Bailey Colfax

Bailey Colfax

2018 Undergraduate Fellow
African American Studies/History

Thesis title and description:

"The Immortal Super Predator: How a Theory Disavowed by All Continues to Stalk our Streets"

In 1995, the juvenile super predator was born. In an article title “The Coming of the Super Predators,” John DiIulio, a professor of Sociology at Princeton, predicted a “demographic bulge of the next 10 years [that would] unleash an army of young male predatory street criminals who will make even the leaders of the Bloods and Crips – known as O.G.s, for “original gangsters” – look tame by comparison.” He argued that these children – who had yet to be born— were going to grow up in such moral poverty that they would “have absolutely no respect for human life.” The super predators became a media firestorm, each tragic death of a teenager at the hand of another teenager was sensationalized and heralded as the coming of the super predators. By 1996 there was a moral panic sweeping the nation. In response, nearly every state instituted laws aimed to protect the public from a wave of juvenile superpredator crime that never came.

For my thesis, I plan to investigate the policy responses to this panic and create a better understanding of the impact of these laws. Today, we know that DiIulio was wrong. Crime did not go up and in fact, crime levels plummeted during the mid-90’s and have continued downward. However, laws based on his ideas were put in place. Instead of protecting from super predators, the laws and their enforcement undermined a generation of black and brown boys who were labeled as dangerous adults and therefore capable as adults. I plan to research how this series of events unfolded and what we can do to reverse the damage they caused.