Letter: Sociopaths need help

What your opinion piece on 13-year-old alleged murderer Zitedrick Shelley (“A jarring, bloody symptom,” Oct. 7) does not take into account is that some people are born sociopathic.

 

According to Dr. Martha Stout, a clinical psychologist who served for 25 years in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, 4 percent – that is, one in every 25 people – are born sociopaths. Sociopaths feel no guilt, no shame, and no remorse for the things they’ve done or are planning to do. You likely know at least one personally.

Some sociopaths conform relatively well to society, choosing to follow rules that keep them out of jail and allow them to avoid other bad consequences. Others are incapable of doing so, particularly those that are raised in violent homes or geographies. Even though what Zitedrick Shelley allegedly did was reprehensible, if he is a sociopath and he is convicted, he will never be treated. He will not be taught how to control his impulses. If he’s ever released after being tried as an adult – which is likely, given his age – he’ll go right back to the behavior that put him in jail in the first place, and we will pay to incarcerate him again.

We likely will never be rid of sociopaths, but we could take more steps to ensure that the ones we get our hands on do have an opportunity to learn how to manage their behavior, and give them strong incentives to be interested in and willing to do so.

For those who act as Stephen Paddock did after raising no previous flags at all, we can ban the tools that allowed him to inflict so much death.

Kim Romaner

North Augusta, S.C.

 

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