No child is a superpredator

By Xavier McElrath-Bey
June 5, 2014

I am a superpredator.

At least that is how criminologists would have described me when I was a teenager.

I was sentenced for my role in a first-degree murder when I was 13, just before the superpredator theory came into being.

A handful of criminologists, using apocalyptic language, claimed that kids would be responsible for a dramatic increase in violent crime during the 1990s. Such kids would be impulsive and remorseless. Black and Latino youth would be the center of that explosion in violence, according to the theory.

These predictions and the ensuing media hype fueled fear of young people of color and, with it, “tough on crime” policies that made it easier to try children as adults and sentence them to long prison terms, including life without parole.

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