little criminals

Join the discussion

How do you feel about children who are deeply troubled and at risk of growing into violent adults? What should be done with them?

Click here to share your thoughts

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was horrified as I watched the program "Little Criminals," particularly when the psychiatrist said, without batting an eyelash, that the six-year old boy's violence was the result of "genetic" predisposition. What bothered me was that he did not make an effort to provide us with hard data (like, maybe, an in-depth analysis of the boy's DNA). And how could he? He only talked to the boy for an hour!

What I felt your coverage provided was the real answer, mainly that the little boy's problems were environmental. But this brings us to a deeper question: how will we deal with our denial regarding what seems to me to be the much more serious issue? The issue is not just one of what will happen to this six-year old. The real issue is that males, irrespective of race, class, and socioeconomic status, are often prone to violence. We live in a society where a child who watches television between the ages of 3 and 18 is likely to have seen tens of thousands of acts of violence. Moreover, we send a mixed message to boys: we tell them that fighting, that aggression, is not appropriate, but then we get athletes, many of whom make it into the news because they have acted inappropriately, to reinforce this messge.

It seems to me that before we allow a psychiatrist to conclude that violent behavior is genetic, we had best look at the society we have created and realign our priorities. Until we begin to work very hard--and here, I don't mean making light of it on an NBC sit-com--to place a great deal of value on forms of masculinity that hold non-violence in high esteem, we will have more of the same.

Herman Beavers,
Burlington, NJ

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your report has disturbed me profoundly. Not so much by the fact that the crimes were committed by children but by the unspoken crime. The unspoken crime of the people who were supposed to the care and protect the victims. Where was the mom of the baby murdered in 1971 - suntanning! What was the sitter doing when the infant was beaten to death?!

Under these circumstances the point of the age of the criminal is moot. An adult could have just as easily strolled off with the toddler in the park or entered the apartment of the infant.

Yes, we must be concerned with the question of how to deal with violent children. However, shouldn't we include the role of the caretakers of the victims be included the discussion?

Sincerely,
Lou Duke

Dear FRONTLINE,

I find it unconscionable that the prosecutor and the police involved in this case would actually think that a six year old child is competent to stand trial as an adult. A child is incapable of participating in any meaningful way in his/her defense. When I viewed the taped interview with the child, I kept wondering where was the child's lawyer, and how was social welfare involved in this case.

I also wondered if the police understood that a child's concept of time is much different than that of an adult's. An hour of interrogation to a child is equal to five hours of interrogation to an adult.

The other issue related to child psychology is that child desperately want to please people in authority. A child will give the answer they think a person in authority wants to hear.

It is most obvious to me that our judicial system failed this child. I hate to think what would have happened had the judge in the case suffered from the same dementia as the police and prosecutor in this case. The judge demonstrated a greater understanding as to what would be in the best interest of the accused child.

For some reason we like to think that this type of behavior in children occurs in a vacuum. It doesn't. The child may have acted out incidents that he had been a victim of or seen another child victimized in the same way.

The solution to the problem is not locking children up at younger and younger ages. The solution is effective intervention before children are victimized by violence.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I would also like to say that society as a whole is to blame for the problems we are seeing today. As a society we see tragic things such as a child murdering another child and think "boy that is really horrible", but when it comes right down to the chase, a week after seeing the program all is forgotten and life goes on.

Eric Carpenter

Dear FRONTLINE

After watching your recent broadcast of "Little criminals",I was left with the impression that everyone was feeling sorry for this six year old child!!! What about the infant that will suffer for the rest of his life? Is the baby's life worth nothing?

Who is to say that the 6-yr. old will not attack another baby? What will society do with this child when he turns 18? Will it take him killing someone before he is punished for his actions?

I agree with the prosecutor, seek a trial for this boy! He stopped being a kid when he beat that baby!!

Dear FRONTLINE

Two tragedies were depicted in "Little Criminals" - the tragedy of children committing violence against children, and the tragedy of a psychiatrist, on the loose, who so despartely needs a vacation from forensic work that he now "smells" antisocial personality disorders in six year old children.

Dr. Blinder's total disregard for research and science in his competency "assessment" of the six year old explains his apparent ignorance of the impact of the youngster's mental retardation (mentioned only once in your broadcast) on his competence. His mental retardation is also likely to impact his ability to get quality mental health treatment and services.

I am a mental health professional who has worked with distrubed youth for 13 years. Perhaps I'm a softy, or just nasally-impaired, but I believe a six year old is treatable regardless of the repugnance of his behavior.

At least my colleagues will be happy to learn that diagnostic assessment is not as difficult as we have made it out to be..."in through the nose, two, three, four."

Dear FRONTLINE,

The little boy who nearly killed the baby is just one of the many developing out there. Get ready for more of this. I think we ought to add another category when we talk about child abuse. We now speak of molestation, physical abuse, and psychological abuse. When a child is allowed to turn into a little wild dog because he was left to fend for himself when it comes to values, responsibility, and discipline is just as abused as those in the other categories. Let's starting hauling the so called parents before the bar of justice who allow this to happen.

Thomas J. Minter
Toledo, Ohio
thos.minter@sylvania.sev.org

Dear FRONTLINE

I watched the program "Little Criminals" and I felt have to respond to what I thought was a poigniant and tragic statement on where we are as a society. Perhaps if we focused on help for these children, we would not have isane ,"Doctors", saying kids are sociopaths at 6 years old. I am aware that we should adddress issues with the way we as African-Americans are raising our children.In addition to that however, maybe we should look at legal system that would prosecute a child. It was a sobering and frightening glimpse into what we face a nation as we enter the 21 century. I guess theres work to do for all.

Kris
Dallas Tx
krs@rgademedia.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

As always, I found your program to be thoroughly informative. The many aspects of the "Little Criminals" program were well-covered. The tragic flaw that seems to have emerged from this little's boy's case is that of the psychiatrist's unfounded belief that his (the boy's) violent tendencies are innate. His assessment seemed to completely overlook the fact that this boy (as was later related in the program) was abused, instead determining that the child is sociopathic from a list that includes "bedwetting", a problem that many little boys have, and yet the vast majority of them do not develop into sociopaths.

Ever since the revelation of genes and the importance of genetics, there has been the tendency of some individuals - often very well educated and top performers in their respective fields - to attribute ALL qualities of any individual (human or animal) to genetics. In the context of troubled, violent, or unmanageable individuals, this tendency leads to a seemingly inevitable "throwing up of hands" and an expression of the inability to do anything about these issues. The psychiatrist, as a member of our society, was not wrong in his feelings of "shielding society" from violent individuals, but he appeared to have no regard for how this course of action would be completed. Indeed, he advocated merely locking the child away for a while. Then what person will emerge? A somehow magically-transformed less violent one?

In the field of Psychology/Psychiatry, students, professors, and professionals realize that interpereting the human mind and the potentials of a given individual are not always "by-the-book" or easily defined, if at all. It is, understandably, often the case that people outside of a certain field take the professional statement of one member to be precise and well-founded. Although I am not a professional psychiatrist, I believe that this severely troubled boy who has lashed out was assessed by a psychiatrist too tired or distracted, who has fallen back on the answer of genetics being solely responsible for this boy's violence - both in the past and, he predicted, in the future. I would like to think that this example of one member of a field who does not reflect the opinons of many was not lost on FRONTLINE's viewers.

T. Brine
tbrine@indiana.edu

Dear FRONTLINE,

What can we expect from a 6 year old child, that has received less attention and training then the average puppy or kitten? Left to run wild in the streets, without guidelines or boundaries, any child is capable of abusing another child.


For Dr. Blinder to totally write this child off after a 1 hour evaluation, is criminal in and of itself. Most disturbing of all, is the mother of this child being employed as a part-time daycare worker!
It is heartbreaking to think of the futures of both victims in this case - the 6 year old, and the infant. The example of strength, compassion and wisdom shown by the infant's father, should shame the self-serving politicians involved in this case.

When are we as a society going to start holding the real criminals accountable - the parents and/or families of these forgotten and tossed out children.
Melissa Kennedy

Houston, TX
mkennedy@hess.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was somewhat disturbed by two aspects of your recent broadcast on "Little Criminals". Firstly, your focus on very young children who become violent criminals is really a distraction; it is far more common that a child who suffers abuse will manifest violent behavior many years later, as an adolescent or adult.


Granted, it is more attention-grabbing to focus on the extremely rare event, a murder or serious assault committed by a child, but it seriously misrepresents the situation. Secondly, it seems to me that you did not have an expert to adequately represent the paradigm which now dominates thinking on the biology of violence. Because violence is closely associated with a range of medical conditions which are, at least in part, heritable (including mental illness, personality disorder, alcoholism, low intelligence, and disorders of serotonin metabolism), it seems likely that a tendency to violence is also, at least in part, heritable. No one would deny that child abuse is linked to an increased risk of later violence by an abused child, but this does not prove that abuse caused the violence. Many children who grow up in an abusive home share with their family, not only the actual violence, but also genes which may have created a tendency to violence.


Dear FRONTLINE,

I think we have to accept that fact that pure evil exists and in some cases there is nothing we can do about it. Some people are just born evil; in much the same way as some are born profoundly gifted. Why do we have such a hard time accepting that? I feel for this child but see no way that any amount of caring for him will change his psyche to point where he is non-violent. It may not be his fault, but either way he is dangerous.

Ray Messier
Seekonk MA
rmessier@unicom-inc.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

As I sat and watched Frontline: Little Criminals, I wondered how the justice system could lock up a six year old child who's life has been destroyed by the evils that have surrounded him day in and day out.

Couldn't he have been placed in the care of the pastor of that community? Isn't there any other way the justice system could have taken care of him? Why did they have to place him in a JDC for two months where all other criminals are teenagers? This can destroy him totally.

In order for this child to become a well adjusted adult in the years ahead he needs to be loved, he needs to know that he is wanted, he needs to know that people care about him for who he is, he needs to understand all of these things NOW before he can lead a good life. He deserves this. You have to remember that the father has already forgiven this young child so lets do the same and not label him as a cold blooded killer. The devil makes people do many evil things and he will use anybody, this is just one of his ways of hurting a community.

Instead of having professionals analyze him and label him as a psychopath why not let a man of God take care of this little child. Let us not forget that all children are Sacred.

Dear FRONTLINE,

There is a lot to be said in the quote that generations of ancestry can be heard through the cries of one child. When a society blames a six year old child for the absurdity of its behavior, there is indeed a serious flaw in the method and the projections that we conceive as real. A child's world is only so large, and I'm sure this child has no more of an understanding of the world as beyond his neighborhood.

The prosecutor, tries to sell us on the idea that he is only trying to help this child, when it is quite obvious that his only motivation is for himself. Dr. Blinder ought to give up his practice, for his ridiculous analysis and theories on child development. It is obvious that his type of mentality is what hinders the growth of a society that is in need of resolution and not destitution.

All in all, I would hope that in some way everyone can walk away from this with the hope that we can mend this tragedy. We need to love our children more now than ever. Locking six year old children in city jails is a crime we will undoubtedly pay for.

Orin Griffin

Dear FRONTLINE,

My message is just to say that children are not born criminals. They repeat what they see. This is how we as humans learn. If anyone should be blamed for the crime of this six year old boy it should be us as a society. We have failed our children as parents and role models. We tell them that they are psychopaths and natural born killers and allow them to believe that there is no help for them.


This boy is six. There is help. He is still a baby. What he needs instead of being locked away from society, is a loving, nurturing environment with the correct balance of discipline--away from the violence and drugs and abuse he has already suffered and to be taught the correct way to express his pain.

But then, what do we do with all the other six year olds left in the same situations, who may not commit an act of violence until they are sixteen? We need to re-evaluate ourselves as a society, as parents and as positive role models, and begin programs to help ALL children who were born into an environment such as this six year old. It all begins with the "man in the mirror".


No, I don't believe he understood the severity of his crime to be prosecuted or to even feel remorseful. . .and I as the parent of a young son pray that he and others like him will get the help he needs to heal and become a productive member of society. I believe he can. . .

Melissa Strayhorn
Charlotte, NC
Emstray@aol.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Through-out the program I continued to ask myself one question, "Where are the parents in these cases?" As a mother of a 5 and a half year old and a 22 month old, I am aware of the development of the child in the "Crucifix Murder" and of the small boy in the beating of the baby.

A 20 month old should have NEVER been left unattended in the first place. Had he had adequate supervision he may still be alive. Kids need adults to step in and say "That is enough, you are playing too rough, someone will get hurt". Until they are old enough to understand this on their own it is our responsibility to be there and teach them.

Dear FRONTLINE,

As I struggle to rid myself of your disturbing documentary that aired tonight, I am also compelled to write. You see, this is extremely difficult to comment on...the livelihood of a little six year old boy has been dramatically transformed-not to mentioned that of an infant and his family. On one hand, you have a little boy who in his six short years has apparently been exposed to such a hard life than most people have themselves by that tender age, and then you have an infant, who may have difficulties all his life with his health. Secondly, how could anyone lock a defenseless child (as impressionable as children are) in a juvenile center? My heart sobbed for that little boy! I don't believe that he intentionally meant to hurt the infant, nor do I believe the incident was premeditated.

I am all the more outraged at the prosecutor and the psychologist who felt that child was competent to stand trial. These two are cruel! To label a child as a natural born killer is absurd! God forbid if they have a child or children.

In summary, a child needs to be reassured that he/she is loved and that they are valuable. It is essential that we as adults take time out with children and boost their self esteem. Children learn by example...

Thanks,
Ms. Chanda Johnson

Dear FRONTINE,

While watching this program I could not believe that none of the people interviewed put the blame where it belongs, with the mother of this poor child. I believe she should of been held responsible for the actions of this child since she was the one who put him in the environment and position to be abused repeatedly. How could any human live like this and not have serious problems? This behavior on the part of the mother(yes he had a father but ultimately the mother is who had control of this child)is why we have all of the problems with youth that we have today. It seems the mothers in this world are too busy with there own problems and lives too care for, love, and nurture their own children and without that what chance do they have?

Dear FRONTLINE,

Having watched this disheartening show I can't help but wonder what will become of this child? His own mother was willing to accept the comment from one of the psychologists that his problem was genetic in it's entirety and was in no way, herself, to blame. How can we, as parents, expect our children to have all the values and knowledge acceptable to society unless we have those values and the knowledge ourselves to instill in them? This mother took no responsibility in his crime. She wants the child to be sent for "help that he needs" and then wants him to come back home. Much like sending your car to the body shop expecting to get it back as good as new.

The chances of this child coming through this (like your former child killer did)seems remote at best. The child is likely to be in the group home for a long time. His mother needs to be involved in his therapy or the child may see himself as "abandoned" yet again and add more fuel to the internal fire that already exists. She needs to have therapy herself or she will have nothing to offer the child if he survives the group home.

Although the victim's family refused to file charges I believe the child would not be getting help if it was not for the DA. Would this have happened if the child had been invited in for dinner on occasion? Would it have happened if the child had felt like he had a "family" somewhere, anywhere? This is a tragedy in one of it's greatest forms, the loss of a child.... And he is a child.

Dear FRONTLINE,
I am amazed by how little your program dealt with the tremendous moral and philosophical issues underlying this whole debate on young criminals.

First, If we reduce man to simply being a product of society, and excuse him on that account, we are still left with the problem of why society itself produces evil, and such horrific evil at that. In the end, it is not society that makes man but man that makes society.

Second, it is an even greater absurdity for us to accept modern science's reducing of man to nothing more than a series of neurotransmitters, receptors, chemicals and the like without stopping to notice that this inevitably does away with the whole concept of morality.

We think we can solve man's awful problems by filling him with all the right chemicals and manipulating his environment, but that is like treating cancer with a band-aid. Man's devil is within him, and the capacity for the greatest crimes exists within each one of us. Looking at evil in all of its blackness and horror is something we Americans infrequently if ever have to do. We are sheltered by white picket fences and ivory towers, and the evil we see in the press always ends up seeming far away, which makes it easy to propound our absurd social theories. Stare evil in the face and we will be forced to agree with Satre, who, a few years after the Nazi occupation wrote these words, prefacing them by saying they would seem "shocking to lofty souls": "Evil cannot be redeemed."

Not just your program but the entire American press is to criticized for its utterly shallow dealing with the weighty issues of man's existence. I am reminded of Kierkegaard, who said that if his daughter was a whore, he would not lose hope for her, but if his son was a journalist, he would give him up for dead.

Sincerely,
Wallace Marshall
Durham, NC

Dear FRONTLINE
I am absolutely outraged that the DA wanted to prosecute a 6-year-old child. It shows absolute ignorance of child development. Even after the child showed no understanding of his legal rights (and the victims parents showed no interest in prosecuting), the police department and prosecution still insisted on pressing charges. Thank goodness the judge had sense enough to do the right thing: take the child into state custody and provide him with therapy.

One of the concerns encountered was that these troubled children may not benefit from therapy and may be violent anyway. I believe we should give everyone of these children the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps they will not be "fixed", but it is our duty and responsibility to try.

At one point, the DA said we was interested in punishing the boy, and then a few clips later, he says he wants to "help" him. Well which is it? If the DA is so politically motivated, he has no business being involved with this case, since he is concerned for neither the victin's family nor the child's future. Although his job is to prosecute, he should have realized what he dealing with: an abused, scared, 6-year-old.

Carrie Wilson
carriew@post.smu.edu
Dallas, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,
I'm sorry! Although we as a society do share a moribund responsibility to help reform so-called sociopathic behavior in individuals, must not the victims of such brutality be the focus of our concern. Indeed, is it not the perpetrators of such acts who have chosen their own fate as mandated by "our" representative law. How long can we allow the laws we live by be watered down by the exception mentality which now appears so pervasive and acceptable in our judicial community. The fact is a murder is a murder. Brutality is brutality. Regardless of the circumstances a price must be paid. One that allows the victim to accept his loss, the sadist to find retribution for his deeds, and for society to be protected from unecessary injury.If we accept this exception philosphy to become policy,we in effect will be allowing circumstance to cloud and limit the fundamental realities surrounding death and the sanctity of life as citizens as we know it now.

Gary Martinez
GMarti7949@aol
Katy, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,
As civilized people we hold dear the angelic ideal of our children, so much so that we seem to be blindsided by each new act of outrageous violence perpatrated by juveniles. In the following confusion we want to demonize the child at hand, as he is not one of our own. In this case of a six-year-old, labeling him a psychopath has served only to ignore or deflect blame from the violent world around him. As if to say, " Nothing could be done, he was just born that way. " I believe much can be done with troubled children, who, like this child are in touch with reality. This child learned early on what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Therefore, with positive influence, he can unlearn that violence is an option to obtain wants. I agree with the courts decision to take custody in order to insure treatment.

Thank you,
Baselia Rios
brios@ewu.edu
Spokane, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,
All children are born barbarians -- as primitive as the earliest pre-human who stood aloft to walk on two feet. It is the job of parents (PLEASE note the plural) to civilize these little barbarians. Anyone depending upon society to raise his child is a fool. This society -- for several decades now -- has encouraged mindless sluts to drop little bastards indiscriminately. Then when the inevitable happens, bleeding hearts get up in arms, march in the streets and wave placards and demand that society forgive the crime and "fix" the problem. Until we, as a soceity, demand responsibility of all its citizens, barbaric deviants will outrage us all and the clueless will whine for "compassion."

Diane Warren
mdtqw@aol.com
Atlanta, GA

Dear FRONTLINE,
Once again, FRONTLINE has produced Pulitzer quality work. FRONTLINE continues to define the qualities inherent to a professional piece of Journalism.

I am still mulling over my thoughts from your show. I do not believe that the 6-year-old child is competant to stand trial. A child who has flunked kindergarten obviously has some problems. I found it most disturbing that the prosecuter in this case even asked for a trial. That he still insists on trying the case when the child is found to be competant is even more troubling. This prosecutor needs to examine his motives and take a deep personal look at his own personality.

I am encouraged by the father of the infant. That he can show the most basic of christian virtues in the face of this trajedy is a sure sign that we as a society can have hope.

Keep up the good work FRONTLINE.

Kenneth Allen Stoner
kstoner@tvcom.com
Alpine, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,
I watched your special on little criminals and was appalled to see how the parents are virtually "let of the hook" by prosecutors. Are the parents not responsible for their childrens behavior? Is it not their responsibility to oversee and supervise their childrens activities. Children will do almost anything, right or wrong, if they are not properly supervised. My husband and myself are shocked that the justice system and society as a whole don't see the destructive possibilities of holding children solely responsible for their actions. Parents should be held responsible ans charged with the crime that the child commited plus neglect. There is an age however that kids have to be held responsible , but it is not 6. God help us if we cannot prevent little children from killing one another.

Anne Watts
Alvin, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,
As a child therapist I was amazed at what the professionals involved with this case have not mentioned. Without interviewing the child it is not ethical to state a diagnosis but the descriptions of the behaviors meet every criteria of what is know as Reactive Attachment Disorder in the DSM-IV. The email forum for Attachment Disordered (AD) children is in flames over your program because of the lack of knowledge of the professionals. From the postings on that email forum I hope that those who say they are going to post to you will do so.

Being a believer that one should not be critical without providing a constuctive suggestion, here goes mine. Follow this program up with a program on Attachment Disorders, and trying to raise a child with these behaviors. More than half adopted and foster children have AD characteristics. One type of treatment modality is found in Evergreen, CO and at another attachment center in Ohio. The book, a lay text, "Children Without a Conscious" will make a good first read. Cline at Evergreen has many publications. There are websites for the centers. No, I am not aligned with either clinic.

Thank you for considering my opinion. I can not always get PBS since I am in a mountainous area using C-Band but I do hope you have a follow-up.

Regards,
JA Williams

Dear FRONTLINE,
If the father of the victim can forgive this child for his actions and demonstrate mercy, it is up to the rest of us to assure that this young man receives the best possible chance to succeed. That father demonstrated an overwhelming compassion that is usually reserved for intellectual conversation. He has my highest admiration and i thank him for reminding me that it is possible to care instead of hate. We owe both him and this child.

Nora Van Iterson
ducevan@gte.net
Marysville, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,
Knowing what we know now, and with all of the clinical and anecdotal evidence available which explains the origins of violent behavior, I don't find it at all difficult to understand the pathology of this 6-year-old. His story, albeit short, reads like a dictionary of the making of a criminal - including a history of family violence, neglect, cat-killing, setting fires, etc. What is surprising about this case is just how early in his life this LEARNED violence resulted in the injury of another human being.

What I DO find difficult to understand, however, is the complete "misunderstanding" of this boy and his circumstances by just about everyone involved with the criminal proceeding against him - from the police officers conducting the interogation, to the prosectution psychiatrist, and especially the prosecutor himself. What is it that makes these people so Blind.. and so righteous in the pursuit of "personal responsibility," and "the answer" that they are so willing to extract it even from a 6-year-old?

Dore Antonello

Dear FRONTLINE,
I cannot believe that a 6-year-old child is actually capable of premeditated murder. It seems to me that he is a product of his environment and should not be punished as as a criminal but should be treated as a victim of violence himself. I was glad to hear that he is getting the help he needs and feel that the prosecuting attorney should concentrate on putting the real criminals in jail like the boy's drug dealing grandmother and his mother's abusive boyfriends.

Johannesburg, MI

Dear FRONTLINE,
A number of issues are apparent. Murder is murder and those that murder should be punished. "A system of morality which is based on relative emotional values is a mere illusion, a thoroughly vulgar conception which has nothing sound in it, and nothing true." Socrates said it. Was race an issue?

Issue number two. I watched the program and found that the child's mother is partly to blame, and should be held accountable to a small degree. I never saw her touch or even try to comfort or play with her child. What should we expect when people are raised without the benefit of human compassion, and when should the compassion begin? After one commits murder?

Steve Barger

Dear FRONTLINE,
I am still in shock of what I saw and heard in your program last night. Most particularly two things: Dr. Blinder. How can he possibly label this child as a potential criminal. Has he ever heard of behavior modification? Secondly, the father of the baby. I perceived empathy for the six-year-old. He was all love.

I believe that sequestering this six-year-old is not the solution. What this little boy needs is lots of love, tenderness, being appreciated for what he is, learning that there are consequences to your acts, learning to be responsible for himself. Putting this child in an institution will only make things worse.

There has to be hope for this child. If not, how sad that we as a society are willing to give up so easily.

I believe in great doses of love and hugs, with appropriate counseling to teach this child what is right and wrong.

Cordially,
Carmen Morell
cmorell@magicnet.net
Winter Park, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,
I thought the program was informative and unbiased. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn't more information about violent crimes and the young in general.

Each of the psychiatrists made points I could agree with as well as some I could not. I don't believe that a child is born a psychopath. Or that by the age of six ANYONE can determine that he will continue that path. We are all a combination of our character as well as our environment. I do believe the character is set by the age of about four and this boy needs considerable counselling. Also, the statement by one psychiatrist about being able to 'smell' a psychopath just made his judgement appear distorted. I say this with the admission that for the most part I agreed with what his determinations.

The other psychiatrist compared this six-year-old with an exceptional child and what that child would understand about the situation. This doesn't make much sense because a gifted child would probably not be living under the same circumstances. The six year old must have a higher understanding because of his environment. He sees crime and violence every day, and the results of these things. I would be interested to know more of the effect of television on young children and violence. Even the man who was responsible for the crucifix murder thought he could 'resurect' the child. This is a major problem with television. How can a child know that the death he sees on t.v. isn't real? He sees an actor die and next week he's on another show. He watches cartoon characters act violently and the one that's hurt gets up without any injury. This is the real crime; t.v. A child left to himself has no one to regulate what he watches or explain what is really happening. He has no one to teach him right from wrong except television.

This brings up the responsibility of the parent(s). But even they are a product of their environment as children. The only way to stop crime and violence is by changing the source of the problem (with education?) and not just attempting to treat the symptoms (although this may be necessary too).

Thank you for helping to inform the public. I hope to see future programs addressing this very serious problem.

Mitzi Davis
bleau_eyes@hotmail.com
Dallas, TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

In today's society there are many kids who are dismissed as a "loss cause" Yet we are more into publicizing the problem then fixing it. A study has been shown that kids who had a significant adult in there life they became a better more productive citizen. That also includes kids who have gotten off on the wrong foot.

I am one of those lost cause cases. I was told that I had such severe behavioral problems that I would not live to be 16 years old. It is because I had one adult who really cared , I am still here. Children are our tomorrow's future believe in them and they will strive. Belittle them and they will shrink.

Fran Bernadette Wagner
Pahrump,Nv
congresschick@juno.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Once again, Frontline has provided an insightful and thought-provoking report. My husband and I both offer praise for Frontline's handling of a difficult subject.

As parents, Frontline's report reaffirmed our conviction that raising a child is truly a community effort. All those involved in the case examined were profoundly effected, but what stands out is the element of hope. Hope for the six-year-old boy and our greater community. Would that we all had the heart of forgiveness the little victim's father has.

Mona Cozens Currey
Houston, TX
monac@thoughtfarm.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found your coverage of the crime committed by the 6 year old boy in Richmond to be interesting. I believe you did an extremely good job of addressing some very important issues. However, I was disappointed that there was no coverage of the boy's parent(s), and their role in this violent crime. I was not able to draw any conclusions as to the competence of the boy, but surely the justice system in America has the duty to hold parents accountable for the lack of discipline the boy received leading up to the crime.

Perhaps the more appropriate question to ask is what should be done to the parents.

Kelly Ryan
Financial Consultant, Husband, and Father of 2 Children who are learning from their parents right from wrong, and the consequences of both.

Dear FRONTLINE,

These young children should be taken out of their homes and put into a safe, caring environment. Murder and attempted murder are serious offenses, and something terribly wrong has to be going on in the home for a child to commit these crimes.

It's been said a child under 7 years of age doesn't understand criminal actions. The 6 year old shouldn't be tried in court, he needs to be helped. Children are very adaptive and can learn new behaviors. I don't think he is doomed to be a murderer.

Kevin Maguire
Lakewood, Wa

Dear FRONTLINE,

I found it very interesting that no one from this boys family especially the great uncle, recognized that this boy had problems. I believe it was his duty as a family member to report the mother and or grandmother of their obvious neglect. There is no since sitting around after the child has committed a terrible act of violence and say well I knew he would do this one day and I don't get along with his mother and grandmother. That is a bunch of mess. We as human beings must be responsible for those who are not responsible. If, that means calling a child protection agency on your own relatives then that is what it takes.

In another point, I don't understand how the prosecutor could say this child was competent. I find that hard to believe. If the child failed kindergarten, that shows he could not have understood any legal process. The comment made of the boy that he was born to kill is ridiculous. You've condemned the child before he has a chance at life.

Yvetta Woodbuy
Reston, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am more upset and confused now than when this story first aired. I do not believe that there is some dark psychological reason that can wash away blood from the hands of any individual whether they are six or sixty. the facts are that the boy was genetically predisposed, poorly managed, and environmentally challenged.

Nature worked in concert with the mothers inability to nurture. All that considered, he attempted to kill another child. I don't believe he'll change. This child should remain out of civilized society.

The most disturbing point is that the father of the beaten child,(who by the way may never live a normal life)showed the only humanity and forgiveness and was met with misdirected protest. I am ashamed! For the record I am Black.

Kevin F. Brown
Long beach, CA.
kevnmel@gte.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Your coverage of this frightening event was very even handed. As a teacher in a correctional facility, I was particularly alarmed by the revelation that kids who commit violent crimes are often the children of incarcerated fathers. Poverty, poorly educated parents and a punitive electorate create an atmosphere for disaster here in Texas. As you must know, Texas Department of Criminal Justice is the third largest prison system in the world, following China and Russia. In addition, we are 47th in literacy in the US. I wonder when these facts will take shape and connect in the minds of our legislators. I fear the future, especially for my children. You do a terrific job, keep up the good work in bringing these important issues to the public's attention.

Rebecca Wade

Dear FRONTLINE,

It is so easy to watch this from my protected home and think society has gone to hell. And then I beginning to remember, between my bouts of criticalness, that I am society-like it or not! Until we are able to look at how we have created this scenario, we will certainly not be able to go about facilitating it. What part of each and every one of us has been neglected and felt alone and returned that attitude somewhere, somehow? How does that come out differently in each of us and how is it reflected in the 6 year olds' actions?

Joan Duncan

Dear FRONTLINE,

First, how can a so-called expert suggest that the violence in that six year old child is genetic, that he is a "natural born killer" and yet in virtually the same sentence deem the child fit to stand trial and be punished? If the "expert" is right about the genetics (and I don't for a second think he is), how can we punish a child who is so genetically predisposed as to have no control over his actions? And how long can we punish a "natural born killer?" Forever? I think not.

Second, the fact that this "expert" is willing to write a six year old off makes me sick. Thank God this individual is not in a position to make the final decision.

Seattle, WA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched the program this evening about the "six year old" child and it was wrenching. It seemed to me as a viewer that more questions should have been asked of the mother of this child. Was she responsible for her child's violent behavior due to her spanking him i.e for obedience purposes or was she using spanking out of anger? What other types of abuses' had this child been exposed to? It seemed to me that this six year old child is a product of an abusive environment and if we don't do something to curb this then this six year old will become alarmingly familiar. When children are "hit, smacked, punched or yelled at" repeatedly, out of "anger" they "learn" that when your angry this is how you handle it. It is a dangerous trend. I would have liked to see more of a focus on what the mother was doing to improve herself as a parent as opposed to shifting all of the responsibility on her child. In the tapes on the mother and child together she seems emotionally detached from her child and seems unwilling I apologize for any mis-spelled words.

Sincerely,
April Thomas

Dear FRONTLINE,

Almost as distressing as a six year old committing murder is an adult who is so totally devoid of wisdom, insight, compassion, and critical-thinking ability. Aptly named, Dr. Blinder astounded me with what he ascribed to this child. I would like to see these questions he asked about the child's understanding of his "representation" and his comprehension of what he had done. Doesn't he see that this child will nod his head in affirmation if you ask him if his father is Michael Jordan or if he's ever seen a "real" dinosaur. I hope I'm never in a position to be scrutinized by this sorry excuse for a "healer."

Bobbie Savitz
Portland, Oregon
bobbitz@delphi.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Since so much murder and assault in my city is the result of the stresses related to poverty, then let's stop beating around the bush. Ending poverty, instead of spreading it as our present social and economic polices do, will cut crime better than any current band-aid plan. Prisons are wasting our youth, and alternative rehabilitation programs do not address the causes of crime. Our economic policies has created the largest income disparity among Americans in decades, made it more difficult to unionize, dropped real wages and gutted job security. Change those polices and we'll see poverty and violence drop significantly.

Scott Weinstein
Washington, DC
sweinste@juno.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

On the whole, your program was very interesting. I was disappointed that mention of the child baby-sitting the infant was not made (not that this situation was her fault) but the question of where she was not made clear. However, all the debate in the world will not help this child. He needs to be removed from society until such time as he has fully integrated the realization of what he has done and WHY. The thing that truly bothered me about the situation is, so many indicators are present and nothing seemed to be done about any of them. Until our nation, takes the stand of providing intervention and help as soon as indicators are public knowledge or even before (poor and crime ridden neighborhoods are usually well known) and does something to countermand these factors, this problem will continue to exist and become worse, not better. Two children are affected for life, two families are affected for life and our society is affected by this event, and yet it is does not appear that the result will be productive on preventing another or perhaps worse situation in the future.

When all the male relatives of this boy were incarcerated, was any attempt to get to the children and break the cycle - from this report obviously not. When the mother was in abusive situations and the child was abused were there any interventions to change the pattern or provide therapy to undo the damage done - again obviously not. And finally given this is a high risk neighborhood, why are there not programs to help break and correct some of these risk factors?

I as a tax payer would much prefer my money goes to educational, prevention and intervention programs rather than wasted on 'correction' or incarceration. Until this becomes standard, the problems will continue and escalate.

Leslie Ward
Vine Grove, KY
wardd@ekx.infi.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

It seems that one hour is an insufficient time frame in which to evaluate and label a child. Perhaps the forensic psychiatrist is a student of Aristotle and believes that we, society as a whole, should enforce selective breeding to insure that "undesirable genetic" child are not born. This child has never had to constant love and nurturing that every child craves. If our good doctor was more concerned with the human factor and not the technical formula, he would have seen past the "textbook" diagnosis.

Alesia Hayes
Las Vegas, NV

Dear FRONTLINE,

The thought that strikes me most consistently when I read of these tragedies is that our society is reactive and must become more proactive. Brandon's uncle describes a young life full of preventable horrors - cocaine dealing by house- hold members, a series of violent boyfriends of mother, inadequate supervision, neglectful parenting,... Why was there no early intervention of parenting classes or therapy? Why was Brandon allowed to stay in that horrible environment until he acted out in this extreme and predictable way?

Karen Gelender
Castro Valley, CA
KayGel @AOL.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

As a practicing lawyer in the juvenile justice area I was immensely interested in the topic of children as criminals. I have not had anyone as a client who was as young as the boys in your story and shudder to think of ever getting such a client. I believe that the solution to such problems is not with the child itself but with the greater community in which the child finds itself. The solution involves early intervention within the family structure, jobs for the adults associated with the children, constructive, loving child care while parents are at work, and early sex education so that fewer single mothers are created.

Keep up the superior investigating. It is always provocative and you always seem to have your finger right where the nation's pulse is.

Arthur D. Warren
Los Angeles, CA
mart2@earthlink.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

According to Yochelson & Samenow, authors of "The Criminal Personality", the child makes a deliberate decision to turn against society (for whatever reason), and the criminal personality is fully formed/entrenched by the age of 6. The two brothers who crucified the toddler illustrate that a person can also decide whether or not to continue the criminal lifestyle; one boy did so choose, the other did not. It is not surprising that the treatment of the 6-year-old has so far been unsuccessful. Conventional psychiatric or psychological theories cannot access the criminal's thinking pattern. I have first-hand experience as a volunteer probation assistant and a correctional officer. . .

D. Routliffe,
Burnaby, Canada

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm sadden to have watched your program this week. Frontline has usually presented not only both sides to a story, but, all sides. This weeks focus on child abuse simply played the political card without a true presentation of the problem. To follow one 6 year old child through his social deviance and correction seems almost irrelevant. I come into contact with not one, but thousands of children that commit similar crimes that both scar them and society with a negative permanence. The boy presented in your program is simply responding to his social environment. He is one of millions involved within a social system that is both flawed and declining to yet lower levels of massive social decay. Realize that our government struggles not to solve this social decline but to look past it at all levels. Also realize that our government benefits economically from its' inner-city cracklands. The social ills of our society generate great financial targets and provide the greatest opportunity for government to control the underclass masses. One day in the near future, we will all look back and call this period of decay: the inner-city cracklands, the children having children, babies killing babies; We'll call this period the good old days; back before things got really bad. Remember Frontline : We all know about the problem; we need to know why.

John R. Johnson
Hollywood, Ca.
JohnRJohnson@webtv.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm a resident of San Francisco and can recall when the incident you reported on in Richmond occurred. The general feeling of the public was one of disbelief and shock more than rage. Questions on the real impact of violent images on television and movies began to arise. However the prosecutor's call for blood seemed a little extreme bordering on racism. Would a white child from a higher class neighborhood have been deemed such a threat to society's welfare? Or labeled a future psychopath at the age of six? Some how I doubt it. In any case I though long and hard about this show because it touched such a raw nerve. The solution that I came up with for this particular case was extensive counseling for the next five to six years. Followed by supervised visits to the injured boy's house to help with feeding, changing, etc. whatever it may be that the family needs extra help with for the baby's care. This would give the boy a chance to see first hand the damage that he has done and help do all the things that the beating prevented the baby from doing itself due to brain damage. Once the boy who committed the crime got old enough to get a job, a percentage of his paycheck should go to his victims family. The most important issues in dealing with this case should be helping the child realize the severity of his crime and then helping him atone for it. Both parties involved need a healing of some sort that can not be accomplished by locking someone up and throwing away the key or simply attaching a label to try and make reality a little easier to deal with. Whose reality is being dealt with, the prosecutor's?

Star Bilyck
S.F., CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

When are you responsible for your actions? When you are 5, 15, 20? It would seem to me that actions of such a violent nature would, at any age, be reproachable. If our children are not responsible for their own actions, then who will be? Obviously not their parents.

Timothy A. Robinson
Lansing, Michigan
trobinson@voyager.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

I was mortified by the adult attributions attached to this child - notwithstanding the act. We saw the prosecutor and one clinician, key parts in any "criminal proceeding", find every sophisticated reason to pursue their action. Ostensibly, their mission is to protect the public and dissuade other youths from violent behavior. Ignoring the "nurture & nature" aspect in this boy's life and dismissing this "Little Man" as being genetically bent is folly! That tack has and will perpetuate the cycle of defeat and violence, both intro- and overt. I baby-sit the son of a single dad. His son was born of a cocaine and crystal meth' addicted mother. He was marked as a "learning disability" and "disciplinary handful." Timmy is six. We routinely venture out to stores, parks & museums. He is reading, mannerful & compassionate. Where was the love in this FrontLine piece, at all levels? I saw a soul-mate in that juvenile prison guard. His "Little Man" was calling out for love. To be held. To be valued. The judge has the wisdom of Solomon. Let each of us look around ourselves for these wanting, precious little ones, and love them! Thank you.

Stephen V. Dash
Kailua, Hawaii
Kailua07@aol.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think all children are at risk, but we need to take the time to teach our child well. I'm a single mother of 2 boys, whose father is in prison, but my children are will rounded little boys, they good great grades in school and are well behaved, that's because I've showed them the way, My kids are 9 and 12 and have grown up in rough neighbors, yet they have over come the obstacles of their surrounding. That little boy needed love and teaching. His mother needed to think about him first and her second, as I do. No man will ever put his hands on my children, nor will he come before they. With a little time, help, compassion, love and teaching he will grow up to be an outstanding citizen.

Judi Glasper
Sacramento, CA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I watched your program with dismay and resentment because yet again it portrayed another episode of "Crime Without Punishment".

All actions carry consequence and even at the tender age of 6 years there is a general instinctive knowledge of right and wrong and the boy certainly knew killing "for real" was wrong.

What he does not know is that his action must be held accountable and cannot be redeemed because of his race or socio-economic conditions as some of the "experts" would like to have us think.

John M. Samborsky
Montreal CANADA
samboj01@netrover.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

It greatly concerns me when a six year old child, living in the United States of America, is locked up in a juvenile detention center with teenagers, and is required to sleep in a locked detention cell each night for two months by himself. Put lightly, this is barbaric. It is a crime. The real story here is not about a little boy, but rather about a society that's family structure is disintegrating, resulting in catastrophic blindness and ignorance. Interrogating this 6 year old baby boy, reading him the Miranda Rights, and placing him in "jail" for two months is an outrageous crime of the State, and should be addressed as such. This is my first response of many.

John M. Williams
San Antonio, Tx.
JW3232@AOL.COM

Dear FRONTLINE,

As was reflected in the comments of the attorneys and psychologists interviewed for the program, we have chosen to ignore, suppress, and avoid the debate regarding the potential of the root causes for sociopathic and psychotic behavior as being based in our genetics. It seems harshly ironic that in a society that has begun to embrace the notions of genetic alcoholism, obesity, and tobacco addiction, we will not "open the debate" and pursue the requisite clinical studies necessary to either prove or disprove the validity of the concept of Genetic Criminal Psychology. Hopefully we will reach a point where we can honestly further this field of research and debate.

Winston-Salem, NC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Is this the end of humanitarianism? We seem increasingly to look at crime as an affront to the legitimate order of our society, and the "perpetrator," the "criminal" as not truly redemptive, but fundamentally incoherent, dangerous, un- reformable, formed by "bad genes, a "nascent sociopathic personality," a "natural born killer." What does this all say? It says that as a society we have created a boundary btw. what we define as "normal" and "abnormal" people. And, we no longer look at the causes-a hardworking mother in an economically depressed area, surrounded by a violent society.

Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I just finished watching your well produced piece on violent children... I'm disturbed at the way society refuses to deal with the problems plaguing us. American society would rather lockup six-year-olds and blame them for their problems, than figuring out how to help them.

It was equally disturbing to hear the psychologist suggest the child's violent behavior stems from genetics--he was predestined to be violent. Everyone is born with a clean slate. It's what a child learns during early development, which determines what kind of person they are in adulthood...NOT GENETICS.

Columbia, MO
Re'Male James

Dear FRONTLINE,

What a difficult question. For me, the bottom line is: Hold parent(s) or guardian(s) responsible for the actions of their children under the age of 13. The parent(s) or guardian(s) should be tried in open court for the acts of their kids. The child, then, should be placed in an appropriate facility to deal with the problem. The parent(s) or guardian(s) should also be charged with felony child abuse and serve the sentences consecutively.

We, as a society, cannot allow people to abuse their children, either through neglect and/or physical/mental torture. These people violate what President Clinton has claimed is our #1 national security risk. While I don't think we should try them as traitors, I do think they should be dealt with severely.

But the six-year old in this episode has done a terrible thing. Another child's life has been altered forever. There is nothing anyone can do to change that. The victim's father has forgiven the assailant, and proven himself to be a much better man than many others. I hope we can all learn something from everyone involved.

Rusty Eichblatt
Honolulu, HI
rustree@aloha.net

Dear FRONTLINE,

My 11-yr. old son exhibits many of the remorseless, violent traits described in the "Little criminals" episode. He has always been this way. After many years of battles with agencies and assorted professionals, he has been labeled ADD. As in so many other cases, this diagnosis is used as a scapegoat to file children with hidden disabilities under. Further medical testing to determine physiological relativity must be fought for. In far too many instances, blame is unfairly placed upon the un-supported parent. No long-term solutions or practical hopes are offered. The idea seems to be to pull the prescription pad closer and sedate him, for now. But, what about him and kids like him when they turn 16, run-away and decide they don't want to take meds? What hopes can a parent have for their child's future when society wants to point fingers and you're living with the enemy within?

Brenda Meltz
S.Cairo,NY
hick@francomm.com

Dear FRONTLINE,

Nothing personal "Frontline", I am just expressing my anger. I wish society would start to look for a way to seriously punish "Little Criminals". I am sure a few might be saved, but most will not. Why let them go on with their lives while the victim and their family try, and I use that word loosely, to piece their lives together? When are we as a society going to start helping the victims instead of ignoring them. When an individual (regardless of age, sex, race...) has committed a serious crime against the innocent, serious punishment must the only reward. Do not slap the back of their hands and say "Now you be a good little boy/girl and don't do it again". That simply doesn't work any more. I strongly feel we will continue to see more and more of this types crimes. We as the adults must set the example and hold everyone (young and old) accountable.

Thanks for your time,
Alexander J. Martinez
Laredo, Texas U.S.A.

Dear FRONTLINE,

I think your piece tonight about young criminals fell short of the mark. The real crime here is a society which allows people to have children who have few morals, limited education, no job, and no idea of what it takes to raise a child. We have more laws and regulations concerning the operation of a motor vehicle than we do about having children. I mean you can't drive a car until your 16 years of age, but you can have a child as soon as it is physically possible. You need to pass a written and practical test to operate a car, but not one test required to have a kid. You need to have your car inspected for safety and emissions every year, but no one cares about how you raise your child until there is a problem. There is a law to carry insurance on your car for the protection of your property and others, if you kid gets sick, the government handles it. What we need to do, I'm sorry to say, is not allow people to have children unless they can prove to be morally and fiscally responsible for raising children....period!!!.

Dear FRONTLINE,

It was sad to see how we as a society have started to hold children responsible for what we are not teaching them. Children learn faster then we realize. If we do not teach them what we want them to learn, they will learn what we don't want them to learn. It seems in our zeal to deal with complexities of crime in America, we have become incapable of seeing the truth. Anyone who is accused is a criminal. Be it a child, mentally ill or victim of racial bias. A 6 yr. old child may be accused but can not be responsible for a murder. As a Psychiatrist I'd also like to point out that there is no professional guideline to forecast that a 6 yr. child will turn out to be suffering from antisocial personality disorder. Dr. Schreir seem to be enveloping his own bias ( bigoted ones at that ) into scientific disguises. He should refrain from making forecasts. He is a psychiatrist not a psychic.

Regards
Sanjeev K Singhal MD
Houston TX

Dear FRONTLINE,

Martin Blinder's biased and unprofessional observations are more frightening than this abused child's horrific upbringing. It would be a national disgrace to treat this confused boy like a typical criminal. He is certainly not to blame for his rage. The father who abandoned him, the mother who refused to protect him, and a society which permits him to languish in a hostile environment all share the blame of this most predictable outcome. Blinder's incompetent and racially motivated response of genetic predisposition discount his credibility from any further serious discussions aimed at finding an solution to our children's cries for help. His arrogant statement that he can smell a psychopath would be laughable if the lives involved in this case had not been so seriously affected. The two innocent victims in this case have my prayers and hopes for a healthy and loving tomorrow.

Janice Cowart

Dear FRONTLINE,

I am a law guardian in New York. I represent children who are the subject of abuse and neglect and I represent juveniles in criminal matters. Watching your broadcast was just a continuation of my work day at its most extreme. However the thing that still causes me to lose absolute control of my senses is what people say in the name of justice and the protection of the community. Did that prosecutor actually think that he was doing something good for the community by prosecuting a six year old child? I am very sure that the prosecutor had no connection to or knowledge of the community he stated he is was protecting. Our society is so consumed with being tough on crime that we have lost our humanity and this story is a prime example of this very fact. A six year old child does not have the capability to form the requisite understanding of what attempted murder means. Nor for that matter did the six year old child in your broadcast understand the Miranda warnings that were being told to him. The whole process of videotaping the child was a violation of that child's rights and should not have been allowed to happen. The prosecutor's attitude in dealing with this case also bothered me. At one end he talked about how this child needed help however he could never articulate why it would require a criminal case in order to achieve that goal. Finally the thing that offended me the most was the report given by the psychologist that the child was a natural born killer/a psychopath in the making.

I cannot begin to understand how a person who calls himself a trained professional can after an hour of interviewing a person come to such a conclusion. This man is an abomination to his profession and should not be allowed to work with children. It was obvious in hearing the psychologist speak about the case that he had no concept of children and h



PBS Online troubled kids | psychiatrist interview | interviews | press reaction
readings | links | join the discussion | tapes & transcripts | wgbh | pbs

web site copyright 1995-2014 WGBH educational foundation

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS