When the gavel came down at the end of the disposition hearing, Asher was taken into permanent custody at the Juvenile Corrections Facility. This facility is rated as secure for levels 2-4 on a 1-5 scale. To give you an idea, Level 1 would probably not require detention but merely probation, or house arrest, whereas Level 5 would require an adult facility. However, it still wasn’t a done deal. JCF had to accept him and that could only occur if they determined that he fit the criteria for their rehabilitation program. And after speaking with the psychiatrist administering the court-ordered psychological examinations, I was quite nervous. We were told that Asher showed classic signs of anti-social and even sociopathic behaviors. These are not words you want to ever hear spoken in connection with your own child, but it also meant that  JCF might not accept Asher because he would require a 4+ security level.

Joseph and I knew, instinctively, that Asher had deep wounds that were manifesting in gross behavioral abnormalities. And we recognized that the deviance we saw in our house was only the tip of an iceberg hidden below the surface. But we were also confident that Asher’s appearance of psychosis was much more complicated than pure evil. We did not buy the idea that our son showed these signs of remorselessness and narcissism because he was truly incapable of understanding the pain he inflicted on others.

At JCF, detainees are put through a process of Observation and Analysis (O&A) for almost a week before final assessments are concluded and the juvenile is permanently placed. These assessments are made through polygraphs and re-evaluating the already administered psychological tests. However, they are also made through the administration of tests whose questions are sometimes bewildering and whose outcomes cannot be clearly assumed.

This is a game changer.

You know when you take a personality test and the question goes something like this:

When I’m in a group of people I don’t know, I usually:
A) Stand in the back with a drink and wait for someone to introduce themselves to me
B) Strike up a conversation with the closest person to me

Hmm… I wonder which answer will show me as an extrovert and which one will show me as an introvert. Sadly, many of the evaluations given to accused juveniles look something like the above and provide no control for the possibility of fronting. In other words, whatever a juvenile wants the evaluation to show is what they can manipulate their answers to be. So, why would someone want to show themselves as worse than they actually are?

Most convicted juveniles come from brokenness of one form or another. Their family of origin, abuse, neglect, or simply the impact of evil on a gentle soul at a young age all contribute to create a sense of identity. Unfortunately, they often identify as being far worse than they actually are. So, when they are asked whether they feel regret over certain choices and the options for their answers go something like this:

A) I am overwhelmed with regret
B) I am sad that it happened but they [victim] need to move on
C) My actions didn’t impact them

It is pretty easy to see which answer the juvenile who believes he is a horrible human being will choose. Asher didn’t miss a beat and consistently selected the answers that cast him in the worst light… until he had to do the O&A evaluations at JCF. Then the questions and the answers changed. They went more like this:

A person is walking out of a grocery store when their bag rips open and spills their food. A second person runs over and grabs some of the food and then runs out the door. A third person bends over and helps pick up the groceries and get a new bag.
A) It was the first person’s fault that their bag ripped and they deserved to have their groceries stolen
B) The second person should not have taken the food – that’s stealing
C) It is wrong that the third person tried to help

Now, you may read this question and wonder that two of those options are even possibilities. Clearly, this is a give-away question, right? Wrong. This question removes the juvenile from the picture, which allows them to answer it based on their own sense of right and wrong and not based on how they view themselves. That means a juvenile who selects enough Bs in questions like this one, but also selects enough Cs in questions like the one above, shows that they have an intact sense of right and wrong but are fronting as a remorseless offender.

Asher’s evaluations from JCF’s O&A showed this phenomenon exactly. He was rated a 3 for security risk, which is incredibly average for juvenile deviance even among non-sexual offenders. And Asher is now being held to a standard that openly acknowledges the choices he made as bad while simultaneously refusing to allow him to hide behind a front that says he is nothing but bad.