a New Form of Slavery?
by Vicky Pelaez
Global Research
March 31, 2014

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Human rights organizations, as well as political and social ones, are condemning what they are calling a new form of inhumane exploitation in the United States, where they say a prison population of up to 2 million -– mostly Black and Hispanic -– are working for various industries for a pittance. For the tycoons who have invested in the prison industry, it has been like finding a pot of gold. They don’t have to worry about strikes or paying unemployment insurance, vacations or comp time. All of their workers are full-time, and never arrive late or are absent because of family problems; moreover, if they don’t like the pay of 25 cents an hour and refuse to work, they are locked up in isolation cells.

There are approximately 2 million inmates in state, federal and private prisons throughout the country. According to California Prison Focus, “no other society in human history has imprisoned so many of its own citizens.”

The figures show that the United States has locked up more people than any other country: a half million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Statistics reveal that the United States holds 25% of the world’s prison population, but only 5% of the world’s people. From less than 300,000 inmates in 1972, the jail population grew to 2 million by the year 2000. In 1990 it was one million. Ten years ago there were only five private prisons in the country, with a population of 2,000 inmates; now, there are 100, with 62,000 inmates. It is expected that by the coming decade, the number will hit 360,000, according to reports.

What has happened over the last 10 years? Why are there so many prisoners?

“The private contracting of prisoners for work fosters incentives to lock people up. Prisons depend on this income. Corporate stockholders who make money off prisoners’ work lobby for longer sentences, in order to expand their workforce. The system feeds itself,” says a study by the Progressive Labor Party, which accuses the prison industry of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany with respect to forced slave labor and concentration camps.”

The prison industry complex is one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States and its investors are on Wall Street. “This multimillion-dollar industry has its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs. It also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cells in a large variety of colors.”

CRIME GOES DOWN, JAIL POPULATION GOES UP

According to reports by human rights organizations, these are the factors that increase the profit potential for those who invest in the prison industry complex:

Jailing persons convicted of non-violent crimes, and long prison sentences for possession of microscopic quantities of illegal drugs. Federal law stipulates five years’ imprisonment without possibility of parole for possession of 5 grams of crack or 3.5 ounces of heroin, and 10 years for possession of less than 2 ounces of rock-cocaine or crack. A sentence of 5 years for cocaine powder requires possession of 500 grams -– 100 times more than the quantity of rock cocaine for the same sentence. Most of those who use cocaine powder are white, middle-class or rich people, while mostly Blacks and Latinos use rock cocaine. In Texas, a person may be sentenced for up to two years’ imprisonment for possessing 4 ounces of marijuana. Here in New York, the 1973 Nelson Rockefeller anti-drug law provides for a mandatory prison sentence of 15 years to life for possession of 4 ounces of any illegal drug.

The passage in 13 states of the “three strikes” laws (life in prison after being convicted of three felonies), made it necessary to build 20 new federal prisons. One of the most disturbing cases resulting from this measure was that of a prisoner who for stealing a car and two bicycles received three 25-year sentences.

Longer sentences.

The passage of laws that require minimum sentencing, without regard for circumstances.

A large expansion of work by prisoners creating profits that motivate the incarceration of more people for longer periods of time.

More punishment of prisoners, so as to lengthen their sentences.


HISTORY OF PRISON LABOR IN THE UNITED STATES

Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of “hiring out prisoners” was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery -– which were almost never proven -– and were then “hired out” for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of “hired-out” miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.

During the post-Civil War period, Jim Crow racial segregation laws were imposed on every state, with legal segregation in schools, housing, marriages and many other aspects of daily life. “Today, a new set of markedly racist laws is imposing slave labor and sweatshops on the criminal justice system, now known as the prison industry complex,” comments the Left Business Observer.

Who is investing?

At least 37 states have legalized the contracting of prison labor by private corporations that mount their operations inside state prisons. The list of such companies contains the cream of U.S. corporate society: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. All of these businesses are excited about the economic boom generation by prison labor. Just between 1980 and 1994, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Inmates in state penitentiaries generally receive the minimum wage for their work, but not all; in Colorado, they get about $2 per hour, well under the minimum.

And in privately-run prisons, they receive as little as 17 cents per hour for a maximum of six hours a day, the equivalent of $20 per month. The highest-paying private prison is CCA in Tennessee, where prisoners receive 50 cents per hour for what they call “highly skilled positions.” At those rates, it is no surprise that inmates find the pay in federal prisons to be very generous. There, they can earn $1.25 an hour and work eight hours a day, and sometimes overtime. They can send home $200-$300 per month.


Thanks to prison labor, the United States is once again an attractive location for investment in work that was designed for Third World labor markets. A company that operated a maquiladora (assembly plant in Mexico near the border) closed down its operations there and relocated to San Quentin State Prison in California. In Texas, a factory fired its 150 workers and contracted the services of prisoner-workers from the private Lockhart Texas prison, where circuit boards are assembled for companies like IBM and Compaq.

[Former] Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix recently urged Nike to cut its production in Indonesia and bring it to his state, telling the shoe manufacturer that “there won’t be any transportation costs; we’re offering you competitive prison labor (here).


PRIVATE PRISONS

The prison privatization boom began in the 1980s, under the governments of Ronald Reagan and Bush Sr., but reached its height in 1990 under William Clinton, when Wall Street stocks were selling like hotcakes. Clinton’s program for cutting the federal workforce resulted in the Justice Departments contracting of private prison corporations for the incarceration of undocumented workers and high-security inmates.

Private prisons are the biggest business in the prison industry complex. About 18 corporations guard 10,000 prisoners in 27 states. The two largest are Correctional Corporation of America (CCA) and Wackenhut, which together control 75%. Private prisons receive a guaranteed amount of money for each prisoner, independent of what it costs to maintain each one. According to Russell Boraas, a private prison administrator in Virginia, “the secret to low operating costs is having a minimal number of guards for the maximum number of prisoners.” The CCA has an ultra-modern prison in Lawrenceville, Virginia, where five guards on dayshift and two at night watch over 750 prisoners. In these prisons, inmates may get their sentences reduced for “good behavior,” but for any infraction, they get 30 days added -– which means more profits for CCA. According to a study of New Mexico prisons, it was found that CCA inmates lost “good behavior time” at a rate eight times higher than those in state prisons.

IMPORTING AND EXPORTING INMATES

Profits are so good that now there is a new business: importing inmates with long sentences, meaning the worst criminals. When a federal judge ruled that overcrowding in Texas prisons was cruel and unusual punishment, the CCA signed contracts with sheriffs in poor counties to build and run new jails and share the profits. According to a December 1998 Atlantic Monthly magazine article, this program was backed by investors from Merrill-Lynch, Shearson-Lehman, American Express and Allstate, and the operation was scattered all over rural Texas. That state’s governor, Ann Richards, followed the example of Mario Cuomo in New York and built so many state prisons that the market became flooded, cutting into private prison profits.

After a law signed by Clinton in 1996 –- ending court supervision and decisions -– caused overcrowding and violent, unsafe conditions in federal prisons, private prison corporations in Texas began to contact other states whose prisons were overcrowded, offering “rent-a-cell” services in the CCA prisons located in small towns in Texas. The commission for a rent-a-cell salesman is $2.50 to $5.50 per day per bed. The county gets $1.50 for each prisoner.

STATISTICS

Ninety-seven percent of 125,000 federal inmates have been convicted of non-violent crimes. It is believed that more than half of the 623,000 inmates in municipal or county jails are innocent of the crimes they are accused of. Of these, the majority are awaiting trial. Two-thirds of the one million state prisoners have committed non-violent offenses. Sixteen percent of the country’s 2 million prisoners suffer from mental illness.

The original source of this article is El Diario-La Prensa, New York and Global Research
Copyright © Vicky Pelaez, El Diario-La Prensa, New York and Global Research, 2014
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Mon Apr 25, 2016 12:07 am

The Massive Prison Industry In The United States: Big Business & Slavery
by Arjun Walia
December 20, 2015

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Despite the fact that various social, political, and human rights organizations have condemned the United States’ prison system, it remains one of the biggest businesses in existence today. Did you know that America has four percent of the world’s population, yet still carries approximately twenty five percent of the world’s prison population? That is a staggering number. America has the highest incarceration rate in the world and it is increasing exponentially each year. Almost half of American juveniles will have been arrested before they reach their 23rd birthday, and children as young as 13 years old have been sentenced to die in prison. The cost of this system? Approximately $75,000,000,000 a year…

These are just a few startling statistics outlined in the video below. Check it out.



Big Business or Slavery? The Massive Incarceration Industry

One thing we may not realize about prison is the fact that millions of people within America’s prison populations, predominantly Black and Hispanic, are working for several different industries in exchange for practically nothing. Is this not another form of slavery? Like the cheap labour and child slave labor practices we condemn overseas, the American prison system is simply another form of slavery — to the benefit of corporations, at almost no cost — that has been disguised as a necessary and favourable part of society. Prison is a gold mine of human capital for massive corporations whose unethical business practices are leading to the destruction of our planet, and whose unmitigated influence in the political sphere has given them nearly free reign to dictate government policy.

The truth is, there is a massive contracting of prisoners for work happening right now, and this only provides more incentive to lock people up. This is the income that prisons depend upon, and the prison industry is actually one of the fastest-growing industries in the United States. Its investors are on Wall Street.

“Prison labor based in private prisons is a multimillion-dollar industry with its own trade exhibitions, conventions, websites, and mail-order/Internet catalogs (Pelaez 2008). . . . The industry also has direct advertising campaigns, architecture companies, construction companies, investment houses on Wall Street, plumbing supply companies, food supply companies, armed security, and padded cell manufacturing, all of which rival those of any other private industry (Pelaez 2008). Furthermore, private prisoners at the state level produce a variety of goods and services, from clothing to toys to telemarketing and customer service (Erlich 2005). The private federal prison industry also produces nearly all military goods, from uniform helmet to ammunition, along with durable goods ranging from paint to office furniture (Pelaez 2008).” (source)

Did you know that corporate stockholders who make money off of prison labor lobby for longer sentences? They do this to expand their workforce, and so, according to a study done by the Progressive Labor Party, “the system feeds itself.” They accuse the prison system of being “an imitation of Nazi Germany” with regards to forced slave labor and concentration camps.

If we look at the history of prison labour in the United States, it becomes immediately apparent that the entire system is birthed out of racism. After the civil wars of the mid to late 18th century, the system of hiring prisoners was established in order to continue the slavery that had dominated previous years. This was, of course, a time when racial segregation was legal across the United States.

“Prison labor has its roots in slavery. After the 1861-1865 Civil War, a system of ‘hiring out prisoners’ was introduced in order to continue the slavery tradition. Freed slaves were charged with not carrying out their sharecropping commitments (cultivating someone else’s land in exchange for part of the harvest) or petty thievery – which were almost never proven – and were then ‘hired out’ for cotton picking, working in mines and building railroads. From 1870 until 1910 in the state of Georgia, 88% of hired-out convicts were Black. In Alabama, 93% of ‘hired-out’miners were Black. In Mississippi, a huge prison farm similar to the old slave plantations replaced the system of hiring out convicts. The notorious Parchman plantation existed until 1972.” (source)

Vicky Pelaez, a Peruvian journalist and columnist for The Moscow News, points out that dozens of states have legalized the contracting of prison labor to corporations, which include such names as: IMB, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Dell, and many more. Some of these inmates are getting approximately $2 a hour. She also outlines how inmates are commonly imported and exported.

Below is a clip taken from the THRIVE movement of an interview with Van Jones, who brings up some important points.



Prisons Do Not ‘Rehabilitate’ People

Again, prison is a business, and given the horrible conditions, poor food, and various other human rights abuses prisoners face, it’s quite clear that something needs to change here.

First of all, if you want to ‘rehabilitate’ and help somebody, locking them up for hours every single day for large portions of their life is, as I am sure most of you reading this would agree, not a solution.

Prison does not address why people are committing these crimes and it certainly does not do anything to help them deal with those issues. Moreover, the punishments rarely fit the crimes; prison sentences are often disproportionately long in relation to the crime being addressed. We are not acknowledging or dealing with the fact that governments have brought drugs into their countries and glorified crime in order to drive up the prison population. There are a number of factors that go into the business of prison, and helping people better themselves as human beings is not one of them.

There are children and men in there who have been locked up for more than a decade… for stealing. Is that really rehabilitation? Solitary confinement, commonly used in prison, is a form of punishment that is regarded as torture (and should be). The Center For Constitutional Rights states:

Researchers have demonstrated that prolonged solitary confinement causes a persistent and heightened state of anxiety and nervousness, headaches, insomnia, lethargy or chronic tiredness, nightmares, heart palpitations, fear of impending nervous breakdowns and higher rates of hypertension and early morbidity. Other documented effects include obsessive ruminations, confused thought processes, an oversensitivity to stimuli, irrational anger, social withdrawal, hallucinations, violent fantasies, emotional flatness, mood swings, chronic depression, feelings of overall deterioration, as well as suicidal ideation. (source)

As the first video in this article outlines, sure, measures have to be taken against certain individuals to keep others safe, but what is happening here is not a solution.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Mon Apr 25, 2016 12:14 am

Shocking Facts About America's For-Profit Prison Industry
by Beth Buczynski
06 February 2014

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As long as their have been human societies, there have been criminals. Despite the best efforts of lawmakers and religions, humans can’t be trusted to do the right thing, even when we’re aware of the consequences. The prison system used to be a last resort, a place you sent people when other forms of punishment were ineffective. Now it’s grown into something much darker, and even less rehabilitative.

Unbeknownst to many, the prison system has become a for-profit business in which inmates are the product–a system that has shocking similarities to another human-based business from America’s past: slavery.

In late 2013, a new report from In the Public Interest (ITPI) revealed that private prison companies are striking deals with states that contain clauses guaranteeing high prison occupancy rates–sometimes 100 percent. This means that states agree to supply prison corporations with a steady flow of residents–whether or not that level of criminal activity exists. Some experts believe this relationship between government and private prison corporations encourages law enforcement agencies to use underhanded tactics–often targeting minority and underserved groups–to fill cells.

“The report, ‘Criminal: How Lockup Quotas and ‘Low-Crime Taxes’ Guarantee Profits for Private Prison Corporations,’ documents the contracts exchanged between private prison companies and state and local governments that either guarantee prison occupancy rates (essentially creating inmate lockup quotas) or force taxpayers to pay for empty beds if the prison population decreases due to lower crime rates or other factors (essentially creating low-crime taxes),” reports Salon.

As a result, there are now over 2 million people living behind bars in the United States. That’s half a million more than China, which has a population five times greater than the U.S. Many are incarcerated for non-violent crimes, like the use or possession of marijuana, and other problems that would be far better served through a rehabilitation or education program.

The worst part is that once captured by the prison industry, inmates are forced to work for pennies an hour, providing cheap labor for some of the most profitable enterprises in the world, including the U.S. Military.

According to the Left Business Observer, “the federal prison industry produces 100 percent of all military helmets, ammunition belts, bullet-proof vests, ID tags, shirts, pants, tents, bags, and canteens. Along with war supplies, prison workers supply 98 percent of the entire market for equipment assembly services; 93 percent of paints and paintbrushes; 92 percent of stove assembly; 46 percent of body armor; 36 percent of home appliances; 30 percent of headphones/microphones/speakers; and 21 percent of office furniture. Airplane parts, medical supplies, and much more: prisoners are even raising seeing-eye dogs for blind people.”

When you can get that kind of labor for less than a dollar a day, it’s hard to see the government’s motivation for incarcerating fewer people. And it’s all done at the taxpayer’s expense.

Scroll through the infographic below for more shocking facts about America‘s prison industry, and how much it‘s costing taxpayers like you.

Image

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.

BETH BUCZYNSKI

Beth is a freelance writer and editor living in the Rocky Mountain West. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog or check out her blog.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Mon Apr 25, 2016 12:19 am

21st-Century Slaves: How Corporations Exploit Prison Labor
In the eyes of the corporation, inmate labor is a brilliant strategy in the eternal quest to maximize profit.

by Rania Khalek
AlterNet
July 21, 2011

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This article has been updated.

There is one group of American workers so disenfranchised that corporations are able to get away with paying them wages that rival those of third-world sweatshops. These laborers have been legally stripped of their political, economic and social rights and ultimately relegated to second-class citizens. They are banned from unionizing, violently silenced from speaking out and forced to work for little to no wages. This marginalization renders them practically invisible, as they are kept hidden from society with no available recourse to improve their circumstances or change their plight.

They are the 2.3 million American prisoners locked behind bars where we cannot see or hear them. And they are modern-day slaves of the 21st century.

Incarceration Nation

It’s no secret that America imprisons more of its citizens than any other nation in history. With just 5 percent of the world’s population, the US currently holds 25 percent of the world's prisoners. "In 2008, over 2.3 million Americans were in prison or jail, with one of every 48 working-age men behind bars," according to a study by the Center for Economic and Policy Research(CEPR). That doesn’t include the tens of thousands of detained undocumented immigrants facing deportation, prisoners awaiting sentencing, or juveniles caught up in the school-to-prison pipeline. Perhaps it’s reassuring to some that the US still holds the number one title in at least one arena, but needless to say the hyper-incarceration plaguing America has had a damaging effect on society at large.

The CEPR study observes that US prison rates are not just excessive in comparison to the rest of the world, they are also "substantially higher than our own longstanding history." The study finds that incarceration rates between 1880 and 1970 ranged from about "100 to 200 prisoners per 100,000 people." After 1980, the inmate population "began to grow much more rapidly than the overall population and the rate climbed from "about 220 in 1980 to 458 in 1990, 683 in 2000, and 753 in 2008."

The costs of this incarceration industry are far from evenly distributed, with the impact of excessive incarceration falling predominantly on African-American communities. Although black people make up just 13 percent of the overall population, they account for 40 percent of US prisoners. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), black males are incarcerated at a rate "more than 6.5 times that of white males and 2.5 that of Hispanic males and "black females are incarcerated at approximately three times the rate of white females and twice that of Hispanic females."

Michelle Alexander points out in her book The New Jim Crow that more black men "are in prison or jail, on probation or on parole than were enslaved in 1850." Higher rates of black drug arrests do not reflect higher rates of black drug offenses. In fact, whites and blacks engage in drug offenses, possession and sales at roughly comparable rates.

Incentivizing Incarceration

Clearly, the US prison system is riddled with racism and classism, but it gets worse. As it turns out, private companies have a cheap, easy labor market, and it isn’t in China, Indonesia, Haiti, or Mexico. It’s right here in the land of the free, where large corporations increasingly employ prisoners as a source of cheap and sometimes free labor.

In the eyes of the corporation, inmate labor is a brilliant strategy in the eternal quest to maximize profit. By dipping into the prison labor pool, companies have their pick of workers who are not only cheap but easily controlled. Companies are free to avoid providing benefits like health insurance or sick days, while simultaneously paying little to no wages. They don’t need to worry about unions or demands for vacation time or raises. Inmates work full-time and are never late or absent because of family problems.

"If they refuse to work, they are moved to disciplinary housing and lose canteen privileges" along with "good time credit that reduces their sentences,” reports Chris Levister. To top it off, Abe Louise Young reports in The Nation that the federal government subsidizes the use of inmate labor by private companies through lucrative tax write-offs. Under the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC), private-sector employers receive a tax credit of $2,400 for every work release inmate they employ as a reward for hiring “risky target groups” and they can "earn back up to 40 percent of the wages they pay annually to target group workers."

Study after study demonstrates the wastefulness of America's prison-industrial complex, in both taxpayer dollars and innocent lives, yet rolling back imprisonment rates is proving to be more challenging than ever. Meanwhile, the use of private prisons and now privately contracted inmate labor has created a system that does not exactly incentivize leaner sentencing.

The disturbing implications of such a system mean that skyrocketing imprisonment for the possession of miniscule amounts of marijuana and the the expansion of severe mandatory sentencing laws regardless of the conviction, are policies that have the potential to increase corporate profits. As are the“three strikes laws” that require courts to hand down mandatory and extended sentences to people who have been convicted of felonies on three or more separate occasions. People have literally been sentenced to life for minor crimes like shoplifting.

The Reinvention of Slavery

The exploitation of prison labor is by no means a new phenomenon. Jaron Browne, an organizer with People Organized to Win Employment Rights (POWER), maps out how the exploitation of prison labor in America is rooted in slavery. The abolition of slavery dealt a devastating economic blow to the South following the loss of free labor after the Civil War. So in the late 19th century, "an extensive prison system was created in the South in order to maintain the racial and economic relationship of slavery," a mechanism responsible for re-enslaving black workers. Browne describes Louisiana’s famous Angola Prison to illustrate the intentional transformation from slave to inmate:

“In 1880, this 8000-acre family plantation was purchased by the state of Louisiana and converted into a prison. Slave quarters became cell units. Now expanded to 18,000 acres, the Angola plantation is tilled by prisoners working the land—a chilling picture of modern day chattel slavery.”

The abolition of slavery quickly gave rise to the Black Codes and Convict Leasing, which together worked wonders at perpetuating African American servitude by exploiting a loophole in the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, which reads:

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The Black Codes were a set of laws that "criminalized legal activity for African Americans" and provided a pretext for the arrest and mass imprisonment of newly freed blacks, which caused the rate of African Americans prisoners to “surpass whites for the first time”, according to Randall G. Sheldon in the Black Commentator. Convict leasing involved leasing out prisoners to private companies that paid the state a certain fee in return. Convicts worked for the companies during the day outside the prison and returned to their cells at night. The system provided revenue for the state and profits for plantation owners and wasn’t abolished until the 1930s.

Unfortunately, convict leasing was quickly replaced with equally despicable state-run chain gangs. Once again, stories of vicious abuse created enough public anger to abolish chain gangs by the 1950s. Nevertheless, the systems of prisoner exploitation never actually disappeared.

Today’s corporations can lease factories in prisons, as well as lease prisoners out to their factories. In many cases, private corporations are running prisons-for-profit, further incentivizing their stake in locking people up. The government is profiting as well, by running prison factories that operate as "multibillion-dollar industries in every state, and throughout the federal prison system," where prisoners are contracted out to major corporations by the state.

In the most extreme cases, we are even witnessing the reemergence of the chain gang. In Arizona, the self-proclaimed “toughest sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio, requires his Maricopa County inmates to enroll in chain gangs to perform various community services or face lockdown with three other inmates in an 8-by-12-foot cell, for 23 hours a day. In June of this year, Arpaio started a female-only chain gang made up of women convicted of driving under the influence. In a press release he boasted that the inmates would be wearing pink T-shirts emblazoned with messages about drinking and driving.

The modern-day version of convict leasing was recently spotted in Georgia, where Governor Nathan Deal proposed sending unemployed probationers to work in Georgia's fields as a solution to a perceived labor shortage following the passage of the country’s most draconian anti-immigrant law. But his plan backfired when some of the probationers began walking off their jobs because the fieldwork was too strenuous.

There has also been a disturbing reemergence of the debtors’ prison, which should serve as an ominous sign of our dangerous reliance on prisons to manage any and all of society’s problems. According to the Wall Street Journal, "more than a third of all U.S. states allow borrowers who can't or won't pay to be jailed." They found that judges "signed off on more than 5,000 such warrants since the start of 2010 in nine counties." It appears that any act that can be criminalized in the era of private prisons and inmate labor will certainly end in jail time, further increasing the ranks of the captive workforce.

Who Profits?

Prior to the 1970s, private corporations were prohibited from using prison labor as a result of the chain gang and convict leasing scandals. But in 1979, the US Department of Justice admits that congress began a process of deregulation to "restore private sector involvement in prison industries to its former status, provided certain conditions of the labor market were met.” Over the last 30 years, at least 37 states have enacted laws permitting the use of convict labor by private enterprise, with an average pay of $0.93 to $4.73 per day.

Federal prisoners receive more generous wages that range from $0.23 to $1.25 per hour, and are employed by Unicor, a wholly owned government corporation established by Congress in 1934. Its principal customer is the Department of Defense, from which Unicor derives approximately 53 percent of its sales. Some 21,836 inmates work in Unicor programs. Subsequently, the nation's prison industry – prison labor programs producing goods or services sold to other government agencies or to the private sector -- now employs more people than any Fortune 500 company (besides General Motors), and generates about $2.4 billion in revenue annually. Noah Zatz of UCLA law school estimates that:

“Well over 600,000, and probably close to a million, inmates are working full-time in jails and prisons throughout the United States. Perhaps some of them built your desk chair: office furniture, especially in state universities and the federal government, is a major prison labor product. Inmates also take hotel reservations at corporate call centers, make body armor for the U.S. military, and manufacture prison chic fashion accessories, in addition to the iconic task of stamping license plates.”

Some of the largest and most powerful corporations have a stake in the expansion of the prison labor market, including but not limited to IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom's, Revlon, Macy's, Pierre Cardin, Target Stores, and many more. Between 1980 and 1994 alone, profits went up from $392 million to $1.31 billion. Since the prison labor force has likely grown since then, it is safe to assume that the profits accrued from the use of prison labor have reached even higher levels.

In an article for Mother Jones, Caroline Winter details a number of mega-corporations that have profited off of inmates:

“In the 1990s, subcontractor Third Generation hired 35 female South Carolina inmates to sew lingerie and leisure wear for Victoria's Secret and JCPenney. In 1997, a California prison put two men in solitary for telling journalists they were ordered to replace 'Made in Honduras' labels on garments with 'Made in the USA.'"

According to Winter, the defense industry is a large part of the equation as well:

“Unicor, says that in addition to soldiers' uniforms, bedding, shoes, helmets, and flak vests, inmates have 'produced missile cables (including those used on the Patriot missiles during the Gulf War)' and 'wiring harnesses for jets and tanks.' In 1997, according to Prison Legal News, Boeing subcontractorMicroJet had prisoners cutting airplane components, paying $7 an hour for work that paid union wages of $30 on the outside.”

Oil companies have been known to exploit prison labor as well. Following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig that killed 11 workers and irreparably damaged the Gulf of Mexico for generations to come, BP elected to hire Louisiana prison inmates to clean up its mess. Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate of any state in the nation, 70 percent of which are African-American men. Coastal residents desperate for work, whose livelihoods had been destroyed by BP’s negligence, were outraged at BP’s use of free prison labor.

In the Nation article that exposed BP’s hiring of inmates, Abe Louise Young details how BP tried to cover up its use of prisoners by changing the inmates' clothing to give the illusion of civilian workers. But nine out of 10 residents of Grand Isle, Louisiana are white, while the cleanup workers were almost exclusively black, so BP’s ruse fooled very few people.

Private companies have long understood that prison labor can be as profitable as sweatshop workers in third-world countries with the added benefit of staying closer to home. Take Escod Industries, which in in the 1990s abandoned plans to open operations in Mexico and instead "moved to South Carolina, because the wages of American prisoners undercut those of de-unionized Mexican sweatshop workers," reports Josh Levine in a 1999 article that appeared in Perpective Magazine. The move was fueled by the state, which gave a $250,000 "equipment subsidy" to Escod along with industrial space at below-market rent. Other examples listed by Gordon Lafer in the American Prospect include Ohio's Honda supplier, which "pays its prison workers $2 an hour for the same work for which the UAW has fought for decades to be paid $20 to $30 an hour. Konica, which has hired prisoners to repair its copiers for less than 50 cents an hour. And in Oregon, where private companies can “lease” prisoners at a bargain price of $3 a day."

Even politicians have been known to tap into prison labor for their own personal use. In 1994, a contractor for GOP congressional candidate Jack Metcalf hired Washington state prisoners to call and remind voters he was pro-death penalty. After winning his campaign, he claimed to have no knowledge of the scandal. Perhaps this is why Senator John Ensign (R-NV) introduced a bill earlier this year to "require all low-security prisoners to work 50 hours a week." After all, The New York Times reminds us that "creating a national prison labor force has been a goal of his since he went to Congress in 1995."

In an unsettling turn of events lawmakers have begun ditching public employees in favor of free prison labor. The New York Times recently reported that states are "enlisting prison labor to close budget gaps" to offset cuts in "federal financing and dwindling tax revenue." At a time of record unemployment, inmates are being hired to "paint vehicles, clean courthouses, sweep campsites and perform many other services done before the recession by private contractors or government employees." In Wisconsin, prisoners are now taking up jobs that were once held by unionized workers, as a result of Governor Scott Walker’s contentious anti-union law.

Why You Should Care

Those who argue in favor of prison labor claim it is a useful tool for rehabilitation and preparation for post-jail employment. But this has only been shown to be true in cases where prisoners are exposed to meaningful employment, where they learn new skills, not the labor-intensive, menial and often dangerous work they are being tasked with. While little if any evidence exists to suggests that the current prison labor system decreases recidivism or leads to better employment prospects outside of prison, there are a number of solutions that have been proven to be useful.

According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, “having a history of incarceration itself impedes subsequent economic success.” Pew found that "past incarceration reduced subsequent wages by 11 percent, cut annual employment by nine weeks and reduced yearly earnings by 40 percent." The study suggests that the best approach is for state and federal authorities to "invest in programs that reconnect inmates to the labor market," as well as "provide training and job placement services around the time of release." Most importantly, Pew suggests that in the long term, America must move toward alternative sentencing programs for low-level and nonviolent offenders, and issuing penalties that are actually proportionate with real public safety concerns.

The exploitation of any workforce is detrimental to all workers. Cheap and free labor pushes down wages for everyone. Just as American workers cannot compete with sweatshop labor, the same goes for prison labor. Many jobs that come into prison are taken from free citizens. The American labor movement must demand that prison labor be allowed the right to unionize, the right to a fair and living wage, and the right to a safe and healthy work environment. That is what prisoners are demanding, but they can only do so much from inside a prison cell.

As unemployment on the outside increases, so too will crime and incarceration rates, and our 21st-century version of corporate slavery will continue to expand unless we do something about it.

EDITOR'S NOTE:This article has been corrected since its original publication for more accurate attribution to original sources.
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These 7 Household Names Make a Killing Off of the Prison-Industrial Complex
by Kelley Davidson
August 30, 2015

You won’t believe who’s on this list.

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Once slavery was abolished in 1865, manufacturers scrambled to find other sources of cheap labor—and because the 13th amendment banned slavery (except as punishment for crimes), they didn’t have to look too far. Prisons and big businesses have now been exploiting this loophole in the 13th amendment for over a century.

“Insourcing,” as prison labor is often called, is an even cheaper alternative to outsourcing. Instead of sending labor over to China or Bangladesh, manufacturers have chosen to forcibly employ the 2.4 million incarcerated people in the United States. Chances are high that if a product you’re holding says it is “American Made,” it was made in an American prison.

On average, prisoners work 8 hours a day, but they have no union representation and make between .23 and $1.15 per hour, over 6 times less than federal minimum wage. These low wages combined with increasing communication and commissary costs mean that inmates are often released from correctional facilities with more debt than they had on their arrival. Meanwhile, big businesses receive tax credits for employing these inmates in excess of millions of dollars a year.

While almost every business in America uses some form of prison labor to produce their goods, here are just a few of the companies who are helping prisoners pay off their debt to society, so to speak.

1. Whole Foods. The costly organic supermarket often nicknamed “Whole Paycheck” purchases artisan cheese and fish prepared by inmates who work for private companies. The inmates are paid .74 cents a day to raise tilapia that is subsequently sold for $11.99 a pound at the fashionable grocery store.

2. McDonald’s. The world’s most successful fast food franchise purchases a plethora of goods manufactured in prisons, including plastic cutlery, containers, and uniforms. The inmates who sew McDonald’s uniforms make even less money by the hour than the people who wear them.

3. Wal-Mart. Although their company policy clearly states that “forced or prison labor will not be tolerated by Wal-Mart”, basically every item in their store has been supplied by third-party prison labor factories. Wal-Mart purchases its produce from prison farms where laborers are often subjected to long, arduous hours in the blazing heat without adequate sunscreen, water, or food.

4. Victoria’s Secret. Female inmates in South Carolina sew undergarments and casual-wear for the pricey lingerie company. In the late 1990’s, 2 prisoners were placed in solitary confinement for telling journalists that they were hired to replace “Made in Honduras” garment tags with “Made in U.S.A.” tags. Victoria’s Secret has declined to comment.

5. Aramark. This company, which also provides food to colleges, public schools and hospitals, has a monopoly on foodservice in about 600 prisons in the U.S. Despite this, Aramark has a history of poor foodservice, including a massive food shortage that caused a prison riot in Kentucky in 2009.

6. AT&T. In 1993, the massive phone company laid off thousands of telephone operators—all union members—in order to increase their profits. Even though AT&T’s company policy regarding prison labor reads eerily like Wal-Mart’s, they have consistently used inmates to work in their call centers since ’93, barely paying them $2 a day.

7. BP. When BP spilled 4.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf coast, the company sent a workforce of almost exclusively African-American inmates to clean up the toxic spill while community members, many of whom were out-of-work fisherman, struggled to make ends meet. BP’s decision to use prisoners instead of hiring displaced workers outraged the Gulf community, but the oil company did nothing to reconcile the situation.

From dentures to shower curtains to pill bottles, almost everything you can imagine is being made in American prisons. Also implicit in the past and present use of prison labor are Microsoft, Nike, Nintendo, Honda, Pfizer, Saks Fifth Avenue, JCPenney, Macy’s, Starbucks, and more. For an even more detailed list of businesses that use prison labor, visit buycott.com, but the real guilty party here is the United States government. UNICOR, the corporation created and owned by the federal government to oversee penal labor, sets the condition and wage standards for working inmates.

One of the highest-paying prison jobs in the country? Sewing American flags for the state police.
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The Apocalypse of Adolescence
by Ron Powers
The Atlantic
March 2002

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This spring one of two Vermont teenagers charged with the knifing murder of two Dartmouth College professors will go on trial. The case offers entry to a disturbing subject—acts of lethal violence committed by "ordinary" teenagers from "ordinary" communities, teenagers who have become detached from civic life, saturated by the mythic violent imagery of popular culture, and consumed by the dictates of some private murderous fantasy.

Easing around a curve along Route 110, about eight miles north of Tunbridge, Vermont, one is likely to be transfixed—wounded, almost—by the prospect that sweeps into view: a plain and weathered yet elegant New England village undulates for half a mile along a thoroughfare, hardly wider than a couple of house lots on either side. Lining the road are manicured playing fields, a spare and handsome town hall, a century-old white frame church (Congregational-Methodist), a couple of school buildings, a harness shop, two greens, the county courthouse, stately houses of brick and wood, a modest restaurant, and a gas station. Steep mountains press in on either side of the village, and arcing through its western flank is a splendid little stream. More stately houses are visible halfway up the slope of the western mountain, tucked among pine trees. To the east a pine wilderness hovers above the town, giving way at the southern edge to a nearly vertical cemetery, its oldest tombstones commemorating Union dead. This is Chelsea, Vermont, the shire town of Orange County, chartered on August 4, 1781, population 1,250. It scarcely has the look of a town that would breed teenage killers.

Americans want to believe in towns like Chelsea. My wife and I moved to Vermont from New York City in 1988, in search of such a place. We came here for several reasons, but coloring all of them was the hope of raising our two young sons in the safety and harmony of a tight-knit town community. It wasn't an unreasonable expectation. In the 1980s and 1990s, as the nation's celebrated "rural rebound" established itself, Vermont had been ranked at or near the top of America's "safest" and "most livable" states. Vermont's largest city, Burlington, was singled out as a "Dream Town" (Outside magazine), received a City Livability Award (the U.S. Conference of Mayors), and was designated a "kid-friendly city" (Zero Population Growth). The state was recognized for its superior air quality by the Corporation for Enterprise Development. These surveys drew heavily on the perceived needs of children. Public safety headed almost every list of desirable characteristics. Other leading indicators were pupil-teacher ratios in the public schools, high school graduation rates, funding levels for the arts and for education in general, marriage and divorce rates, and birth rates among teenagers. And underlying all of this was the fact that happy children and Vermont are linked in American myth, in large part because Norman Rockwell, who lived in the town of Arlington, Vermont, for fifteen years, employed local boys and girls as models for his illustrations of leapfrogging, flag-saluting, Christmas-caroling American children.

According to a survey conducted in 1995, 41 percent of the U.S. population would eventually like to move to a small town or rural area. Not everybody can do it, of course; the potential loss of livelihood is usually too great a risk. But for those who try it, Vermont offers many sources of replenishment. A tiny state (9,609 square miles), it is sparsely populated, with fewer than 600,000 people. Its annual tourist flow dwarfs the local population. The heart of the state lies in remote mountain villages like Chelsea. Parents sometimes practice small-scale farming, or teach, or work as artisans, or join in the kind of "home economics" envisioned by the essayist Wendell Berry: a cooperative effort to maintain a purely local system of life. The children—well, the children, being the point of it all, are expected to mature smoothly into thoughtful, self-reliant adults, at peace with themselves and with the world.

Those are the expectations. If, indeed, the prospects for a happy childhood remain alive and well in havens like Vermont, they might imply a model of sorts for the many people in this country who have an anxious relationship with their children.

But what if they do not?

The Zantop Murders

Last year, on a wintry Saturday, January 27, a popular academic couple at Dartmouth College, in Hanover, New Hampshire, just across the Connecticut River from Vermont, made preparations for a dinner party, one of many they had hosted in their house on the woodsy slopes of Etna, a town a few miles from Hanover. Both were German immigrants. They had made their house a salon for faculty members, students, and visitors to the college. Susanne Zantop, who was fifty-five, was the chair of the Department of German Studies. Her husband, Half, sixty-two, was a professor of earth sciences. At around six that evening the first dinner guest arrived. Venturing inside, she discovered Half and Susanne lying in their own blood in their study. They had been repeatedly stabbed in the head, neck, and chest.

Over the three weeks following the attack, as the police combed the region but kept silent about the progress of the investigation, Dartmouth students and Hanover townspeople struggled against fear. Nearly everyone assumed that the killer remained in the vicinity—a troubled student, perhaps, or a faculty rival. A suspicious figure was spotted lurking around dormitories. A suspicious car with out-of-state license plates was reported. Members of the national media converged on the town, filled local hotel rooms, invaded Dartmouth dorms with cameras and notepads, seeking leads, quotations, rumors, irony. When the FBI joined the investigation, the range of conjecture went national and then international. Theories of a Holocaust tie-in circulated: the Zantops were political liberals who often argued that their native country should be more forthright in confronting the evils of its Nazi past. Had they been murdered by a vengeful neo-Nazi?

On February 16 the New Hampshire attorney general announced that an arrest warrant had at last been issued: not for a troubled member of the Dartmouth community but for a seventeen-year-old boy, Robert Tulloch, from Chelsea, about thirty miles north of Hanover. Three days later Robert and his sixteen-year-old friend Jimmy Parker were arrested a little before dawn at a truck stop in New Castle, Indiana. The police there had picked up a truck driver's CB radio call soliciting a ride for two young hitchhikers he was carrying, who were intent on making it to California. Robert was the president of his student council. Jimmy was an artistic youth who played the bass guitar and acted in school plays.

Robert and Jimmy, it turned out, both had families who had come to Vermont in pursuit of the dream of harmony. John Parker, a native of Poughkeepsie, New York, and his wife, Joan, who was reared in San Diego, had arrived in Chelsea about twenty-five years earlier. "They literally picked Chelsea out on a map," a neighbor who knows them well told me recently. John, educated at Ohio Wesleyan University, had taken up carpentry, at which he excelled. Over the years he had either built or renovated many of the houses in Chelsea. He chaired the Chelsea Recreation Committee, which secured the money and the unbilled labor to create the manicured fields at the southern entrance to the town, and he did much of the manicuring himself—regularly watering the grass and cutting it with a riding mower. He also built the town picnic shelter.

Robert Tulloch's parents had arrived from Florida to take up residence in Vermont. They had lived in Chelsea for about nine years. His father, Michael, was a furniture maker, a specialist in Windsor chairs. His mother, Diane, was a nurse affiliated with the Visiting Nurse Association, a group with connections to the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Her neighbors knew her as a gentle mother of four, a maker of soap, a raiser of chickens—"very granola," in the words of one.

But the nurturing virtues of small-town Vermont life failed to ennoble Robert and Jimmy. According to the prosecution, the two entered the Zantop household armed with keenly sharpened foot-long SOG Seal 2000 combat knives. Attacking the couple in the small confines of their study, the boys allegedly hacked away at them, slashing repeatedly at their heads, necks, and chests. The knives later turned up in Robert's bedroom, bearing traces of blood that provided a DNA match with that of Susanne Zantop. Internet records revealed that Jimmy had bought the knives just weeks earlier. A fingerprint on a chair at the Zantop home was identified as Robert's. A boot print in the house matched a boot belonging to Robert. And blood found on the floor mat of a 1996 Subaru registered to Jimmy's parents revealed Susanne Zantop's DNA. A car of similar description had been sighted earlier at the scene of the crime. Jimmy has pled guilty to one count of second-degree murder and will testify at Robert's trial, which is scheduled for this spring. Robert is charged with two counts of first-degree murder.

A Cluster of Assaults

In their unvexed small-town habitat, and in the apparent absence of any motivating passions, Robert Tulloch and Jimmy Parker may come to be seen as representatives of a new mutation in the evolution of the murderous American adolescent. In this mutation the murderers' victims tend not to be the denizens of an urban war zone. Instead the victims are likely to be people living quietly in small towns or suburbs—unoffending partners in the social order. The young attackers are part of this order, indistinguishable from it—until, that is, they emerge one day, inventively armed and intent on carrying out some private fantasy. When the details of such crimes become known, the killers' motives, if they can be determined at all, usually turn out to be trivial grudges, hardly worth the outrageous crime or the lifetime of punishment to be endured. What is particularly unhinging about these killings is that they are planned without obvious motivation and are marked by the coldest kind of contempt for the victims.

The Zantops' murders are not unique in Vermont's recent history. A cluster of assaults, less publicized but similar in nature, have disrupted the state's tranquillity in recent years.

In November of 1997 Dwayne Bernier, the owner of a tattoo shop on a rural highway outside Rutland, Vermont, was found stabbed to death in his shop. Two local teenagers, one eighteen and the other sixteen at the time, were eventually convicted of the killing. The older boy, needing money to make his car payments, had recruited the sixteen-year-old to help him, and had invited a fourteen-year-old to come along and watch. The three drove to the tattoo shop, where Bernier, who was expecting to sell them a marijuana pipe, let them in after closing hours. The two assailants attacked him, one of them using a heavy, curved, and extremely sharp combat knife known as a Gurkha. The knife's blade was driven into each of Bernier's eyes. One of the thrusts penetrated to the back of his skull.

Early one evening in late May of 1999 Jane Hubbard, a fifty-nine-year-old British expatriate who over the years had supervised a succession of foster children in her rural cottage, at the edge of Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, lay dozing in her living room. Hubbard, a mild woman whose other pursuits included selling books and raising horses, was awakened by two of her charges, boys who were fifteen and fourteen. They called her into the kitchen and demanded her car keys. When she refused, one of them told her to take off her glasses—so that he wouldn't cut his hand when he punched her, she recalled his saying. He struck her three times while the other boy held her down. "I've never seen anything swell that fast," the puncher idly remarked to his accomplice. "Just like in the movies."

One of the boys slashed her in the shoulder with a kitchen knife. Then the two began calmly to debate the most efficient way of finishing her off. If they killed her at the house, they agreed, the body would be found too quickly.

The older boy suddenly became very agitated and threw a chair at her. Then they hustled Hubbard out to her blue Saturn, and shoved her into the passenger seat. One boy drove while the other held the knife to her throat. About five miles from the house the boys decided that they wouldn't kill her after all—they "chickened out," they later told the police. Instead they pushed her out of the car and into a ditch. Bleeding, she waited in a field by the ditch until she felt it was safe to seek help. Eventually she was picked up by a passing driver.

After dumping Hubbard, the boys drove to a relative's house, where they gathered some shotguns, a rifle, and ammunition. They planned to sell the guns for pocket money and then visit some friends in New York. They were arrested after midnight, near the Vermont-New York border, when a traffic accident forced their car to a halt. A trooper at the scene had peered inside the Saturn and seen the unconcealed bundle of guns, the knife, and blood on the passenger seat. The older boy explained his motive to the trooper later. "If you had to listen to that British voice," he said with a laugh, "you'd want to kill her too."

A friend of Jane Hubbard's told the police that she was familiar with the young perpetrators. "These were kids who wore their bicycle helmets," she said. The woman remarked on how gentle the boys had seemed with the animals at a local stable.

A similar assault, in February of 2000, was far worse. Early on a weekday morning a West Burke man named Randy Beer was taking a shower when he heard something go pop in another room in his house. Drying himself off and investigating, Beer found his seventeen-year-old foster son holding Beer's .22-caliber rifle. Then Beer saw the body of his wife, Victoria, forty-four, a popular seventh-grade teacher in the local school system. The boy had killed her with a single shot to the head. Victoria's fourteen-year-old stepdaughter—Beer's daughter—had been looking on.

The boy locked Beer in the basement and stole some cash, and the two teenagers fled in the victim's red Isuzu Rodeo. Beer managed to free himself two hours later and called the police. A state trooper spotted the Isuzu cruising a street in the nearby town of St. Johnsbury and flipped on his flashing lights. After a high-speed chase the boy pulled over. Later that day the girl allegedly confessed to a state police detective that she and the boy had worked out three separate plans to kill both parents. The reason, she explained, was that they didn't like Victoria.

A fourth episode touched the circles of my family's life. Shortly before Christmas in 1999 my wife and I drove from our home to a small town in western Maine, where our oldest son was enrolled in a prep academy. We sat with a crowd of other parents in the school auditorium and watched our son play his guitar in a holiday music program—a program that also included, among other elements, a choir.

After the concert the students dispersed for the holidays. We and our son drove back to Vermont, as did Bill Stanard and his seventeen-year-old son, Laird, one of the boys who had sung in the choir. The Stanards lived in a small town in southeastern Vermont. A few days later we learned that the following night Laird had shot his mother, Paula, to death in the kitchen with a shotgun.

According to a teacher who befriended him in jail, Laird later indicated that he had thought about the killing in advance. His mindset had less to do with hatred than with a mixture of anxiety and frustration. He had developed a fantasy reinforced by the film American Beauty, which he had watched several times. The movie offered a vision of murder as a gift of transcendence, because a character who is killed—an adolescent's tormented father—does not seem really to die: he narrates the film, commenting on the plot. He is serene, still sensate, hardly inconvenienced by his own demise. The teacher later observed that the only flaw in Laird's enactment of the plan—the only production hitch in his personal movie—was that after sending his mother into the eternity of voice-over, he had failed in an effort to kill his father. And yet, in the state of half-real, half-imaginary perception he'd worked himself into (a state common to more adolescents than their elders may suspect), it didn't matter. Laird's act of murdering his mother seemed to him just another movie scenario. "I love my mother," he insisted to his teacher. "If you saw what I did, you'd understand."

Bewildered Children

Bewildered, depraved children, behind bars, are a great deal more commonplace in Vermont than national surveys and tourist brochures would have us believe. The plight of children—or, as certain adult Vermonters demonstrably prefer to look at it, the inconvenience of children, the downright menace of children—has become a dominant theme of life in the state in the years I have lived there. Although Vermont enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the nation, and although the region is recovering from a harsh economic slump that hit at the beginning of the 1990s, signs persist that the connections between children and their host culture here are unraveling. Kids are in trouble even here in Vermont. The reasons elude easy explanation.

That an explosion in serious juvenile crime has occurred in Vermont is undeniable. Data gathered by the Vermont Department of Corrections in 1999 revealed that the number of jail inmates aged sixteen to twenty-one had jumped by more than 77 percent in three years. (By that time overcrowding had obliged Vermont to start shipping some of its prisoners off to Virginia and other states.) Vermont's Department of Corrections reported that it supervised or housed one in ten Vermont males of high school age. The annual DOC budget more than doubled during the 1990s, from $27 million to more than $70 million. A report by the northern New England consortium Justiceworks, released in 2000, asserted that "while overall crime rates are down in northern New England, a greater proportion of those crimes are being committed by children under the age of 18."

Panic-inducing mischief has also become a fact of adolescent daily life. In the year following the April 1999 Columbine massacre Vermont experienced an epidemic of anonymous bomb threats that caused school evacuations up and down the state. The threats grew so routine that the administration at one sizable high school in the southeastern part of the state installed a voice message for people who telephoned the school during a crisis: "We're sorry, but we cannot take your call now, due to an evacuation." Police guards, uniformed and armed, became fixtures in many of Vermont's public schools. In February of last year a seventeen-year-old named Bradley Bell, from Milton, Vermont, was arrested for manufacturing pipe bombs in his house. County prosecutors said their information indicated that Bell might have intended to plant the bombs at the high school. As of this writing, this case has not come to trial.

The number of dropouts in the state's public schools showed an increase of nearly 50 percent in the 1990s—from 1,060 in 1992 to 1,585 in 1998. Meanwhile, admissions to Corrections Education, a program run for adolescent offenders by the state's Department of Corrections, grew in 1998 from 160 in June to 220 in November. The number of young people without a high school diploma in the "corrections" population increased from 87 percent to 93 percent from 1987 to 1998.

Heroin addiction was virtually unknown among Vermont children as recently as three years ago, but by 2000 heroin abuse was an established crisis throughout the state, and by early last year the volume of confiscated heroin had increased fourfold since 1999. Young addicts turned up in nearly every town of substantial size. Newspapers began reporting deaths resulting from overdose. Last September the police in Winooski, which borders Burlington, arrested an eighteen-year-old and charged him with dealing heroin from an apartment next door to a school. The police said they had found 397 bags of the narcotic in his possession.

"Heroin is almost as easy to get in Burlington as a gallon of maple syrup," The Burlington Free Press reported in February of 2001. The same edition of the paper chronicled a horrifying heroin-related story about a sixteen-year-old Burlington girl, Christal Jones, who had been found murdered a month earlier in a Bronx apartment. A runaway and sometime ward of the state's social-services agencies, Christal had developed a heroin habit that led her into prostitution. She was one of several young Vermont women drawn into the prostitution ring of a Burlington hustler with connections in New York.

An Adolescent Army of Occupation

On our arrival in Vermont, my wife and I settled in Middlebury, in the Champlain Valley, near the state's western border. We took up teaching careers at Middlebury College, from which we emerged after a few years into more congenial pursuits. We watched our boys and our friends' children flourish in a sunlit world of safe neighborhoods and committed schoolteachers. It was a world in which guests at a dinner were likely to haul out guitars after dessert was cleared away, in which the baseball coach doubled as the Baptist minister and store saleswomen remembered kids' shoe sizes better than their parents did. Both our sons quickly learned to say "The usual" at the breakfast diner across the street from the green. They swam for the town team in the summer, skied the Green Mountains in the winter, and cycled the local streets and roads with a freedom unimaginable in a city or a suburb. One day, as we strolled past a storefront with a fresh coat of bright-green paint, my older son, then about eight, actually groused, "Pretty soon they'll have this town so changed you won't even recognize it!" We hadn't yet sensed the deeper changes taking place.

On a winter day in 1994, leafing through a pile of student essays that mostly dealt, as usual, with the exalted anorectic-alcoholic reveries of the corporate ruling class's daughters and sons, I found a paper on a different topic, turned in by a working-class student from Vermont. She had written about an incident in her home town, Rutland, some thirty miles to the south: a night-time street battle, involving beer bottles and baseball bats, between local kids and a coterie of newcomers distinguished by their red berets, baggy clothes, and Hispanic surnames.


This was how I discovered that urban youth gangs had arrived in Vermont. Soon everyone knew. Trickling into the state from played-out industrial cities in Connecticut and Massachusetts, on the run from rivals and sensing a virgin market for their contraband, members of gangs with names like Los Solidos, La Familia, and Latin Kings had rented houses in towns throughout the state, and had begun recruiting locally. The violent resistance by the teens in Rutland, it soon grew clear, had been an exception: a lot of Vermont boys and girls seemed delighted by the newcomers. Soon everyone was reading about town kids who joined with the young crime lords to open up new markets for marijuana, cocaine, and, as became clear a few years later, heroin. Dozens of adolescents left their working-class families to get "beaten in" to gang membership. They learned new skills: extortion in the public schools, for instance, and running a drug-dealing route—or, in the case of girls, providing lodging, parents' credit cards, and, occasionally, sex for the visitors. Arrested and incarcerated alongside their new mentors, the local teens helped to convert the state's jails, which absorbed a 600 percent increase in gang-member inmates from 1995 to 1996, into thriving gang recruitment centers.

Nothing since the countercultural invasion of the 1960s had produced such a shock within the state. Police departments formed gang task forces and hustled their personnel off to urban seminars on gang menace and management. The public-safety commissioner warned that the state would be unable to combat its growing gang problem without federal assistance.

The psychological border separating Vermont from everywhere else, it seemed, had crumbled, and with it the old pieties about the state as a haven for the rearing of children. Vermont was just one more piece of American turf claimed by an adolescent army of occupation: the 25,000 distinct gangs, comprising more than 650,000 members, that were operating throughout the country. According to the National Youth Gang Center, every American state reported gang problems in the 1990s, as did half of all cities and towns with populations under 25,000.

In Vermont new task forces eventually crushed the gangs (or drove them underground) with paramilitary efficiency: surveillance, infiltration by informants, physically rough interrogations, and night-time phone calls to the parents of suspected gang members. The scare headlines gradually disappeared, and everyone pretty much went back to behaving as if nothing big had happened—everyone except the children. Few Vermonters were inclined to ask a question that their state's communal ethos should have rendered inescapable: What had made the gangs so attractive to their children in the first place? Few paid attention to a common explanation offered by local kids, on the rare occasions when they were asked: they saw the gangs as a replacement for something missing in their lives—namely, a community that satisfied their longings for worth-proving ritual, meaningful action in the service of a cause, and psychological intimacy.

Some months after all the excitement had ebbed, I mentioned my bewilderment at the gangs' successful penetration of Vermont to Chris Frappier, an investigator with the state public defender's office. Frappier is a cheerful fellow with a beard and an earring who himself grew up poor in a small Vermont town. "There's good within the gangs," he said with a shrug, as if stating the obvious. "They take care of each other. There's bad boys, there's less bad boys—there's a continuum. They come up here to Vermont to chill out, or because there's not as many cops. And who's waiting for them? Our kids. Our kids, the MTV generation. To them, these guys look like TV stars! So our kids, our children, who feel lost, disenfranchised—they join up! And why not? They don't have enough support services in this state. I mean, look at the communities. Look at the communities in this state that wage war on their youth. You've got Vergennes, kicking kids out of the park. You've got Woodstock banning skateboarding." The detective grew more heated as he spoke. "What I'm seeing in recent years is the total and complete alienation of youth," he said. "And it is not coming from them; it's coming from the adults who aren't bothering to reach out to them. And it is terrifying. Straight hedonistic drugs and music and misogynism. I walk Church Street in Burlington and I see kids that are walking dead and know it. And that is the biggest change of my lifetime in Vermont."

The Language of Apocalypse

Theo Padnos is a slightly clerkish-looking man of thirty-four, small and pale, whose horn-rimmed glasses and mop of curly, uncombed hair make it easy not to notice the wiry mountain-biker's sinews in his arms and legs. It's easy not to notice Padnos's presence at all, in fact, which is the way he likes it, especially when he is doing what he does best: paying acute attention.

Padnos is a former bicycle-shop salesman and telemarketer who often has had trouble finding a suitable job. He has a Ph.D. in comparative literature, which he earned in June of 2000 from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, but this has not helped him much in his quest for employment. He can be impressive in ticking off the list of university teaching jobs throughout the United States and Canada for which he has applied without success.

A couple of years ago, desperate for an income and hungry to teach something to somebody, Padnos applied for a part-time job teaching literature to adolescents in the Community High School of Vermont, a program administered by the state's Department of Corrections. Its pupils are inmates in the prison system. Padnos was assigned to the regional correctional facility in Woodstock, on the state's southeastern border—just across the Connecticut River from Hanover. The facility, built in 1935 and scheduled for abandonment by the corrections system this spring, is wedged between an auto-parts outlet and a convenience store on the unfashionable eastern edge of a fashionable town. Its exterior, red brick and whitewashed wooden trim, evokes a schoolhouse. Its interior, in the words of the state's commissioner of corrections, evokes "a James Cagney movie": it's an antiquated warren of locked metal doors, Plexiglas monitoring windows, and iron grillwork, with gray paint and a prevailing odor—diluted by disinfectant—of burned meat from the cafeteria. Its capacity is seventy-five inmates. Its superintendent says he "hates" to see the population rise above eighty. About half are convicted adult felons, the other half kids awaiting trial. The two populations mix indiscriminately. Padnos taught in a basement classroom there for thirteen months.

Teachers in the Vermont correctional system are offered several layers of protection from their charges: surveillance cameras in the classrooms, walkie-talkies they can clip to their belts, classroom doors left open to allow fast entry by guards in case of trouble. Most teachers accept the full inventory, but Padnos rejected everything. His motives had less to do with bravado than with practical concerns, he told me when we spoke recently. "I got rid of the camera, I let the inmates close and lock the door, and I even allowed them to expel the jail snitches if they wanted to," he said. "I allowed this because, as a teacher in the liberal arts, I try to humanize my students. I was interested in staging an intimate, private encounter with literature, and I thought that a measure of privacy and separation from the inhuman jail would help."

Padnos found himself inside a compacted sampling of the sub-population from which the deliverers of sudden violence have lately been emerging: the young, the male, the white, the angry, the ignored, the overstimulated, the intelligent if not well educated. The dangerous dreamers. Most of his charges were in for mid-level crimes such as drug use, assault, and robbery. If they had lacked for attentive adult mentors in the outside world, they now lived at close quarters with plenty of them: adult rapists, gang members, and murderers. Although largely poor and from rural communities, these young inmates represented a range of social classes in Vermont, a rural state that is laced with pockets of poverty. With one eminent exception, they had not yet broken through to the level of crime that stops the larger world in its tracks. But as Padnos quickly came to perceive, such an achievement preoccupied most of them. It formed their imaginative agendas. "They're fascinated by the details of their crimes," he told me, "and by violence in general. Violent crime is the one topic to which they can devote sustained concentration. When my classes touched on this subject, as almost all jail classes eventually do, they became a kind of seminar. Everyone was well informed, everyone felt entitled to participate, and everyone was prepared to teach something. When I asked the students how often they read the police files they carried with them to class—all the witness statements, the blood and ballistics analyses the prosecution had turned over to the defense—they would say, 'All the time. Over and over. And over.'"

Arranging their future crimes was the long-term extracurricular project that kept them busy, Padnos learned, and they received constant guidance and reinforcement from the hardened jailbirds in their midst. "The parole and probation people may have thought they had these kids in their radar," he told me, "but the kids were already thinking way beyond rehabilitation. They weren't talking about getting jobs, going back to school, anything like that. It was through crime that they intended to reintroduce themselves to the world."

The facility's superintendent, William R. Anderson, backs up Padnos's observations. He told me that although instances of violent crime in Vermont had not increased in recent years, the severity of violence had intensified "significantly." "I'm seeing something in young people coming into jail today I've never seen before," he said. "The seventeen-, eighteen-, nineteen-year-old kids I see, they don't care about anything, including themselves. They have absolutely no respect for any kind of authority. They have no direction in their lives whatsoever. They're content to come back to jail time after time after time."

Into this context Padnos brought an ambitious syllabus: James Baldwin, Edgar Allan Poe, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O'Connor, Mark Twain. "I wanted to teach them to imagine themselves in the situations of others in similar predicaments," he said. "I wanted to show them that they are not the isolatos they take themselves for. What they are going through is not unique to them; these struggles have been experienced and written about all through history."

As he thinks back on it now, Padnos concedes that aside from a few scattered, near accidental moments when the literature, the students, and his instruction coalesced, his course was a failure. "They were too far gone by the time they arrived in prison," he said. "This was true of the middle-class, public high school, bomb-threatening kids; it was even true of the well-educated preppie kids. And their experience in prison pushed most of them even further away from any hope for involvement with a civil, productive life. Just once in a while I saw it happen: they'd relate to something I'd brought them to read or talk about, and for a few minutes they'd be transformed into children—wide-eyed, frightened, hopelessly lost. Then a jailer would give a knock, tell 'em time was up, and that moment would be over."

But something else began to happen in those jagged sessions, a transformation that Padnos had not anticipated. The jailed kids, gradually and roughly, came to accept him as one of themselves. The key to the process, he believes, was his jettisoning of the classroom safeguards. None of the other teachers had dared to let go of those, and their refusal amounted to a statement of irreducible fear, disgust, and membership in the target world. Padnos's students made him prove that he meant the gesture: they sized him up, shouted him down, mocked his questions, cursed and tried to intimidate him for a while. They demanded to know why anybody like him would spend time in jail if he didn't have to.

Padnos became a player under inmates' rules. He believes that his youthfulness helped, and also his unconcealed affinity for the outlaw point of view. "I have an attraction to people who don't mind causing offense," he told me. "People who are disappointments to themselves, and whose families don't know how to account for them." Whatever the reasons, when the layers of distrust had burned away, Padnos found himself privy to, and taking part in, conversations of the sort that usually unspool only among the dispossessed, and only in those moments when they feel they are free from interlopers, secure with their own kind.

What Padnos began hearing in these conversations, he says, was the language of apocalypse. "The goal for the bright ones is to truly mesmerize the middle class with violence," he told me. "They've been transfixed by disaster themselves—in their families, at the movies, in the company of their mentors in crime. They've come to feel that there's nothing out there for them. And so they know exactly the effect they're looking for. They keep up with the news. They read about their deeds in the papers. They've been ignored all their lives, and they're pleased to see that the public is finally giving them some of the attention they're due. The papers always describe their crimes as 'senseless,' and 'meaningless,' and 'unmotivated,' and these kids themselves always come off as 'cold' and 'distant' to the reporters. The details of their crimes are always covered with the tightest possible focus, as if meaning might be found there. The result is just what they'd been hoping for: terrifying, mesmerizing violence, and no context."

Padnos, who is writing a book about his experiences, hardly endorses this violence. His classroom goal, in fact, had been to transmute the violent impulse into a quest for self-understanding through the medium of literature. He had hoped, in the best postgraduate fashion, that through a guided reading of "The Cask of Amontillado," or Cities of the Plain, he might awaken his young charges to the healing awareness that their torments are part of the human condition.

Instead Padnos found himself becoming a student in a different kind of seminar. Listening to the boys in his classroom, he began to comprehend that the deeds they had committed, and the language with which they described future deeds, amounted to a text that American society has so far stubbornly resisted decoding. The message Padnos found embedded in this text is that in a world otherwise stripped of meaning and self-identity, adolescents can come to understand violence itself as a morally grounded gesture, a kind of purifying attempt to intervene against the nothingness.

"They're a community of believers, in a way," he told me. "They come from all kinds of backgrounds. But what unites them are these apocalyptic suspicions that they have. They think and act as though it's an extremely late hour in the day, and nothing much matters anymore. A lot of them are suicidal. Most of them see themselves as frustrated travelers. Solitary wayfarers. They've done things that have broken them off from their past and set off on the open road. Eventually they got arrested. This may be hard for some people to swallow, I guess, but they talk about their crimes almost as if they were acts of faith. Maybe these kids themselves wouldn't use those words. But the things they've done, on some level, strike me as almost ecstatic attempts to vault over the shabby facts of their everyday lives. They haven't read much. But some of them, the more down-and-out ones especially, read the Book of Revelation a lot."

These kids also watch a lot of movies and TV. No surprise there. But it's what they extract from these sources that engrosses Padnos. "They're drawn to the myths built into these violent movies, not just the violence itself," he said. "Prison life, especially for kids—maybe life in general for kids—is soaked in myths about outlaws, self-reliance. People traveling a rough landscape that is their true home. People who mete out justice to anyone who impinges on their native liberties. Post-apocalyptic heroes, just like they want to be—violent, suicidal, the sort of people who are preparing themselves for what happens after everything ends.

"These kids half believe that their destination is the same as these screen heroes'. That it's something like the roadside shantytown in Mad Max. They devour Taxi Driver, especially the Travis Bickle speech in which he prophesies a great rain and promises that it will wash the streets of their scum. They relate to the themes in Terminator II and The Postman. And Reservoir Dogs, and Wild Things. These were practically our class canon." Padnos thought for a minute. "I admire my students," he said. "Sometimes I wish that I had the courage they have. I just think of them as passionate, thoughtful, lucid, well-informed, literate, morally sophisticated, homicidal all-American kids."

Laird's Story

Into Padnos's classroom one crisp January day in 2000, "full of prep-school chumminess," as Padnos remembers it, walked the plump and fair-skinned seventeen-year-old Laird Stanard, who a few weeks earlier had murdered his mother with a shotgun. "The story had been in every newspaper, and on every local news broadcast in Vermont," Padnos said. "All the prisoners knew about it. So here came Laird, circulating in the jail's general population, available to anyone who felt like eviscerating a kid who had just killed his mother."

Padnos had a ringside seat, as it were, for the boy's introduction to jail life—to the rest of his life. "They were waiting for him," he recalled. "I hadn't figured out why eighteen students were suddenly keen on coming to my class. They filled every chair in the room. As soon as he walked through the door they were yelling, 'All right! Here he is! The man!' I remember how addled Laird was, how indignant. His whole attitude was 'Me? Shoot my mother? Hey, I'm as distraught as anyone! What the fuck are you talking about?'"

Padnos found himself helpless to prevent the cruelly comic initiation that followed. The class kingpin, a fleshy character whom Padnos refers to as Slash, took charge. "She's your mother, for God's sake, kid!" he yelled at Laird. "I just don't get that. I mean, she's your own goddamn mother! What are you going to do? 'Hi, Mom—KA-BOOM?' I mean, come on! KA-BOOM!" Padnos remembers the raucous laughter that spread through the classroom. "KA-POW! BAM! Take that, bitch!" More laughter. Padnos ruefully recalls laughing a bit himself. Other kids took up the patter: "Hey, Mom! Present for ya. KA-BOOM!" "Wasn't she your own mother, for Christ's sakes?"

Through it all Laird sat in shocked silence, his jaw locked. Still not clear in his own mind about what he had done, he had apparently steeled himself to endure whatever this new environment offered. He had come into the room cheerfully prepared, with his prep-school notes, to discuss Edgar Allan Poe. In the days that followed, Padnos watched Laird try to make sense of where he was. The boy offered up his credentials to the new people in his life—almost, it struck Padnos, as a tourist might in a place far from home. The other prisoners ignored him.

Padnos did not. He forged a friendship with Laird, who was desperately receptive. "We were similar," Padnos said. "We knew the same types of people, our parents were similar people, we're both prep-school kids. We were both overwhelmed by the thugs in this jail, and we both wanted to establish a civilized island in that uncivil world." Over the course of several intimate conversations Padnos saw Laird's denial slowly dissolve. He began to hear the authentic voice of an unformed, unfinished adolescent trying to explain why he had done what he had done.

Laird's story was not the sort that is usually told in attempts to reconstruct a motive after vaguely similar adolescent killings. There were no easy formulations here about the effects of bullies, or drugs, or a predisposition to violence. His account was at once more disjointed and far more specific than that. Padnos recalls it as the story of a confused boy whose parents were thwarting him. The Stanard family lived in a renovated farmhouse on several acres of land off a rural thoroughfare called Blood Hill Road. His parents raised sheep and horses. Laird's father, Bill, had taught in both public and private high schools. He had been a naval officer in Vietnam. He had given his son gun training. Laird's mother, Paula, the daughter of a wealthy family, had been the boy's strongest ally. Laird recounted fond memories of the two of them smoking cigarettes together and talking about life.

According to Padnos, Laird did not want to go home to West Windsor with his father the night of the holiday music program at his school. He wanted to visit a girl he liked in Maine. But his father insisted that they return to the house on Blood Hill Road.

On the following night Laird left the house without notifying his parents, taking a shotgun and a family car. He went to a rural nightclub in the area, called Destiny, where he sat smoking cigarettes and watching people dance. When he returned home, at one o'clock, Paula Stanard was indignantly waiting for him. She and Laird quarreled briefly. Then Laird leveled the shotgun, which he had concealed behind him, and killed her with one shot. When his father came stumbling down the stairs at the sound of the report, Laird tried to complete the double murder he had contemplated, but in his panic he misfired. He lurched out the door to the car and spun down the driveway, striking a snowbank, the mailbox, and a tree. He drove six miles to a party at a ski resort. At the party he pressed a wild story on several people: he had picked up a hitchhiker in the middle of the night, and the hitchhiker had forced his way into the Stanard house and shot his mother. "His plan was a movie plan," Padnos told me. "He thought he would live with his girlfriend, off on the lam someplace, with his dad's shotgun and his mother's credit card to help them get around." One of the people who listened to Laird's story called the police. It took the local police four days to arrive at the truth.

In the weeks and months following Laird's arrival, Padnos watched as Laird developed a kind of sangfroid in his new role as a criminal. "He started giving me reports," Padnos said, "on what it was like to live in a world where he was at the center of attention. He claimed to have movie projects in the works, and he tended to know people who appeared in the news personally. Other criminals."

Who Knows?

Last summer Laird Stanard accepted a deal: in return for a plea of guilty to charges of murdering his mother and attempting to murder his father, he was given sentences of twenty-five years to life and, concurrently, twenty years to life. Theo Padnos testified at the sentencing hearing and wrote to me about it.

What a strange scene it was. Laird's dad ... [and his] mom's family [were] there, as were a bunch of neighbors and former teachers and reporters. The funny thing was that during the intermissions when the spectators ambled around outside the courtroom, the whole thing felt like a happy waspy cocktail party. We all knew a bit about one another—"Oh, you're Theo," people said to me, and smiled ...


Laird was in a good mood too. He was the center of attention. When I testified, I kept trying to get up and leave the witness box before I was really supposed to go, and this was amusing to everyone in the courtroom but especially amusing to Laird. (I didn't wait for the DA or the judge to ask their questions.) The judge laughed, I laughed, everyone smiled. When the DA asked me if Laird fully understood "the enormity" of what he's done, I wanted to say that yes, I think he understands that enormity more than the rest of us, because he has nightmares all the time, because he sometimes sleeps twenty hours a day, because he sometimes sits in class absolutely terrified by what we're reading. And the rest of us are amusing ourselves at a cocktail party. But of course I wasn't thinking like that. Instead I just said that I thought that the consequences of the crime couldn't be fully appreciated yet by him but that he was making progress.

The other funny thing was that the defense psychiatrist testified at length in the most somber, lugubrious voice you can imagine about Laird's "borderline personality." Laird had suicidal ideation, he had ADHD and ADD, he had a history of unstable relationships, chronic suicidality (I don't think so), marked reactivity of mood (what? he gets angry easily, I guess), he saw everything in black and white w/o grays, and on and on. This guy was also a great performer. Very solemn and full of technical language. He concluded that when L's mom yelled at him, L overreacted because of his BPD and blew her away with a shotgun. The shrink said that the borderline illness/syndrome had "the most explanatory power" of any of the diagnoses in the DSM IV, the great manual of the psychiatrists, and basically, Laird wasn't well in the head: if anything "caused" the crime, it was this. The judge weighed in later with his own diagnosis. He seemed to feel that what provoked the crime was Laird's mom who made him total up [a large number of] credit card charges by hand, when Laird had difficulty adding. This frustration/humiliation was too much for someone with the borderline personality problem, so he shot her. I don't know what the judge said to himself afterwards, but the shrink, chatting with my fellow jail worker and me on the sidewalk outside the courthouse, said, "I don't have any idea what the reason is, you know? Who knows?"


They Are Us

To most people, the notion that an apocalyptic nihilism is taking root in this nation's children will seem alarmist. Much of the evidence can be seen as variations on age-old complaints, familiar generational impasses, and inevitable exceptions to a reassuring general rule: that tranquillity still reigns. After all, are not most kids well-adjusted? Do not the vast majority of them pass through adolescence without episodes of addiction, pregnancy, criminal behavior, self-destruction? Have grown-ups not complained since time immemorial about "kids these days"? And have not kids forever groused that the adults in their lives don't understand them? Have there not always been instances of violent aggression among a few antisocial delinquents?

Parents who generalize from the apparent contentedness of their own children are indulging a dangerous fallacy. Children, like people in general, present different faces to different groups within their social universes, a state of affairs amply documented by Judith Rich Harris in her important book The Nurture Assumption (1998), which illustrated the multiple, often contradictory personas elicited variably by parents, peer groups, siblings, and prevailing societal influences. Equally treacherous is the view that the young have always been inscrutable to adults and have always complained about being misunderstood. Since the end of World War II adolescents have been chafing against an ever more impervious, unheeding social system. Their outrage has found expression, with increasing intensity, among the inchoate "juvenile delinquents" of the early postwar years, the Beats of the 1950s, the hippies and political radicals of the 1960s, the drug and gangland subcultures of more recent years. And now it's expressed by the kids who carry out school shootings and other acts of vicious and inexplicable violence. The questions we must ask ourselves today, therefore, are these: Why are so many children plotting to blow up their worlds and themselves? For each act of gratuitous violence that is actually carried out, how many unconsummated dark fantasies are transmuted into depression, resignation, or a benumbed withdrawal from participation in civic society?

What we are witnessing is clearly something new. A frightening momentum has been building, and the qualities of generational understanding and assurance that once earned America a worldwide reputation as child-centered are fading fast. And yet despite a growing awareness of this fact, the public policy that we are developing to cope with troubled kids is only exacerbating the situation. Let us leave aside considerations of withering support for public education and inadequate federal support for impoverished working mothers. Let us consider our present policy in its rawest and most adversarial form: in the state's growing arrogation of power to punish rather than to rehabilitate. This is a policy that expresses both fear of and contempt for children.

In the 1990s public figures such as John Ashcroft and William Bennett successfully campaigned to make certain that the juvenile justice system no longer "hugs the juvenile terrorist," in Ashcroft's words. As Margaret Talbot pointed out in The New York Times Magazine in September 2000, forty-five states in that decade passed new laws or enacted changes in old ones that toughened criminal justice and criminal penalties for the errant young. Fifteen states transferred to prosecutors from judges the power to choose adult prosecution in certain crimes. Twenty-eight states created statutory requirements for adult trials in some crimes of violence, theft and robbery, and drug use. In 1994 President Clinton's Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act federalized many of the states' initiatives, authorizing adult prosecution of children thirteen and over who were charged with certain serious crimes, and expanding the death penalty to cover some sixty offenses. As Talbot wrote, "The number of youths under 18 held in adult prisons, and in many cases mixed in with adult criminals, has doubled in the last 10 years or so ... to 7,400 in 1997. Of the juveniles incarcerated on any given day, one in 10 are in adult jails or prisons."

These draconian efforts seem to fly in the face of emerging scientific research demonstrating that the brains of children and adolescents are not yet fully formed—not yet equipped to make precisely the sort of emotional and rational decisions necessary to restrain impulses in certain situations that can lead to antisocial and criminal behavior. Adolescents, with directed and scrupulous supervision, can indeed change and grow emotionally and psychologically, but our public policy seems intent on denying this possibility. But if the government is in denial, the marketplace is not: with the help of exhaustive behavioral research, corporations have in recent decades spent hundreds of millions of dollars ransacking and exploiting the emotions and thought processes of adolescents and pre-adolescents. RoperASW (with its Roper Youth Report), Teenage Research Unlimited, and similar organizations, using methods derived from the behavioral sciences, advise merchandisers and advertising companies on the latest semiotics of "cool" and consumer-friendly subversion. "We understand how teens think, what they want, what they like, what they aspire to be, what excites them, and what concerns them," the Teenage Research Unlimited Web site brags. What this understanding translates into in the marketplace is hypersexuality, aggression, addiction, coldness, and irony-laced civic disaffection—the very seed-bed of apocalyptic nihilism.

The national task of recentering ourselves and our children will be enormous, and will require painful shifts in our expectations of expediency, personal gratification, and the unfettered accumulation of wealth. But the goals are necessary and anything but obscure. Children crave a sense of self-worth. That craving is answered most readily through respectful inclusion: through a reintegration of our young into the intimate circles of family and community life. We must face the fact that having ceased to exploit children as laborers, we now exploit them as consumers. We must find ways to offer them useful functions, tailored to their evolving capacities. Closely allied to this goal is an expanded definition of "education"—one that ranges far beyond debates over public and private schools and how much to spend on them to embrace an ethic of sustained mentoring that extends from community to personal relationships.

The societal shift of consciousness necessary for such a recentering is—in a pre-apocalyptic context, at least—virtually unthinkable. But America is lately learning to rethink many assumptions it once comfortably took for granted, out of terrorist promptings eerily similar to the bloody messages being delivered by certain of our young.

.....

Briefly, then, back to Vermont. The town of Chelsea, the home of Robert Tulloch and Jimmy Parker, scarcely has the look of a town that would breed teenage killers, for one simple reason—it is not such a town. Chelsea is a place that breeds human beings, whose fates are bound up in the larger forces and energies of the nation. There is no real mystery over the identities and the motivations of Tulloch and Parker, or of Laird Stanard. They are us, and they are ours.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

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Wild in the streets
by Barbara Kantrowitz
Newsweek
August 1, 1993

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Charles Conrad didn't have a chance. He was 55 years old, crippled by multiple sclerosis and needed a walker or wheelchair to get around. The boys who allegedly attacked him earlier this month were young--17, 15 and 14--and they were ruthless. Police say that when Conrad returned to his suburban Atlanta condominium while they were burgling it, the boys did what they had to do. They got rid of him. Permanently.

Over a period of many hours--stretching from dusk on July 17 until dawn of the next day--they stabbed him with a kitchen knife and a barbecue fork, strangled him with a rope, and hit him on the head with a hammer and the barrel of a shotgun, according to a statement one of the boys, 14-year-old Carlos Alexander Nevarez, reportedly gave to police. At one point they realized they were hungry. So they heated up the macaroni and cheese they found in Conrad's kitchen, and washed it down with Dr Pepper.

Despite this torture, Conrad survived. According to the statement published by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a grievously wounded Conrad begged the boys to shoot him and put a swift end to his agony. But, Nevarez said, the boys were afraid people would hear the gunshots. So they allegedly beat him some more, and then poured salt into his wounds to see if he was still alive. When his body twitched in response to the pain, they threw household knickknacks at him. After he was struck in the back by a brass eagle, "he stopped breathing," Nevarez told police. The boys then took off in Conrad's wheelchair-equipped van with their hard-earned loot: a stereo, a VCR, a camcorder and a shotgun, according to an indictment handed down last week. Even law-enforcement officials were shocked when they arrested the boys the next day. The DeKalb County district attorney, J. Tom Morgan, calls it "the worst crime scene I've ever seen."

Conrad's death was particularly gory, but it was not an isolated incident. Each day seems to bring a new horror story of vicious crimes by boys-and a few girls. Near Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., on July 14, a group of teenagers allegedly beat and stabbed a friend to death; police have yet to come up with a motive. A few days earlier in New York, a Brooklyn mother made the front pages for the saddest of distinctions: losing all three of her young sons to street violence. Some victims, such as the mentally retarded girl sexually assaulted by high school football players in Glen Ridge, NJ., get whole forests of publicity. But most victims are mourned only by the people who loved them. In February, Margaret Ensley's 17-year-old son Michael caught a bullet in the hallway of his high school in Reseda, Calif. She says a teen shot her son because he thought Michael gave him a funny look. The shooter, she says, is now serving 10 years in a youth-authority camp. "But I have life imprisonment without the possibility of parole," says Ensley, "because I won't ever have my son back again...When they were filling his crypt, I said, 'Lord, let me crawl up there with him,' because the pain was so unbearable."

Law-enforcement and public-health officials describe a virtual "epidemic" of youth violence in the last five years, spreading from the inner cities to the suburbs. "We're talking about younger and younger kids committing more and more serious crimes," says Indianapolis Prosecuting Attorney Jeff Modisett. "Violence is becoming a way of life." Much of it, but by no means all, can be found in poor neighborhoods, where a disproportionate number of victims and victimizers live side by side. But what separates one group from another is complex: being neglected or abused by parents; witnessing violence at an early age on the street or in the house; living in a culture that glamorizes youth violence in decades of movies from "A Clockwork Orange" to "Menace II Society"; the continuing mystery of evil. To that list add the most dangerous ingredient: the widespread availability of guns to kids. In a Harvard School of Public Health survey released last week, 59 percent of children in the sixth through the 12th grades said they "could get a handgun if they wanted one." More than a third of the students surveyed said they thought guns made it less likely that they would live to "a ripe old age." Cindy Rodriguez, a 14-year-old living in gang-riddled South-Central Los Angeles, is a testament to the ferocity of unrestrained firepower. Two and a half years ago, a gang bullet ripped through her body as she was talking to the mailman outside her house. Now she's paralyzed for life. And the bullets keep coming. "We hear gunshots every day," she says. "Sometimes I get scared. I'm in the shower and I hear it and I get all scared. But you have to live with the reality."

Violence is devastating this generation, as surely as polio cut down young people 40 years ago. Attorney General Janet Reno says youth violence is "the greatest single crime problem in America today." Between 1987 and 1991, the last year for which statistics are available, the number of teenagers arrested for murder around the country increased by an astounding 85 percent, according to the Department of justice. In 1991, 10- to 17-year-olds accounted for 17 percent of all violent-crime arrests; law-enforcement officials believe that figure is even higher now. Teenagers are not just the perpetrators; they're also the victims. According to the FBI, more than 2,200 murder victims in 1991 were under 18 -an average of more than six young people killed every day. The Justice Department estimates that each year, nearly a million young people between 12 and 19 are raped, robbed or assaulted, often by their peers.

That's the official count. The true number of injuries from teen violence could be even higher. When emergency medical technicians in Boston recently addressed a class of fifth graders, they were astonished to find that nearly three quarters of the children knew someone who had been shot or stabbed. "A lot of violence goes unmeasured," says Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, assistant dean of the Harvard School of Public Health and author of "Deadly Consequences," a book about teen violence. Paramedic Richard Serino, who is a supervisor in the emergency room at Boston City Hospital, estimates that doctors save seven or eight wounded teens for every one who dies. Many of the "lucky ones," Serino says, end up paralyzed or with colostomy bags.

The statistics are shocking and so is the way some teenagers react when they're caught and accused of brutal crimes. "Hey, great! We've hit the big time," 17-year-old defendant Raul Omar Villareal allegedly boasted to another boy after hearing that they might be charged with murder. Villareal was one of six Houston teens arrested and charged last month in the brutal rape and strangulation of two young girls who made the fatal mistake of taking a shortcut through a wooded area where, police say, the boys were initiating two new members into their gang. In Dartmouth, Mass., this April, two 16-year-olds and one 15-year-old armed with clubs and knives barged into a high-school social-studies class and, police say, fatally stabbed a 16-year-old. One of the accused killers reportedly claimed that cult leader David Koresh was his idol and laughed about the killing afterward.

Dartmouth is a suburb of New Bedford, the sort of place city dwellers flee to, thinking they'll find a respite from city crime. While the odds may be a bit better, a picket fence and a driveway is no guarantee. Indeed, even suburban police departments around the nation have taken to keeping watch on groups they worry may develop into youth gangs. Thus far, most of these kids seem like extras from "West Side Story," bunches of boys content to deface walls and fight with clubs and chains.

The casual attitude toward violence is most acute in inner-city neighborhoods, where many youngsters have grown up to the sounds of sirens and gunshots in the night and the sight of blood-spattered sidewalks in the morning. After so many years in a war zone, trauma begins to seem normal. This is how Shaakara, a sweet-faced 6-year-old who fives in Uptown, one of Chicago's most dangerous areas, calmly describes one terrible scene she witnessed at a neighbor's apartment: "This lady, she got shot and her little baby had got cut. This man, he took the baby and cut her. He cut her on the throat. He killed the baby. All blood came out. This little boy, when he saw the baby, he called his grandmother and she came over. And you know, his grandmother got killed, but the little boy didn't get killed. He comes over to my house. That man, he took the grandmother and put her on the ground, and slammed her, and shut her in the door. Her whole body, shut in the door." After telling her tale, Shaakara smiles. "You know what I want to be when I grow up? A ballerina or a mermaid."

In this heightened atmosphere of violence, normal rules of behavior don't apply. As traditional social supports--home, school, community--have fallen away, new role models have taken their place. "It takes an entire village to raise a child, but the village isn't there for the children anymore," says Modisett, the Indianapolis prosecutor. "The only direction these kids receive is from their peers on the street, the local drug dealers and other role models who engage in criminal conduct." Katie Buckland, a Los Angeles prosecutor who volunteers in the city's schools, says the kids she sees have already given up the idea of conventional success and seize the opportunities available. "The kids that are selling crack when they're in the fifth grade are not the dumb kids," she says. "They're the smart kids. They're the ambitious kids...trying to climb up their own corporate ladder. And the only corporate ladder they see has to do with gangs and drugs."

With drugs the route to easy money, prison is the dominant institution shaping the culture, replacing church and school. In the last few years, more young black men have gone to jail than to college. Fathers, uncles, brothers, cousins have all done time. April Allen, a 15-year-old who lives in Boston's Roxbury section, has friends who think of jail as a kind of sleep-away camp. "The boys I know think it's fun to be in jail because other boys they know are in jail, too," she says. Prison is a way of looking; the dropped-waist, baggy-pants look is even called "jailing" in Miami. And prison is a way of acting. "In prison, the baddest, meanest guy runs the cell," says H. T. Smith, a lawyer and African-American activist who practices in Miami's Overtown ghetto. "Your neighborhood, your school--it's the same. You've got to show him you're crazy enough so he won't mess with you."

If prison provides the method of social interaction, guns provide the means. Alexis Vega, a 19-year-old New Yorker, explains the mentality on the streets where she grew up: "If a man threatens me, that's a threat to my life. So I go get a gun and make sure I shoot him first before he shoots me. Even though he might not mean it. just by saying it, it may scare me so much that I'm going to get him first." Vega has seen run-of-the-mill arguments turn into tragedies. "A bullet doesn't have anybody's name on it," says Vega. "Somebody shoots, they're so nervous, they'll catch you even though you don't have anything to do with it."

One kid with a gun is a finite danger; a gang equipped with Uzis, AK-47s and sawed-off shotguns means carnage. Unlike adult criminals, who usually act alone, violent teens normally move in a pack. That's typical teen behavior: hanging together. But these are well-equipped armies, not just a few kids milling outside a pizza parlor. There's a synergistic effect: one particularly aggressive kid can spur others to commit crimes they might not think of on their own. The victims are often chosen because they are perceived as weak or vulnerable, say social scientists who study children and aggression. As horrible as some of the crimes are, kids go along with the crowd rather than go it alone.

Some social scientists argue that teenage aggression is natural. In another era, they say, that aggression might have been channeled in a socially acceptable way--into the military, or hard physical labor--options that are still available to putative linebackers and soldiers. But other researchers who have studied today's violent teens say they are a new and dangerous breed. At a conference on teen-violence prevention in Washington, D. C., last week, psychologists and social workers discussed the causes of skyrocketing teen-crime rates. In one of the largest longitudinal studies of violent youth, scientists followed about 4,000 youngsters in Denver, Pittsburgh and Rochester, N.Y., for five years. By the age of 16, more than half admitted to some form of violent criminal behavior, says Terence P. Thornberry, the principal investigator in Rochester and a psychologist at the State University of New York in Albany. "Violence among teenagers is almost normative in our society," Thornberry told the conference. But not all violent teens were the same: the researchers found that 15 percent of the sample were responsible for 75 percent of the violent offenses.

What made the bad kids so bad? Thornberry and his colleagues identified a number of "risk factors" in the youths' background. "Violence does not drop out of the sky at age 15," Thornberry says. "it is part of a long developmental process that begins in early childhood." Kids who grow up in families where there is child abuse and maltreatment, spouse abuse and a history of violent behavior learn early on to act out physically when they are frustrated or upset. Poverty exacerbates the situation. Parents who haven't finished high school, who are unemployed or on welfare, or who began their families while they themselves were teenagers are more likely to have delinquent children. In New York and other big cities, counselors who work with delinquent youths say they see families with a history of generations of violence. Angela D'Arpa-Calandra, a former probation officer who now directs the juvenile Intensive Supervision Program, says she recently had such a case in Manhattan family court. When she walked into the courtroom, she saw a mother and a grandmother sitting with the 14-year-old offender. "I had the grandmother in criminal court in 1963," D'Arpa-Calandra says. "We didn't stop it there. The grandmother was 14 when she was arrested. The mother had this child when she was 14. It's like a cycle we must relive."

Problems in school also increase the likelihood that the youngster will turn to violence, the study found. People who work with young criminals report that many are barely literate. Learning disabilities are common among teens in the probation system, says Charntel Polite, a Brooklyn Probation officer who supervises 30 youthful offenders. "I have 15-or 16-year-olds in ninth or 10th grade whose reading levels are second or third grade."

Thornberry says the most effective prevention efforts concentrate on eliminating risk factors. For example, students with learning problems could get extra tutoring. Parents who have trouble maintaining discipline at home could get counseling or therapy. "Prevention programs need to start very early," Thornberry says, maybe even before elementary school. "Waiting until the teenage years is too late."

After a while, life on the streets begins to feel like home to older teenagers. Joaquin Ramos, a 19-year-old member of the Latin Counts in Detroit, says he spends his time "chillin' and hanging" with the Counts when he's not in jail. He's spent two years behind bars, but that hasn't made him turn away from the gang. The oldest of seven children, he never met his father, but he has been told that he was a member of the Bagly Boys, a popular gang a generation ago. Ramos began carrying a gun when he was 9; he became a full-fledged Count at the age of 13. He has watched three good friends--Bootis, Shadow and Showtime--die in street wars.

Bootis was shot when he left a party. "I looked right into his eyes and it looked like he was trying to say something," Ramos recalls. "There was snow on the ground and the blood from the back of his head was spreading all over it. Another buddy tried to lift his bead but the back of it was gone. He had a small hole right in the middle of his forehead. And then he was gone. He died. That was my buddy. We were real tight." He adds, "Would you say in the story that we love him and miss him and Shadow and Showtime, too?"

Some kids do manage to leave gang life, usually with the help of a supportive adult. William Jefferson, now 19, quit the Intervale gang in Boston's Roxbury section after he was shot. "My mom talked to me and told me I had to make a decision whether I wanted to do something with my life or stay on the street and possibly get killed." He started playing basketball and football at school; then he had to keep up his grades to stay on the teams. Last month he became the first of his mother's four children to graduate from high school. He plans to enter junior college this fall. Now, he says, he'll behave because "I have a lot to lose."

Two lives, two different choices. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, Joaquin Ramos and William Jefferson represent different paths for a generation at risk. The young men made their own decisions, but clearly they were influenced by those dear to them: for Ramos it was the gang, for Jefferson, his mother. Day by day, block by block, these are the small judgments that will end up governing our streets. There is little reason to be very optimistic.

On their way home from a pool party last month, two teenage girls took a shortcut into the woods, where they were viciously raped and strangled. Police arrested six alleged members of the Black N White gang.

In rural Massachusetts, Baldwin was charged with killing a 17-year-old girl with a baseball bat. The alleged motive: she wouldn't date him. He denies the charge.

Bobby Kent, the 20-year-old son of a stockbroker, was killed near a quarry pond July 14, his body stabbed, his head smashed with a bat. Police arrested six youths. One of them was his exgirlfriend, another a former pal.

Juveniles accounted for 17% of all violent-crime arrests in 1991.

Juvenile arrests for murder increased by 85% between 1987 and 1991.

Three of every 10 juvenile murder arrests involved a victim under the age of 18 in 1991.

SOURCES: OFFICE OF JUVENILE JUSTICE AND DELINQUENCY PREVENTION, U.S. JUSTICE DEPT.; FBI

Between 1987 and 1991, juvenile arrests for weapons violations increased 62%.

One out of 5 weapons arrests in 1991 was a juvenile arrest.

Black youths were arrested for weapons--law violations at a rate triple that of white youths in 1991; they were victims of homicides at a rate six times higher than whites.
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:11 pm

Why Are Kids Killing? Coincidence—or Scary Trend? A Spate of Murders Allegedly Committed by Teens Leaves Experts, Family and Police Seeking Answers
by Maria Eftimiades, Susan Christian Goulding, Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, Don Campbell, Jane Sims Podesta.
People Magazine
June 23, 1997

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DURING THE PAST DECADE THE NUMBER OF murders committed by teenagers has leaped from roughly 1,000 a year to nearly 4,000. Worrisome as that trend may be, a fleeting glance at recent headlines—announcing that, in Texas, a teenage couple, formerly students at U.S. military academies, will soon stand trial for the carefully plotted murder of a girl who interrupted the smooth course of their love affair or that, in New Jersey, an 18-year-old high school senior delivered a baby while attending her prom, left the infant in the trash and returned to the dance—suggests some teens these days are also committing crimes of incomprehensible callousness. "The young people involved in some of these violent acts are without the capacity to make the connection with another life," says Dr. David Hartman, the director of neuropsychology at the Isaac Ray Center for Psychiatry and Law in Chicago. "They need have no more reason for hurting another human being than they have for peeling an orange."

How they get to that point is a matter of heated debate. Poverty, broken homes and physical, psychological and sexual abuse are frequently cited, and clearly such factors do play a role. But New York psychologist Michael Schulman, the author of Bringing Up a Moral Child, observes, "Given the fact that most people who suffered similar kinds of abuse don't do these kinds of things, the explanations feel a little hollow." Indeed, as the following cases illustrate, kids accused of acts of casual violence come from a variety of backgrounds. For Schulman, the solution to the problem is both straightforward and daunting. "You need to teach the child that the family stands for good ness," he says, "not simply for comfort and intellectual achievement, but that moral excellence is honored."

Melissa Drexler, 18

Among members of the class of '97 at Lacey Township High School in New Jersey, Melissa Drexler, 18, was known as a quiet, diligent student—an aspiring fashion designer who dreamed of becoming the next Donna Karan. She seemed shy and opened up only to a few close friends. "When you get to know her, she can be exciting," says Jim Botsacos, 18, a longtime friend. "She likes to have fun."

But Drexler concealed more from her classmates than a desire to enjoy herself. Although it now appears that she was pregnant for most of her senior year, Drexler managed to hide her condition—from her classmates, parents and boyfriend, John Lewis, 20—by wearing baggy, loose-fitting clothes.

On June 6 she went to her senior prom. Dressed in a floor-length, black sleeveless velvet gown, Drexler arrived in a limousine at the Garden Manor banquet hall in Aberdeen, N.J., at about 7:45 p.m. with Lewis. She immediately retreated to the rest room with a classmate to freshen up. When her friend grew concerned that she was taking so long in one of the stalls, Drexler, Monmouth County prosecutors say, told her she was having a heavy period and to let their dates know she would be a while.

The girl returned to the rest room about 15 minutes later, and Drexler emerged, zipped her dress and touched up her makeup. A few minutes later, after asking the deejay to play a Metallica song, she hit the dance floor with Lewis, a Wal-Mart stockroom worker she had been dating for about two years. "She seemed normal," says fellow student Jeff Diab, 18. "All smiles." Meanwhile, a cleaning woman, summoned by school officials to clean up a blood-streaked stall in the ladies room, discovered the lifeless body of a 6-lb. 6-oz. baby boy in a tied garbage bag in a trash basket. After learning that Drexler was the last to use the rest room, teachers began questioning her. "She was not upset," says Monmouth County prosecutor Robert Honecker. "She indicated that she had delivered an infant." Such a blank response, though bewildering, is not unheard of, says Dr. Phillip Resnick, a professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. "[With] mothers who deny their pregnancy and don't form a bond, it's like a foreign body going through them—like a peach pit."

The incident has left Drexler's middle-class hometown of Forked River in shock. By all accounts, the teenager—who could face murder charges if prosecutors can prove the baby was alive at birth—was an indulged only child whose parents, John, a computer worker, and Marie, a bank employee, provided ample love and support. But Debbie Jacobson, a classmate's mother, says Melissa "is a child emotionally. She didn't make decisions on her own about things." Adds Botsacos: "Her family is almost too nice. They didn't want her to have a job. They bought her a car, paid for her gas, bought her clothes. She got what she wanted when she wanted it." This time it seems Drexler got something she didn't want—and cast it away.

Jeremy Strohmeyer, 18

Shortly before 4 a.m. on May 25, a security camera in a Primm, Nev., casino captured 7-year-old Sherrice Iverson-on her own as her father gambled nearby—playing hide-and-seek in a video arcade with Jeremy Strohmeyer, 18, a college-bound high school senior from Long Beach, Calif. Moments later, when Sherrice dashed into the women's room, Strohmeyer followed. There, allegedly, he raped and strangled her. He then continued celebrating the Memorial Day holiday weekend with best friend David Cash Jr., 18, and Cash's father. Police say the younger Cash had trailed Strohmeyer into the rest room but left after failing to persuade him to let the little girl alone. On his return to Long Beach, a friend says, Strohmeyer told him he'd had a great time.

Little in Strohmeyer's apparently ordinary, middle-class background—his mother, Winifred, is a marketing executive; his father, John, a well-to-do real estate investor—seems to account for the callousness of the murder of which he is accused. When a Los Angeles TV station aired the surveillance tape on May 26, several stunned classmates recognized him and told their parents, who tipped off police. Two days later, Strohmeyer was arrested. (Cash, who turned himself in, was released and has not been charged in the killing.) Jean Matz, a neighbor of the Strohmeyers', was shocked. "The mother was working all the time. She is very successful," Matz says. "[John] ran the house." Once a top student and volleyball player at Woodrow Wilson High School, Strohmeyer dropped off the team two months ago and, friends say, began losing weight. His grades had plummeted. Volleyball coach John Crutchfield suspected he was using methamphetamines, but Strohmeyer denied it. Around the same time, his father threw him out of the house—for disregarding curfew, police say—though he was living at home again prior to the crime. "He would drink too much at parties to impress people," says one classmate. "Most of the time he seemed nice, but he could get obnoxious." And there was one other hint of a darker side. A friend, Andy Edling, says that earlier this year, Strohmeyer had showed him an extensive collection of pornographic photos culled from the Internet. "What struck me most was the little children," Edling says. "I thought it was gross, and he just laughed."

Daphne Abdela, 15
Christopher Vasquez, 15


For all the thousands of New Yorkers who venture into Manhattan's Central Park by day, few are aware of the hidden world that flourishes in the park after dark. That's when teenagers like 15-year-old Daphne Abdela, daughter of a millionaire businessman, come in their Tommy Hilfiger jackets and baggy pants to share the night with other would-be rebels in an odd subculture of privileged kids playing "gangstas."

On May 22 the playacting stopped; now, Abdela and her new boyfriend, Christopher Vasquez, 15, stand accused of one of the grisliest crimes in recent New York history. Police say Vasquez attacked Michael McMorrow, a 44-year-old real estate agent with whom the two had been drinking, stabbing him 30 times, almost cutting off his nose and a hand. Then, Abdela allegedly told police, she instructed Vasquez "to gut" McMorrow so "it would sink" when they heaved his body into a lake.

Since their arraignment on murder charges, a portrait has emerged of two troubled teens, adrift and desperately seeking acceptance. Abdela was known as a quiet rich kid who got loud once she started drinking. "She always tried to act like she was from a bad neighborhood," says a friend. Vasquez, meanwhile, slight and bespectacled, attended the exclusive Beekman School but hoped to prove his toughness by joining a gang. A longtime friend says that in the past year, Vasquez suddenly changed. "He was never in school," he says. "He punched my friend in the face at this party...for no reason."

Both teens have a long history of emotional problems. Vasquez was taking Zoloft, an antidepressant, and Lorazepam, an antianxiety drug. And Abdela has undergone treatment for her drinking. Clearly her parents—Angelo, an Israeli-born top executive in an international food company, and Catherine, a French-born former model—had an inkling she was once again heading for trouble. Only one week before McMorrow's murder, they had withdrawn her from the competitive Jesuit-run Loyola School she attended and wait-listed her at the Day Top Village drug treatment center. Still, friends and teachers of both teens find the violence of the crime unfathomable. "If you're looking for some pattern of behavior," says Richard J. Soghoian, her former headmaster, "it's just not there. In fairness, it's not."

Alex Baranyi, 18
David Anderson, 18


In Bellevue, Wash., a comfortable Seattle suburb, it's easy to miss the pockets of despair amid the prosperity. Yet the likes of Alex Baranyi are more common than some would admit. Baranyi, now 18, whose parents had separated when he was 8, had been taken to Pennsylvania by his father, Alex Sr., a software consultant, then sent back to Washington to live with his mother, Patricia, an educational assistant. Last November, Baranyi and his best friend, David Anderson, 18, who had left home and moved in with friends, dropped out of high school. At night they hung out with other kids at a local bowling alley and at a Denny's, where they would sit drinking coffee and killing time.

The void in their lives was filled with fantasy games. In recent years, Baranyi and Anderson had become followers of so-called goth—for gothic—subculture, in which devotees dress in black and wear white makeup to give themselves a spectral look. Baranyi was also a fan of Highlander, a TV series about an immortal sword-wielding hero; he owned a sword collection himself and talked often of death. "Sometimes I thought he might be sort of suicidal," says Dawn Kindschi, 17, an acquaintance who had filed a complaint against Baranyi last year after he allegedly beat her.

Despite his antisocial appearance, that was Baranyi's only serious brush with the law—until this year. On Jan. 5 the body of Kimberly Ann Wilson, 20, was found in a Bellevue park. She had been clubbed with a baseball bat and strangled. When police went to the Wilson home to deliver the news, they found Kim's parents, William, 52, and Rose, 46, and her sister Julia, 17, bludgeoned and stabbed to death.

Acting on a tip, police brought Baranyi in for questioning. He allegedly confessed to murdering Kim, a friend of Anderson's, then to killing her family in the belief they might have known she was meeting them. Later, authorities arrested Anderson as a partner in the crime. The choice of Kim Wilson as victim may have been arbitrary. Police say Baranyi told them he simply wanted to kill someone because he was "in a rut." According to King County prosecutor Norm Maleng, evidence suggests that Baranyi and Anderson, who will go on trial in October, had committed the murders "for the sheer experience of killing." To Kevin Wulff, principal at Bellevue High, the local outcry over the slayings is a case of too little, too late. "We ignore [these kids] and hope they go away," says Wulff, "and then we are horrified when they commit these crimes."

Corey Arthur, 19

Kids like Corey Arthur were the reason Jonathan Levin got into teaching, so the irony was heartbreaking when New York City police arrested him for Levin's murder on June 7. Since Levin, 31, was the son of Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin, some thought his family's wealth had played a role in his death. In fact, police say Arthur, a dropout who was often absent from Levin's English class at William H. Taft High School three years before, chose his former teacher as a victim without knowing who Levin's father was.

Raised in New York's harshest neighborhoods, Arthur, 19, barely knew his own father, who died in April. An aspiring rapper, he had, by the age of 16, been charged with heroin and cocaine possession and had been sent to a boot-camp program for young offenders. "He felt nobody cared about him," says ex-girlfriend Crystal Jacobs. "The only love he got was from people [on the street]. He would tell me, 'You got to do right.' " A friend told The New York Times, "He always wanted to have money, but he never wanted to get a job."

Levin had a reputation for helping students in need. According to police, he was at his modest Manhattan apartment on May 30 when Arthur phoned asking to see him. Police say Arthur and Montoun Hart, 25 (who had seven arrests on his record), went to Levin's place late that afternoon and tortured him with a knife until he revealed his PIN number; they also say Arthur killed Levin with a bullet to the head and that $800 was withdrawn from his account at a nearby ATM machine.

Police began an intensive pursuit that ended when one of Arthur's ex-girlfriends turned him in. Charged with first-degree murder, Arthur could face the death penalty.

Amy Grossberg, 18
Brian Peterson, 19


To their parents and neighbors in the suburban enclave of Wyckoff, N.J., Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson are simply a couple of kids who got into trouble, then made a tragic mistake. Of course the "mistake" the then 18-year-old sweethearts are accused of making involved nothing less than the murder of their newborn son and the depositing of his body in a Dumpster outside a Delaware motel last Nov. 12. Nevertheless "there's enormous support for the couple," says Joyce Harper, owner of a Wyckoff toy store where Peterson often buys Beanie Babies for Grossberg.

In an apparent attempt to explain themselves nationwide, Grossberg and her parents, Sonye and Alan, appeared on ABC's 20/20 on June 6 with interviewer Barbara Walters. "I would never hurt anything or anybody, especially something that could come from me," said Amy. Her mother, an interior designer (her husband is a furniture store owner), praised Amy's "very special" relationship with Peterson, who works part-time for his parents' wholesale video sales business and sees Amy weekly. Though Amy said nothing about her pregnancy all summer while she was home, and her parents were apparently unaware of it, Sonye characterized her relationship with her daughter as very close. "She's always so giving and caring," she said of Amy, who volunteers as an art teacher for children at Wyckoff's Temple Beth Rishon. "I can't believe that people don't see that about her."

What many viewers thought they saw instead was the Grossbergs' apparent detachment from a deeply disturbing crime. While defense lawyers argue that mitigating circumstances will become clear in court, Jerry Capone, a Wilmington, Del., attorney who represents many disadvantaged clients, says he is especially alarmed by teenagers like Grossberg and Peterson. "These kids from strong family backgrounds should have the proper moral background," he says. "That really frightens me. It means this lack of respect for human life cuts across all economic classes."

Contributors:Maria Eftimiades, Susan Christian Goulding, Anthony Duignan-Cabrera, Don Campbell, Jane Sims Podesta.

MORE FROM THIS ARTICLE

SUBURBAN NIGHTMARE New Jersey sweethearts Amy Grossberg and Brian Peterson stand accused of killing their baby, then placing his body in a Dumpster

LOST CHILD Melissa Drexler left her newborn in a trash can, then danced at her senior prom

DEADLY GAME Jeremy Strohmeyer allegedly killed a little girt playing hide-and-seek

PARK TERROR Christopher Vasquez is charged with knifing a man, then gutting him on orders from Daphne Abdela

ON A WHIM Alex Baranyi and David Anderson may have killed for the thrill of it

BROKEN TRUST Corey Arthur is accused of preying on his former teacher Jonathan Levin, killed for his bank card and PIN number

IN DENIAL For months, Amy Grossberg hid the pregnancy that ended with the death of her baby
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Re: CNN Tonight with Don Lemon on Bill Clinton & BLM

Postby admin » Tue Apr 26, 2016 9:18 pm

Why the Young Kill
by Sharon Begley
Newsweek
May 2, 1999

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The temptation, of course, is to seize on one cause, one single explanation for Littleton, and West Paducah, and Jonesboro and all the other towns that have acquired iconic status the way "Dallas" or "Munich" did for earlier generations. Surely the cause is having access to guns. Or being a victim of abuse at the hands of parents or peers. Or being immersed in a culture that glorifies violence and revenge. But there isn't one cause. And while that makes stemming the tide of youth violence a lot harder, it also makes it less of an unfathomable mystery. Science has a new understanding of the roots of violence that promises to explain why not every child with access to guns becomes an Eric Harris or a Dylan Klebold, and why not every child who feels ostracized, or who embraces the Goth esthetic, goes on a murderous rampage. The bottom line: you need a particular environment imposed on a particular biology to turn a child into a killer.

It should be said right off that attempts to trace violence to biology have long been tainted by racism, eugenics and plain old poor science. The turbulence of the 1960s led some physicians to advocate psychosurgery to "treat those people with low violence thresholds," as one 1967 letter to a medical journal put it. In other words, lobotomize the civil-rights and antiwar protesters. And if crimes are disproportionately committed by some ethnic groups, then finding genes or other traits common to that group risks tarring millions of innocent people. At the other end of the political spectrum, many conservatives view biological theories of violence as the mother of all insanity defenses, with biology not merely an explanation but an excuse. The conclusions emerging from interdisciplinary research in neuroscience and psychology, however, are not so simple-minded as to argue that violence is in the genes, or murder in the folds of the brain's frontal lobes. Instead, the picture is more nuanced, based as it is on the discovery that experience rewires the brain. The dawning realization of the constant back-and-forth between nature and nurture has resurrected the search for the biological roots of violence.

Early experiences seem to be especially powerful: a child's brain is more malleable than that of an adult. The dark side of the zero-to-3 movement, which emphasizes the huge potential for learning during this period, is that the young brain also is extra vulnerable to hurt in the first years of life. A child who suffers repeated "hits" of stress--abuse, neglect, terror--experiences physical changes in his brain, finds Dr. Bruce Perry of Baylor College of Medicine. The incessant flood of stress chemicals tends to reset the brain's system of fight-or-flight hormones, putting them on hair-trigger alert. The result is the kid who shows impulsive aggression, the kid who pops the classmate who disses him. For the outcast, hostile confrontations--not necessarily an elbow to the stomach at recess, but merely kids vacating en masse when he sits down in the cafeteria--can increase the level of stress hormones in his brain. And that can have dangerous con-sequences. "The early environment programs the nervous system to make an individual more or less reactive to stress," says biologist Michael Meaney of McGill University. "If parental care is inadequate or unsupportive, the [brain] may decide that the world stinks--and it better be ready to meet the challenge." This, then, is how having an abusive parent raises the risk of youth violence: it can change a child's brain. Forever after, influences like the mean-spiritedness that schools condone or the humiliation that's standard fare in adolescence pummel the mind of the child whose brain has been made excruciatingly vulnerable to them.

In other children, constant exposure to pain and violence can make their brain's system of stress hormones unresponsive, like a keypad that has been pushed so often it just stops working. These are the kids with antisocial personalities. They typically have low heart rates and impaired emotional sensitivity. Their signature is a lack of empathy, and their sensitivity to the world around them is practically nonexistent. Often they abuse animals: Kip Kinkel, the 15-year-old who killed his parents and shot 24 schoolmates last May, had a history of this; Luke Woodham, who killed three schoolmates and wounded seven at his high school in Pearl, Miss., in 1997, had previously beaten his dog with a club, wrapped it in a bag and set it on fire. These are also the adolescents who do not respond to punishment: nothing hurts. Their ability to feel, to react, has died, and so has their conscience. Hostile, impulsive aggressors usually feel sorry afterward. Antisocial aggressors don't feel at all. Paradoxically, though, they often have a keen sense of injustices aimed at themselves.

Inept parenting encompasses more than outright abuse, however. Parents who are withdrawn and remote, neglectful and passive, are at risk of shaping a child who (absent a compensating source of love and attention) shuts down emotionally. It's important to be clear about this: in-adequate parenting short of Dickensian neglect generally has little ill effect on most children. But to a vulnerable baby, the result of neglect can be tragic. Perry finds that neglect impairs the development of the brain's cortex, which controls feelings of belonging and attachment. "When there are experiences in early life that result in an underdeveloped capacity [to form relationships]," says Perry, "kids have a hard time empathizing with people. They tend to be relatively passive and perceive themselves to be stomped on by the outside world."

These neglected kids are the ones who desperately seek a script, an ideology that fits their sense of being humiliated and ostracized. Today's pop culture offers all too many dangerous ones, from the music of Rammstein to the game of Doom. Historically, most of those scripts have featured males. That may explain, at least in part, why the murderers are Andrews and Dylans rather than Ashleys and Kaitlins, suggests Deborah Prothrow-Smith of the Harvard School of Public Health. "But girls are now 25 percent of the adolescents arrested for violent crime," she notes. "This follows the media portrayal of girl superheroes beating people up," from Power Rangers to Xena. Another reason that the schoolyard murderers are boys is that girls tend to internalize ostracism and shame rather than turning it into anger. And just as girls could be the next wave of killers, so could even younger children. "Increasingly, we're seeing the high-risk population for lethal violence as being the 10- to 14-year-olds," says Richard Lieberman, a school psychologist in Los Angeles. "Developmentally, their concept of death is still magical. They still think it's temporary, like little Kenny in 'South Park'." Of course, there are loads of empty, emotionally unattached girls and boys. The large majority won't become violent. "But if they're in a violent environment," says Perry, "they're more likely to."

There seems to be a genetic component to the vulnerability that can turn into antisocial-personality disorder. It is only a tiny bend in the twig, but depending on how the child grows up, the bend will be exaggerated or straightened out. Such aspects of temperament as "irritability, impulsivity, hyperactivity and a low sensitivity to emotions in others are all biologically based," says psychologist James Garbarino of Cornell University, author of the upcoming book "Lost Boys: Why Our Sons Turn Violent and How We Can Save Them." A baby who is unreactive to hugs and smiles can be left to go her natural, antisocial way if frustrated parents become exasperated, withdrawn, neglectful or enraged. Or that child can be pushed back toward the land of the feeling by parents who never give up trying to engage and stimulate and form a loving bond with her. The different responses of parents produce different brains, and thus behaviors. "Behavior is the result of a dialogue between your brain and your experiences," concludes Debra Niehoff, author of the recent book "The Biology of Violence." "Although people are born with some biological givens, the brain has many blank pages. From the first moments of childhood the brain acts as a historian, recording our experiences in the language of neurochemistry."

There are some out-and-out brain pathologies that lead to violence. Lesions of the frontal lobe can induce apathy and distort both judgment and emotion. In the brain scans he has done in his Fairfield, Calif., clinic of 50 murderers, psychiatrist Daniel Amen finds several shared patterns. The structure called the cingulate gyrus, curving through the center of the brain, is hyperactive in murderers. The CG acts like the brain's transmission, shifting from one thought to another. When it is impaired, people get stuck on one thought. Also, the prefrontal cortex, which seems to act as the brain's super-visor, is sluggish in the 50 murderers. "If you have violent thoughts that you're stuck on and no supervisor, that's a prescription for trouble," says Amen, author of "Change Your Brain/Change Your Life." The sort of damage he finds can result from head trauma as well as exposure to toxic substances like alcohol during gestation.

Children who kill are not, with very few exceptions, amoral. But their morality is aberrant. "I killed because people like me are mistreated every day," said pudgy, bespectacled Luke Woodham, who murdered three students. "My whole life I felt outcasted, alone." So do a lot of adolescents. The difference is that at least some of the recent school killers felt emotionally or physically abandoned by those who should love them. Andrew Golden, who was 11 when he and Mitchell Johnson, 13, went on their killing spree in Jonesboro, Ark., was raised mainly by his grandparents while his parents worked. Mitchell mourned the loss of his father to divorce.

Unless they have another source of unconditional love, such boys fail to develop, or lose, the neural circuits that control the capacity to feel and to form healthy relationships. That makes them hypersensitive to perceived injustice. A sense of injustice is often accompanied by a feeling of abject powerlessness. An adult can often see his way to restoring a sense of self-worth, says psychiatrist James Gilligan of Harvard Medical School, through success in work or love. A child usually lacks the emotional skills to do that. As one killer told Garbarino's colleague, "I'd rather be wanted for murder than not wanted at all."

That the Littleton massacre ended in suicide may not be a coincidence. As Michael Carneal was wrestled to the ground after killing three fellow students in Paducah in 1997, he cried out, "Kill me now!" Kip Kinkel pleaded with the schoolmates who stopped him, "Shoot me!" With suicide "you get immortality," says Michael Flynn of John Jay College of Criminal Justice. "That is a great feeling of power for an adolescent who has no sense that he matters."

The good news is that understanding the roots of violence offers clues on how to prevent it. The bad news is that ever more children are exposed to the influences that, in the already vulnerable, can produce a bent toward murder. Juvenile homicide is twice as common today as it was in the mid-1980s. It isn't the brains kids are born with that has changed in half a generation; what has changed is the ubiquity of violence, the easy access to guns and the glorification of revenge in real life and in entertainment. To deny the role of these influences is like denying that air pollution triggers childhood asthma. Yes, to develop asthma a child needs a specific, biological vulnerability. But as long as some children have this respiratory vulnerability--and some always will--then allowing pollution to fill our air will make some children wheeze, and cough, and die. And as long as some children have a neurological vulnerability--and some always will--then turning a blind eye to bad parenting, bullying and the gun culture will make other children seethe, and withdraw, and kill.
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