Jennings Michael Burch was born in the South Bronx, New York and spent most of his childhood in foster homes. A single parent, Burch's mother placed her children in foster care in 1949, when Jennings was eight, but claimed that she would return. Between 1949 and 1954, Burch had stayed in 32 foster homes, moved with his family three times, and stayed with at least three sets of foster parents. He also lost his biological brother Jerome, whom he hardly knew.
He earned a B.A. in forensic psychology from John Jay College in Manhattan, New York City, New York.