I’ve been coming here since I was 11. I am in for a DV with my mom. I thought when I first came here that jails were like I saw on TV. But this place they are not here to hurt us but to help us. It’s really cool. I first came here when I took some of my brother’s coke and he got mad and told my mom. She was tired from work so she burned me with cigarettes and hit me with an extension cord. I was seven years old. I can’t talk about it without getting angry. I haven’t seen her is eight years. She’s married now and fixing to get her RN. She was 16 when I was born, 14 when my brother was born. I didn’t know anything about protective services. My dad dropped out of the family completely. He was on crack cocaine.

People have to realize we are not bad kids just because we come from bad homes.

I was six years old when I was molested by my auntie’s boyfriend. He put his finger in my vagina and my cousin’s at the same time. I was so young I didn’t even know what the word vagina was. He told my cousin that we couldn’t tell anybody or he wouldn’t give us candy. It was both the candy and something wrong that we didn’t tell anybody for a while. It was my cousin’s stepdad. When we told my auntie she wanted to tell the police but he said he would kill her if she did. We saw him with a gun and knew he would kill her. We went with my mom and she asked if everything went well and we told her that C touched us. Later after he served five years, they took him in and expected everything to be normal. But I am still angry. I have been here five weeks now. They sent me here from Shelby County Tennessee—Memphis. Whenever I am out I guess my life is always in jeopardy. The only thing I know how to do is sell my body. I was arrested in December in a Tennessee hotel. I was with a friend who was 21 and helping me. They took me to Tennessee detention. There you sleep all day. The only time out you get from it is to wash dishes. The staff talks about things they shouldn’t been talking about with kids.

BW

I had to be willing to come to Tuscaloosa or else they would not be sending me here. My dad tried to help me but he was on crack. My grandmother can’t help. Her life is messy. No one could see that I was suffocating. I don’t have a pimp. I am doing it on my own. It’s a rough world. I was having sex with police officers in Birmingham. I want to get out of here, get an apartment and get a singing career.The staff here, they are a blessing to me. They basically raised me. Last time I was in school I was 14. A lot of people know me as being a bad person…but it’s because I have so much anger. I know that’s no excuse. I want to go to Shelton State Community College. They are all okay here. They know that they are here to help kids not hurt them. You don’t have to punish kids to in order to help them. The other kids here…sometimes we bump heads here but at the end of the day we look out for each other.

My dad tried to help me but he was on crack.

My grandmother can’t help. Her life is messy.

When kids have the attitude “I will never make it in life because of what happened to me,” they will never make it. I hope I can go to WELL House. They teach you survival skills. Not a lock down. It is an adult facility. People have to realize we are not bad kids just because we come from bad homes. We have made a bad decision somewhere along the way.I had one abortion when I was younger. My friend’s mom had to sign off on it. I was 16 and my baby daddy was in and out of prison. I started prostitution because I needed some place to stay to simply lay down my head. If I was still on probation I might still come back here…but I am an adult now.

-B.W., 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.

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