Acting Up

The most dangerous teenagers in Texas are sent to the Giddings State School, where, in a jailhouse version of group therapy, they reenact their brutal crimes in order to come to terms with their violent impulses. This is what we do with young murderers? Yes, and it works. For a while, at least.

One humid day last summer, when most teenagers were on vacation or at camp or slaving away at tedious jobs, a burly, flirtatious nineteen-year-old named Raymond was locked inside a small, frigid metal building with five other boys to whom he could relate. Two years earlier, Raymond had smashed a friend’s face in with a lead pipe, and now he was confined at the Giddings State School, a juvenile detention facility one hour east of Austin. Leaning back in his chair, Raymond told the group about his upbringing. He talked about competing with his cousins for his mother’s attention. His father, a sharp dresser known for violent outbursts, had never been around; Raymond saw his namesake for the first time in a grocery store when he was

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