What is the summary for All God's Children?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence by Fox Butterfield, a journalist who writes extensively on crime for the New York Times, was published in 1995. It is a biography of Willie Bosket, a criminal whose acts led to a major change in the criminal justice system. 

In 1978, Bosket murdered two men on the subway in New York City. Because he was 15 years old at the time, he was sentenced as a juvenile, meaning a maximum sentence of 5 years. Given the nature of his crimes, there were massive public protests and in response the state legislature passed the Juvenile Offender Act of 1978, allowing children over 13 to be tried as adults if their crimes were severe and seemed to warrant it. In light of Bosket's subsequent criminal career, including multiple cases of assault, the concern about such a short sentence seems to have been warranted.

Butterfield's book, All God's Children: The Bosket Family and the American Tradition of Violence, examines the family roots of Bosket's violent behavior. Butterfield notes that multiple generations of Bosket men have been habitual criminals, and analyzes how an honor culture emphasizing respect and retaliation in the family's home town of Edgefield County, South Carolina, contributed to the family's criminality. It contains meticulously researched details of the life of the family and Willie himself, attempting to understand the root causes of their violent acts rather than to sensationalize them.

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