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ix Foreword Unless we live in the end-time of ultimate enlightenment, the coveted truths we now hold most self-evident, the products of our best science, will not only seem outdated and wrong in a few decades, but laughable. Of the candidates for ridicule by a future Stephen Jay Gould, I would nominate early twenty-first century notions of youth violence and juvenile crime founded in developmental-stage and brain-maturity science that hasn’t advanced much in a century. I suspect that today’s generic notion that crime prone youth engage in adolescent risk taking due to impulse-wired teen brains spurred by alwaysnegative peer pressures will seem as ludicrous as nineteenth-century crime theories resting in racial hierarchies, cranial metrics, and tortured phrenologies that criminal behavior could be read in atavistic countenance. Stereotypes of the typical teenager will become as offensive as yesterday’s delineations of the typical Jew, darkie, and Injun. For all the claims to scientific validation, popular, persistent theories inevitably flatter their adherents as the wisest ontogeny of the superior phylogeny, with statistics and evidence bent to upholding and perpetuating them long after debunking by reasoned analysis. Typically, the sin is data selectivity. Biodevelopmental theorists generalized youth proclivities from certain facts (such as that youths in a single Oakland, California, zip code suffered dozens of homicides over the last two decades) while ignoring challenging facts (that youths in a similarly populated Marin zip code an hour’s drive away, likewise manifesting adolescence, experienced none). Crime and political authorities endlessly deplored the early 1990s spike in homicide and violence among poorer urban young people (in fact, many seem reluctant to let it go) but utterly ignored the even larger, longer-term surges in drug abuse and crime among middle-agers (merely the parents). Credentialed alarmists hyped the increase in arrests for one offense, assault, among girls in the early 1990s as proof of some new crime nexus (often linked to modern young females’ worldliness) but failed to notice the larger, broader leap in arrests, especially for assault, among their midlife mothers and fathers. Experts avoided level-playing-field comparisons of adult and youth behavior; for example, under similar economic conditions, middle-agers display risk outcomes similar to those of teens. It’s 1910 all over again. However, there are good antidotes to the dubious doctrine of adolescent risk taking. The statistically grounded ethnography that locates the individual in the group and the group in the individual is, in my view, the philosopherking of social science literature. Ethnographies complicate and humanize statistics and quantitative research by illuminating the individuality of youths within the worlds they (unlike most researchers and theorists) have to negotiate. Laura Abrams and Ben Anderson-Nathe have authored an incisive contribution to complicating juvenile crime, incarceration, and rehabilitation discussion. They locate several teenagers, none of them typical, within their environments inside and outside the juvenile facilities where they are confined , showing how youths adapt one setting to the other with a hybrid of promising and troubling results. It’s unsettling how smoothly skills learned in the gang, street, and difficult-family worlds prove useful in juvenile prison heirarchies and vice versa—a reinforcement pattern the correctional system is supposed to interrupt. Judge for yourselves the detailed, highly personal accounts of young men and staff in Unit C that Abrams and AndersonNathe present in critically refining the dilemmas of crime prevention and management. Mike A. Males Oklahoma City, Oklahoma January 1, 2012 Foreword x ...


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MARC Record
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