“When I came in I was 15. I’ve been here for over a year. I’m XX3. They put me in XX3 once I was sentenced in 90-to-life. I can’t parole until 72 years. Technically, they can’t give you a life sentence, but they did. I wouldn’t call myself washed because I’m coming home. I think the most I’ll do is 30, but I’m appealing. Washed means, like, I’ll get rid of you. I’ll wash you away. You’re washed by an institution. An institution can do that to people…but I’m going to keep myself positive. I’m a member of the Fudge Town Mafia Crips in Watts. I was 16 when I was sentenced. And they have me housed like this in case I hurt myself. But I’m in the SHU because I’m an HRO (high risk offender.)
Why do you fight? Why do you shoot people? Because nobody wants to lose in Watts…
Why you’re looking so hard at fighting depends on the details.
My mom and dad visit. I have two brothers, I’m the youngest. I need three and a half credits for my high school diploma. Once I get my credits they’ll send me to YA—youth authority. Gangbanging is deeper than territory. It used to be about respect for people. That changed in the 80’s, with crack and sherm. Drugs affected everything then. Rival gang members have issues that are deeper than colors. Colors don’t mean much anymore. Red and blue, doesn’t matter. I wear whatever I want. There’s no structure within the gangs. No rules to follow. Lots of the crime comes from fights. Lots of the fights come from drugs. I didn’t ask for this. At 12 my mind was somewhere else. Then I went to Marcham Middle School, there are five different hoods there. Even earlier, in sixth grade, I was already in a gang. Respect comes with pride. And we do things to gain respect. Sometimes there’s just too much pride involved. Why do you fight? Why do you shoot people? Because nobody wants to lose in Watts. Everybody knows everybody. So it’s not too hard to figure out what’s going on. Why you’re looking so hard at fighting depends on the details.”
-D.D., age 17**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 or altered for content.