“I’m reading The Autobiography of Malcolm X. His life and the way he did things is really interesting to me. I arrived here when I was 16. I’m from Long Beach—Snoop’s world. This is my fourth time here. My father and my grandfather, my mother and my daughter all visit. I have a lot of tats, but none of them are gang tats. The first time I was incarcerated I was in the compound. When I was 14 and 15 I went to Los Padrinos. A handgun costs 100 to 250 bucks. Depends on the caliber. How much with bullets? Well, you’re easily played if you’re buying a gun without bullets. This place is full of fitness fighters (you’re fighting to be tried as a juvenile; if you lose, or are deemed ‘unfit,’ and you’re tried as an adult.) Juvie is also called Disneyland or Camp Snoopy. When should people intervene in a kid’s life? As early as possible. I had behavior problems in elementary school. I would begin to be suspended for three days to a week in fourth and fifth grade. I would stay home with my mom, but she worked.
My intention is to go to prison, get some degree,
and when I return, I’ll be productive in life.
It all slowed down when my stepfather was murdered. I was 10 years old. Yea, it was fourth or fifth grade. He was shot to death with gang involvement. My dad’s around, he works with the boys and girls club. I didn’t go because I was too busy doing my own life. I have a two-and-a-half year old daughter. Her mom isn’t allowed to visit, but I do get to see my daughter. Her mother lives with my mother. My intention is to go to prison, get some degree, and when I return, I’ll be productive in life. To keep her survived, I’m just going to be truthful to her. People were not always truthful to me. I would be put off. We kids would be left with curiosity. I wasn’t told a true story of why my stepdad had died. Not until I was 13. It would have helped me to know it, to know it was gang related. Although, eventually I didn’t even go down that path myself. I stayed with my dad when he was in Texas when I was 13. I stayed with him seven months. I saw something different then. Different cultures. Different than the world I grew up with back in Long Beach. I’m here because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I know everybody says that. I know you’ve heard it a hundred times. But this is the one time its true.”
-E.F., age 18**Interviews with youth are recorded to the best of our ability. All personal histories and anecdotes are self-reported by the children. To protect confidentiality of the youth, identities have been obscured, initials have been changed, and identifying details have been removed. Interviews have not been edited for content.