[This is the fourth in a series of posts on Santa Maria Juvenile Hall in Santa Maria, California.]


They told I am gang affiliated. I’m in 12th grade, a senior. I graduate in 2 weeks. But I still have the rest of my time, I should be out in May. I was sentenced to two years orange [adult] when I first came in on Prop 21 charges [California Proposition 21 – was a proposition proposed and passed in 2000 that increased a variety of criminal penalties for crimes committed by youth and incorporated many youth offenders into the adult criminal justice system]. Then the charges were dropped to juvie. I can get out on probation when I am 18… but it tough to do it right because I can get 15 years confinement if I mess up. It is hard to do it when you get out. I will live with my Mom. Dad’s a landscaper, they’re divorced. Mom visits me every Sunday. Dad will visit once in a while. My sister is 21 or 22. She the good one in the family. She has a family of her own. My older brother is in prison for attempted murder.

Court put me on a gang injunction when I was 13 in 6th grade. You never gonna leave your best friends… Whatever they do you have to stay with them. They are just doing their job by being in a gang. A couple of times I been back and forth with them. [The authorities] look at you with a white tee-shirt and say you are gang related because you wear cheap clothing. Everytime I am in here it is on a different charge– stuff like gang enhanced felonies. I don’t come in for no baby time [slang for small stays, between one and two weeks]. Least I’ve done is 60 days. I don’t do group. Group therapy is for people that are weak minded. The system doesn’t care. I’m in the MRT program [Moral Reconation Treatment]. They try to help me. I know who I am. I do what I want. I have a certificate for culinary arts. I get out on Cinco de Mayo. The food here is NASTY. Some of the staff is cool. I just want to stay out of trouble.

-B.N, age 17, Santa Maria Juvenile Hall, Santa Maria, California

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