"It was never easy being a kid and going straight to prison..." by richard ross

"My age is 41. I was charged in 1990. I was fifteen years old when I got charged with murder. I did not have anything around me, any support system, anything to look up to. It is very easy to get into things and not know the consequences to things. At fifteen I did not know the consequences of a murder.

I grew up in Florida city. My mother was a single mother. She was a drug addict (god bless her soul). She had been to prison already something like three times. My grandparents tried to raise me and do things for me that my parents could not do for me. They had already raised their kids, so they were of older age.

I lost so much. I lost my mom. I have never seen my father in my life. I don’t even know what he looks like. Everybody has a story to tell. I lost everything. I lost everybody that I have ever had in my life, except my grandparents. They are 87 years old and they still stick with me. That’s who I have in my life. That’s my support system.

I am way better now than when I came in. I had to grow up in here because of all the violence that takes place in here. It was never easy being a kid and going straight to prison, having never been inside of juvenile facility. I felt like I was sent here to die. I was so young. I didn’t know anything about this other side of life..."

Dade Correctional Institution. Dade, Florida

Date of Receipt: November 1991


"This is slavery." by richard ross

I went to Juvie when I was 12-13 for 11 months. Since then, I’ve been incarcerated for 43 years. I was incarcerated on my 16th Birthday. I was given Life and 20. I was convicted of a Rape and Abduction when I was 15 years old. Since 1971 I have been on the street for a total of 11 months. (on the outside)  

My last visitor was in 1989. I was from a good family. No abuse. I never wanted for anything.

FORTY THREE YEARS that I have never seen my family.

Parole-- The parole board interviews me by phone.

They said I had a history of violence and I was a risk to the community and they had new evidence. It has been 43 years and I have been convicted. What new evidence could exist and what could that mean? I’m not coming back to that community so how am I a risk to that community?

I have a parole release date but it means nothing.

They ask what programs I have taken. They say I need programs to be released. They offer no programs. How does this make sense?

This is Florida. Florida is a slave state. This is slavery

Just give me the death penalty.

I am never getting out of prison.

I am going to die here in prison.

Columbia Correctional Institution

Date of Receipt: May 1996


"She kept beating me up. . ." by richard ross

I think I’m from Laverne. I live in an apartment. I don't know where, just an apartment. I live with my mom, she goes to Citrus College, my brother who’s six and sister who’s eight. I don’t do drugs. I do a lot of sports. I like to read a lot. I read everything—realistic, fiction, every kind. My friends and me, we all go to the library a lot. We read and take naps. In two weeks I go back to court. Then I either go to my mom or foster care. I went to foster care the first time at age ten. There were two other foster kids there. After 11 months, I went back to court and they told me to go back to my mom. They kept on taking me from my mom because she kept on beating me up and the neighbors would report the beatings. But now my mom has started taking parenting classes at Citrus.

My friends and me, we all go to the library a lot. We read and take naps.


My social worker came and took me to a childcare center. I spent the whole day there. Then I went to the social worker’s office and I stayed with her until midnight while they called and tried to find a foster home for me. Finally V, the social worker, took me to a foster home in Simi Valley. My brother and sister went to one foster care home and I went to another. I’d like to go live with my dad, he lives somewhere in Florida. My dad left my mom. They had an argument when I was 8 and dad said he needed his own space. That was four years ago. I saw him once in foster care and then twice since I’ve been here. The last time was only yesterday. He works for a company in Florida. They don’t give him any breaks and he works a lot of over shifts and weekends.

-K.F., age 12


**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.