A Crime Against Humanity: A Juneteenth Reflection on the Enduring Legacy of the Super Predator Myth

Irrational policies rooted in racism and false narratives about Black youth spawned relaxed juvenile transfer laws beginning in the 1980s which made it easier to try and convict children in adult criminal court. Over a six-year period beginning in 1993, the number of children housed in adult jails more than doubled. 

Today, more than 76,000 children are prosecuted as adults annually with 83 percent of them being racial and ethnic minorities. Black children make up approximately 58 percent of all children currently housed in adult prisons across the country and are disproportionately given lengthy mandatory minimum sentences and extreme sentences like life without parole and de facto life. The policy shifts that allowed these human rights abuses against Black youth occurred alongside the emergence of the superpredator theory in 1995 and the subsequently negative portrayal of Black children by the media, elected officials, and public influencers. 

This commemorative Juneteenth event will feature discussion of the Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth’s (CFSY) new report, The Origins of the Superpredator: The Child Study Movement to Today, which will contextualize the policy shifts that have permitted these current human rights abuses against children of color in the U.S. criminal justice system, and directly impacted members of the CFSY’s staff speaking to their own experience with the system. The discussion will also feature Human Rights for Kids CEO & Founder James Dold discussing current efforts to undo the harm of the superpredator myth in Congress and ways the public can get involved.

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