Read Chapter 1 of 'Jack and Jill'

The following excerpt comes from James E. Shaw's new book, Jack and Jill: Why They Kill.

Buy your copy of Jack & Jill: Why They Kill.

Chapter One

Adolescentcide: All Kids Are At Risk

"Since I really got involved in the counseling and chapel ministry program here in prison, I couldn't wait to see my mom and dad because I really wanted to reach out to them and apologize and ask for their forgiveness. Well, for starters, they didn't visit me for over two years. When they finally came, my mother stayed in the car. My dad came to see me, but he wouldn't let me hug him, touch him, nothing like that. And he would cough and change the subject whenever I brought up Monica's death. You see, I've faced the fact that I killed my sister, and that I did it on purpose. My parents may never forgive me. I'm just another terrible family secret they'll lock up in the attic of their minds. At the end of my dad's visit, I felt so terrible. Even with all the counseling, I felt like I couldn't go on. I didn't eat for a week." — Charity

I sat at the rectangular table in the Day Room and waited for the parole agent to bring in Charity. My two tape recorders were all set up and ready. An unopened giant box of "AA" batteries was between them, ready to be thrown into service at the first sound of tape-warble. A new spiral notebook lay open beneath two sharpened pencils. Our interview was for 9:00 a.m., just as it always was. I looked at my watch; it was 9:15. Charity was not here, and nobody else had come to tell me whether our interview was on or off. As I waited, I begin to reflect on the prison's highly-efficient communications system.

I recalled first being required to make a "why-am-I-here-and-what-do-I-want-to-do" presentation to the parole agents and counseling staff at a special meeting called specifically for them to meet and question me. Despite my having received the state's blessings to enter the juvenile prison system and interview children serving time for homicide, my "approval letter" had advised me that each prison would have to make its own determination about whether to allow me in. I knew that my task lay in convincing professional prison staff that teachers, parents and others were desperately concerned about finding answers to why kids were killing kids. I described my years as a teacher and ended my presentation by saying that I was prepared to invest years in the study of children incarcerated for homicide in order to help others around the nation, "including youth prison officials," solve this socially-urgent problem.

My presentation to the prison staff merely qualified me to make another presentation, at a different time, to children (wards) en masse, who were rounded up and marshaled into the gigantic Day Room. Even after my telling them that it would be a "multi-year project," most of the wards agreed to participate. I was almost beside myself with delight. However, one ward told me bluntly: "If you come back here wearing a jacket and tie, I ain't gonna talk to you."

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