Stories from wrong placement, detention, and sex trafficking

Read about the Girls-in-Justice project here.

This is my third time here. First time, I was in at age 14 for prostitution. My mom is a stay-at-home mom. I have a little brother, 4. And I’ve got a 3-year-old daughter. I got pregnant when I was 14. No dad was ever around. I think maybe he was on drugs and is incarcerated. I have another older brother who is incarcerated. When I was 14 I was in eighth grade, but that’s the last I went to school. We were having money issues at home. I started meeting people for sex, for money. It was the life. I was walking the track. It’s a nine-to-five job. When I was 15, and 7 months pregnant, my dad molested me. He used to beat my mom. I was the youngest, and I would forgive him. He took me to his friend’s house and would give me to his friends. He would take me to the back room and blow smoke from the crack pipe in my face. Then he asked me to grab him. I wanted to tell my grandma, but she was handicapped and has diabetes. So I ran away and walked home to my mom. We made a police report of attempted rape. CPS came. They incarcerated him for possession, not rape. Me, they picked up 3 different times. When I’m out, I work for my pimp. They can send you home on house arrest, but they keep you in here to keep you safe and off the streets. They say I’m a victim. I wish they treated me like that. I have goals. When you don’t have food at home, and your baby needs things, what do I turn to, you know?
— B.Q. Age 17
Nobody comes to visit me here. Nobody. I have been here for eight months. My mom is being charged with aggravated prostitution. She had me have sex for money and give her the money. The money was for drugs and men. I was always trying to prove something to her…prove that I was worth something. Mom left me when I was four weeks old—abandoned me. There are no charges against me. I’m here because I am a material witness and I ran away a lot. There is a case against my pimp. He is out on signature bond. He was my care worker when I was in a group home. They are scared I am going to run away and they need me for court. My mom’s a mess. It’s not really her fault. She plays a good person and says I’m horrible to her. I love her more than anybody in the world. I was raised to believe you don’t walk away from a person so I try to fix her. When I was 12 my mom was charged with child endangerment. I’ve been in and out of foster homes. They put me in there when they went to my house and found no running water, no electricity. The JJA is the corrections authority for kids but I need protection. I ran away so much that they moved me from temporary to permanent JJA custody. I’m refusing all my visits because I am tired of being lied to.
— B.B. Age 17
I’m eight months pregnant. It’s exciting, but really scary. My sisters both have kids. I was running away to my boyfriend’s in XXXX. He’s a junior. I always felt I needed him to be loved and to help out. I got pregnant on purpose. We don’t believe in abortion. My only crime was running away. And I’ve been here more than nine times. I’ve been here two weeks. I was very selfish for not thinking of the baby. CPS says they’re going to take the baby away but I’m going to fight for her. My mother and sisters visit. My dad died six years ago. They shot him 18 times. He was in the Mexican Mafia. He died when I was 10. I’ve been messing up since them. Heroin. Meth. E. Inhalants. Crack. I was doing a lot of drugs when I was first pregnant but now I’ve been sober for four months. This unit is the drug treatment unit.
— C.M. Age 16


This is my seventh time here. Sometimes it was probation violation, fighting at school, drug violations—weed and meth. My mom’s not in the picture. My dad was in jail until I was 12. My grandma raised me til then. My dad was around for about a year when he got out of prison, but he violated and went back. Now he’s been out for about a year again, and I’m living with him. He works at a hospital cleaning equipment. Three of my brothers live with me. I have four brothers: 17, 18, 19, and 20. They all have different moms. They’re all in a valley gang. I’m affiliated. I got jumped in for 13 seconds. Sometimes you have to go on different missions. No I didn’t get humped in, I’m a virgin. If you get humped in, you stay a hoodrat and get used over and over by the homies. I should be in 11th grade, but I dropped out in eighth grade. I don’t go to school. I’ve been to lots of placements and camps. I just go AWOL a lot to hang out with my homies. The longest I was home since I was 12 was nine months. I have no history of abuse. Now I been living with my brother’s baby mama. She’s 17 now. She was 15 when she had her baby. That brother is in jail. He’s the 18 year old. He’s out of state, doing a homicide. If I win my fitness, I’ll get a job. It may be tough because they have me charged with GTA, high-speed pursuit, and attempted murder. It’s really not me in here, it’s all the mistakes I’ve done in here. It’s gonna be hard for me to change, but I’m really working on it. My family is the gang, really. My uncles, my aunts, even my grandmother who’s 52 is in a gang. My cousins are the peewees; they do all the work. My dad, he’s a duke. He’s 32. He sells drugs everywhere in XXXX. I was selling as well. My family’s uncontrollable. My five uncles—three are in jail for murder, two for attempted murder. My aunts are in for 211—deadly weapons. I’ve got one brother fighting murder, another brother in and out of juvie. They’re all dope related, they’re all in the gang…My family is the gang. When you lead this life and you’re on the outs, you just count your days, because that’s where it leads you.
— L.V. Age 16
I’m from the projects. I’ve been living on the streets or else I sleep in the projects with my homies. When I was on the street, we all didn’t have a place to stay, so we would all look out for each other. We were hustlers. Make our money by selling weed. My mom was deported when I was 5, then I lived with my dad till I was 12, and then he was deported. I have a brother who’s 19 in jail, and a sister who’s 15 in placement. I was living in foster homes after 5. My dad would abuse us before I was 12. He would talk shit to us, make us feel bad, and hit us. I been in 15 different DCFS and probation placements. I’m 5 months pregnant. It feels good, and scary. Placement will help me with my baby. When I get out, maybe I’ll be a cosmetologist or a psychologist.
— N.K. Age 16