It is these children whose mostly-affirmative answers on the "Homicidally-at-Risk Adolescent Profile" (HARAP) assessment instrument I designed, regularly filled the boxes labeled "Abusive Parents," "Abused Mother," "Sexual Abuse," "Stress," "Drug and Alcohol Use," "Felt Victimized," and some thirty other descriptors. These children had run the torturous and terrorizing paths from life at home to life in prison. Despite their experiencing and describing a range of feelings in their lives — from anger to anxiety — there was one emotion whose absence was made the more evident by their failure to mention it: Love.
Sometimes openly, sometimes indirectly, these children admitted to being deprived of consistent, continuous, and unconditional parental love. Without parental love to guide them, these children got deeply lost, as proven by their ultimate acts, and could not find their way back to humanity. Those 103 children I talked to had been lost a long time. (Recall Charity's torrid thoughts, just before she knifed her sister, of constantly being the victim of her sister's behavior.) On nearly every occasion, most of the children spoke to me with a stark, unadulterated certainty and possessed an all-too-adult-like grasp of every seamy detail in their lives. No child should ever learn the awful things these children knew! By the time they committed their acts of homicide, they were the shell-shocked, walking-wounded casualties of all they had daily seen or experienced. Most of these adolescents knew and admitted, as they talked about their shameful acts and shattered lives, that they had committed unnatural, abnormal, and unlawful deeds. They knew this because they had eventually learned, through the mandated counseling and therapy regimen — without which their parole would be impossible — to admit and take responsibility for their crimes.
Children who kill come from rich and poor families. As you probably know, there is no statute of limitations — immunity from prosecution after a period of time elapses — for the act of murder. Persons who commit homicide can be apprehended and prosecuted at any time after the crime. Likewise, there are no ethnic or economic boundaries over which murder cannot or does not cross. Homicide can involve anybody and occur anywhere. For over three years, I talked to children whose backgrounds crossed ethnic and economic lines. Whether they are blessed by fortune or cursed by fate, and whether their external appearance brands them as being part of a racial majority or racial minority, children who kill are united by two elements: (1) they suffer from an inner impoverishment of the spirit — depression, insecurity, and low self-esteem — directly resulting from their being alienated and isolated from adults, i.e., parents who should have influence over them; and (2) their feelings of being unloved, unlovable, rejected, and worthless which incites their anger and depression, and forges their distorted yet real view of the world as hostile and personally threatening.
These, then, were the children with whom I spent hundreds of hours talking, face to face, inside their prison cells. As a parole agent told me one day, "You've got a little bit of everybody — from Wall Street to Watts in here."