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Hillary Was Right the First Time

Froma Harrop on

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton was criticized for her use of the word "superpredators" back in 1996. Some on the left laid into her, accusing Clinton of racism.

Meanwhile, her opponent, Donald Trump, trying to sucker leftist Bernie Sanders voters into not voting for her, piped in, saying yes, she was smearing African Americans. This was the same Trump who in 1989 had called for the execution of the "Central Park Five," five Black and Latino men who as teenagers were convicted of brutally raping a jogger but were later found to have been innocent.

Superpredators were taken at the time to mean young street thugs who repeatedly committed violent crimes with no conscience or empathy and were undeterred by traditional punishment. New York happens to be one of the safest cities in the country, but instances of brutal crimes, especially on the subway, get highlighted by national media. And usually, the individual pushing some bystander in front of a subway train is a person of color.

Note that other kinds of killers -- serial killers and mass shooters -- tend to be white. They have similar histories of mental illness, addiction and arrests. They, too, are superpredators.

Call them what you want. They must be taken off the streets. That means they must be involuntarily retained in a prison or mental hospital.

Some ditsy newsrooms continue to frame the problem as "larger society" having failed these individuals: "Accused Subway Shover Found Little Help in New York's Chaotic Shelters" (The New York Times).

 

It may be true that these predators have trauma in their background and serious mental illness. It is true that the mental health shelters are overwhelmed and unable to ensure that every resident has the full array of psychiatric services.

But it is also true that people who enter them are free to leave. And they can't be forced to go to appointments and take their medications: city Department of Homeless Services rules.

There comes a time when an accumulating list of serious acts of violence requires involuntary confinement. Ideally, it would be a compassionate place. But it can't be a place where the "clients," as social workers like to refer to them, can walk out the door.

The most recent subway shover, Carlton McPherson, 24, lived in one of the shelters where he worked off his anger. He was given a cane after being treated for a leg injury and used it to attack a security guard. The person he threw in front of a train in East Harlem was Jason Volz, a 54-year-old man.

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