Dennis J. Stevens, PhD
Why I Write and Think

The inspiration for my studies and books comes from my honest belief that most of us are good and do what we think is right, most of the time. My sense of doing the right thing pushes my belief that goodness will follow. Yet we need to acknowledge that there are some corrupt beings among us.  

That is, I stop at stop signs, work hard, and  keep the rules which include caring for the abused and aiding the troubled. Yet, I am amazed to learn that some of us never stop at stop signs, work hard at never working, and never keep the rules, yet abuse and violate children and strangers to the point of sexual homicide. Abusers thrive exceptionally well in this country and remain undetected even though they have committed frequent heinous acts. 


Fact is, the offenders in my works accept their wickedness of their crimes through a mask of sanity as they evolve in their craft of human devastation. I confirmed that there exists on our planet wrongfully-wired creatures who are in realityColumbine throwbacks to prehistoric beings linked to apes and chimpanzees because they engage in border raids, brutal beatings, cannibalism, homosexual and heterosexual rape, and warfare among rival territorial gangs.


I learned about super predators in the 1980s working at Stateville Prison near Chicago with the criminally insane who had names like John Wayne Gacy and Richard Speck while I finished my graduate work and began teaching at the university. It wasn't until OJ Simpson was acquitted when prisoners told me that they had been convicted of far less evidence than OJ while others laughed saying that they had committed more heinous acts than OJ and had never been suspected of those deeds. I wondered how a human being could commit and walk away from sexually motivated murder. I needed to confirm the speculation that too many attacks by super predators went unreported. Super predator descriptions rarely conform to the traditional or established stereotypes of their appearance, behavior, and cruelty.  

My Bias Linked to Crime and Punishment


I feel that writers of university materials have a moral obligation to offer his or her position on the topics they write about for the benefit of their readers; one objective would be for a reader to develop his or her own informed decision about what he or she reads.

My health at my present “near death” status according to my students is far better than the twenty-two-year-old prisoners I taught and counseled at Stateville Penitentiary near Chicago, and much better than the forty-year-olds in my groups at Attica in Upstate New York. Why? Because I have choices similar to most ‘free individuals’ and members of educated middle class America. Choices about what I eat, how long I sleep, whom I associate with, how to keep myself physically clean, and how much exercise to engage in at safe environments. I choose what stresses me and what doesn’t—other than long, ridiculous red lights on highways, outrageous cable bills, and an iPhone that I can’t decipher, and a frustration to find a parking place when I’m late for class at school.

     But, I’ve always felt good about myself; I observed and wrote at length about young men and women in group classes at the penitentiaries who hated themselves but their “fronts” were that of happy, hard people. In my fantasy, there were people I considered hurting but have chosen not to do so. My choice! Violent prisoners choose differently—they act upon their impulse without concern for the consequences to their victims or themselves. Their choices brought them to prison once they caught the justice system’s attention which may or may not have been through their behavior. They should be punished. My thoughts are that around 75 to 80 percent of those incarcerated in American prisons don’t belong there such as drug possession and addicts, the mentally ill, nonviolent offenders, and all the women who stood up to the men who beat the crap out of them every day of their married life; yet, then too all the proud young men who stood on a street corner when the wrong cops came their way. In Failure of the American Prison Complex: Let’s Abolish It, I outline a systematic method of reducing the prison population. We must find solutions to enable offenders particularly nonviolent offenders to pay back, to rectify, to give back to society, maybe within certain limits on their movement. As a noble Rabbi adds in Failure, “But the idea to throw people away as so much human garbage is unconscionable for the Jewish people.” And it should be that way for American people, too. See page 410 in Failure.

     As a youngster, I was an aggressor—not that I was abused—I was the abuser. I messed with the system and anybody in my way in whatever manner brought be closer to whatever goal I had in my head which never to be compromised. All I will admit is that violence of all varieties was known to me. I am not compulsive; rather I calculate my actions and assess my targets, and then at the right moment—it’s a go. The forest preserve across the street from my childhood home was often raised in fire, I recall at age five; homes in the swank neighborhood nearby were often burglarized but little was missing, I noticed at age 10; and many young friends by age 12 ignored their own principles to amuse me. As with most violent young men (and women, see Wicked Women: A Journey of Super Predators) from upper middle class families, prison and punishment were never a deterrent to my behavior. What was a deterrent to violence as an adult, is that I accepted what had been taught to me about compassion, empathy, and respect particularly for God and country. People don’t always respond to learning right away—some take more time than others. I’m a slow learner about things of that variety. Nonetheless, positive values taught and exercised through quality care providers or hopefully parents to very young children have huge dividends for those youngsters and society and their “almost” victims. I can still see my grandmother’s (Victoria) lips moving as she told me about how animals die helplessly in forest fires. Violence will never leave my hand, I will admit to you—unless you mess with my children, then all bets are off.


With the assistance of my students, I gathered evidence which included the essays and journals of prisoners whom I encountered in prison classrooms, group sessions such as substance abuse programs and aggression replacement training programs, and advocate meetings such as job seeking strategies for pre-released prisoners.

What I found was that many of the ruthless accounts of the participants had never been made public and in their youth, not one of them had ever experienced abuse, poverty, or parental violence other than the violence each had administered to parents and grandparents, siblings and  friends, teachers and neighbors. Before you take a stand, you need one more piece of information — those Wicked Women participants in particular possessed the incredible opportunity and absolute safety, privilege, and political power derived from their exemplary socioeconomic family to have chosen a different lifestyle but rejected those amazing opportunities for a life of cruelty and destruction.

The sad thing is that while criminally violent offenders can not be stopped unless they what to stop, the best I can do is study them and train justice professionals to better detect, apprehend, and convict them. For those opportunities, I am pleased with my few accomplishments.   

Dr. Dennis J. Stevens