DOPE AND TROUBLE: Portraits of Delinquent Youth by Elliott Currie

DOPE AND TROUBLE: Portraits of Delinquent Youth

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A powerful collection of conversations between Currie (Sociology and Criminology/UCLA at Berkeley; Confronting Crime, 1985) and teenagers spending time in one of California's juvenile-detention halls. There's an apocryphal story about Henry Kissinger's older brother, who was asked why he spoke English with no accent while Henry still spoke with such a heavy accent. ""I listen,"" said the brother. Currie also clearly listens. Here, he offers records of his interviews with 20 young delinquents, male and female. The heartbreaking conversations add up to a shameful indictment of the systems and the society that have, as Currie says, collapsed or abdicated responsibility. The children are not innocent: They speak of taking and selling drugs, lying, cheating, stealing, and delivering and receiving brutal blows. The vivid stories that Currie elicits also describe children thrown on their own resources when as young as nine or ten years old. Mothers on drugs; revolving doors of ""stepfathers""; big brothers and sisters flashing wads of cash gained from stealing or dealing; schools that were ""trying to weed me out...that's what it felt like""; inadequate social services with inadequately trained staffs: All of these and more lead youngsters, exceptionally vulnerable to peer pressure and the lure of money and ""fun,"" into the streets. There, they find danger and fear, sometimes so overwhelming that the children will get themselves arrested so they can find safety in an institution, even for a few days. ""I don't want to die, but I think I'm going to,"" says one. Must reading for every politician, teacher, social worker, or social scientist who needs a refresher course on real life.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1992
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Pantheon