Willie Bosket, killer at age 15, is no longer an anomaly. The number of young boys committing violent crimes like rape and murder has increased dramatically in the 1990s, even as the murder rate for adults has declined. Criminologists predict that this will only get worse. Some state legislatures are making the age in which children are eligible for waiver into adult courts increasingly lower. Adolescents in Florida are on death row. In New York, 85% of the young people released by the Division for Youth are re-arrested. Prison has come to represent a rite of passage for some groups.
As a result, instruments for predicting dangerousness at younger ages-early enough to intervene and possibly prevent future crimes-have been developed and improved. Model programs have been put into place to help parents with parenting skills, and to alert communities to the need for coherence and vigilance.
For Willie, this all came too late. A few months after he was sentenced for stabbing the guard, he bashed another guard in the head, for which he received an additional life sentence. He then threw hot water in the face of another guard. He soon came to be known as the most dangerous criminal in the New York system, and was kept in a specially constructed isolation cell. The guards are forbidden to speak to him. He has no electrical outlets, no television or newspapers. Behind the bars of his cell is a sheath of plexiglass. Four video cameras keep him under surveillance at all times. Whenever he goes out, he is thoroughly shackled with an automobile tow chain. He feels he is on death row with no hope of escape in the electric chair. Sometimes he mourns the reckless violence of his youth, other times he feels sorry for himself and all those things in life that he missed. And because of him, the juvenile justice system will never been the same.