I’m interviewed by Our Sunday Visitor to help provide some perspective on why youth commit thrill kills.
So-called “thrill killings” and other heinous crimes involving young people are not unusual, and in many cases today they receive greater attention because of the national mainstream media, said David Lukenbill, the founder of the Lampstand Foundation, a lay apostolate that provides written materials and resources to agencies involved in prisoner re-entry programs.
Lukenbill, 70, a resident of Sacramento, Calif., who as a young man served time in state prison for robbery and theft, told Our Sunday Visitor that mainstream entertainment has glamorized criminal culture in movies and television shows.
“It used to be in movies, the bad guys never won,” Lukenbill said. “Now, the bad guys win all the time.”
For example, published reports indicate that an 8-year-old boy in Louisiana shot and killed his 87-year-old grandmother on Aug. 23 after he played “Grand Theft Auto IV,” a violent video game. The boy will not face criminal charges in Louisiana because he is younger than 10.
“The media definitely sensationalizes criminal activity,” said Leonard Rubio, an ex-convict who served 23 years in San Quentin State Prison in California for shooting his girlfriend to death in 1986 when he was 18….
Another factor is the reality that street gang culture have crossed into the mainstream.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to grow up in high-crime areas and avoid being pulled into the gangs,” Lukenbill said. “There are so many gangs now, and their recruitment is much more aggressive. Whereas, back in the day, gangs didn’t recruit at all. But now the gangs go to the kids.”
Eighteen mayors from across the country met with President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for an Aug. 27 forum on youth violence at the White House. Obama framed the issue in terms of gun control, vowing that he would “continue doing everything in his power to combat gun violence through executive action and to press Congress to pass common-sense reforms like expanding the background check system and cracking down on gun trafficking.”
However, youth violence, Lukenbill said, runs deeper than passing gun control laws.
“I never bought a gun legally when I was in ‘the life,’ and I always had a gun,” Lukenbill said. “The criminal world is awash with guns and drugs. Guns are a necessary tool of the criminal world. If you want a gun, you don’t go to a gun store. You go to the street, and it will always be that way.”
Lukenbill added: “You don’t want kids to get into prisons and institutions where they become harder.”
“I think that it has to go back to the way it was when I was growing up in giving kids as many breaks as you can,” Lukenbill said. “The punishment has to be balanced toward mercy and love and helping the family. I think this is where the Church can be of more help than anybody.”
“In my mind, the only narrative that trumps the criminal world narrative,” Lukenbill added, “is the story of the Church.”