Superpredators: Fear Of 'A Teen Bloodbath' In America

Mar 30, 2015

Jeff Coats was 14 years old when he kidnapped David Grenier and stole his car in Tacoma, Washington. The crime took place against a backdrop of moral panic: two criminologists forecast a wave of juvenile “superpredators” who would create a “teenage bloodbath” across America. 

Twenty years later, Jeff and David reflect on the crime and how it restructured their lives.

In “Superpredators Revisited,” we put Jeff and David’s story into a wider sociological perspective. In the 1970s and 80s, American lawmakers on the right and the left abandoned the goal of rehabilitating criminals. Meanwhile, the US enacted a range of tough anti-crime policies that created the largest prison population in the world.

Now criminal justice policy places more emphasis on punishment than on rehabilitation. Nevertheless, roughly half of all people leaving prison do not re-enter it. But their stories are seldom heard. What can these men and women teach us about crime, punishment and the human capacity for change?