"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


"I’ve been here four months. I’ve been in this room four months." by richard ross

I’m 17 years old. I’ve been here four months. I’ve been in this room four months. I’m wearing a smock to prevent me from hurting myself. I hurt myself. Why? I want to commit suicide. I don’t talk to a therapist. They aint doing no good. I spoke to her today for about 5 minutes. I’ve been in since I was 16. I was brought in for charges.

My Mom visits me. I don’t know how old she is. I don’t have a Dad. My Mom and my brothers live at home. There was emotional abuse at home. I was never in foster care. I say I am going to hurt myself so they put me in a smock and I have to wear a smock for 72 hours. Couple of times I been wearing it. It’s comfortable. I got a 18-36 month sentence. If I show good behavior I can get out in 18 months.

B.H., age 17-3

B.H., age 17-3

We go to school in the building. We go the whole day. I can’t have nothing. No books. I can’t have nothing. I pass the time by just sitting here. No friends. I talk to the girl across the way. They allow me to talk to her. I get out of here for a hour a day. I sit and look and stare at space when they let me out. Those red dots? They come from my head. I just banged my head against the wall. The blood is on the wall because I hit my head against the wall, a couple of times because I was mad at the staff. They wouldn’t get me out of this smock.

— B.H., age 17

B.H., age 17

B.H., age 17

"There was a lot of violence." by richard ross

I’ve been here six months. I’m from Washington Heights. I’ve been in ACS since I was 12—four years now. My home is my mom and three siblings: my eight year-old sister, my seven year-old sister, my eighteen year-old brother, and my one month-old baby. It’s four all together. My mom is a home health aid. I don’t talk to my dad. There is no stepdad. No I don’t have kids. I was 12 years old when I was taken into foster care. There was a lot of confusion in my family. There was a lot of violence.

K., age 16

K., age 16

The first foster home was in the Bronx. I was there with a family. There were a lot of conflicts. They took all my siblings into foster care. No, my mom hasn’t had any mental health treatment. She did have anger management counseling though. My mom would cook at home. She would make Chicken Alfredo. I’m in ninth grade. I have been in 18 foster homes. There hasn’t been a lot of abuse, but lots of drama. Me and my sisters were split up after the 6th foster home. My sisters went back to my mother. I would like to be there, but me and my mother don’t get along.

— K., Age 16.

"Who do I trust?" by richard ross

I’m from Puerto Rico, and also Bushwick. I was eight years old when I went into foster care. I’ve been in 12 different foster cares. Mom had a case of abuse. My dad was sexually abusive. I told my mom but she didn’t believe it. I told my grandmother and my counselor. They took me out of my home. I was scarred. They took my dad away. I went into the hospital, the Children’s Unit. I was there two weeks. Now I have been in foster care for eight years. I never liked it. I didn’t see no social worker. I went to South Oaks Hospital for a year and a half. I had behavior issues. I was fighting a lot. I went to the Children’s Psychiatric Center. I was there for nine months. My mom and dad were always fighting, always arguing. I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I would like to be with my mom and dad again. Who do I trust? I don’t even know. I can’t have a phone. I am not on that level.

F., age 15

F., age 15

My mom and dad were always fighting, always arguing.

I’ve been here two months. There are kids that have been here for years. I have a foster mom that I go to. She was a caseworker and she was adopted herself. She is going through the process of adopting me. I’m not sure what the difference between foster care and being adopted. I’m hoping it works out. I trust her. Her name is P. Adopted and Foster is that somebody takes you into their home. On my 15th birthday they wanted me to go to my foster mom, but I didn’t want to go there. I wanted to go with my case planner at the agency. My foster mom was screaming at me and said that if I lived in her house, under her roof, I wasn’t going to talk back to her. I was with them in a car and they were arguing with me in a car and they stopped the car and put me out in the middle of the street and left me there. So I don’t like them. I don’t feel comfortable or safe in my foster home. I like ECAD. I deal with Reggie. I’m the only one who can deal with him. I go and work with him for an hour and a half Monday through Thursday.

— F., Age 15.

"My mother lost her rights." by richard ross

I’m in 10th grade. I was three or four when I entered the foster care system. I’ve been to 13 different homes. I just didn’t fit in. The case worker didn’t feel I fit in and I would go to a respite foster home. I would still be going to the same school and they would try to help me out. When I come back from school I would pack and go to a new foster home. My cousin was trying to take care of all my brothers and sisters but that didn’t work. I was suspended from kindergarten for throwing chairs. My mother lost her rights. No one ever told me why. They just told me she’s in jail. I still haven’t figured out why. I can’t speak to her until I’m 18. My cousin came and took care of me when I was a baby, and all my brothers and sisters.

It will be tough getting adopted at 15 and gay. I’m realistic.

C., age 15

C., age 15

The first foster home I remember was just a woman and she took in me and one of my brothers. My brother and sister went back to Oklahoma. They’ve been in 13 different foster homes. I saw a lot of stuff happening. A lot of abuse the whole time I was growing up. My 6th foster home worked for three years, then my anger came back. It will be tough getting adopted at 15 and gay. I’m realistic. Part of it is my aunt came back took me from the foster home, and then my anger came back. My caseworker took me to a psychiatric hospital. My anger and my temper, they were all afraid I might have a back flash. They said I had anger management issues. They gave me Depacote, Resperdol, and Clonadine. I want to be an artist. I like doing anime. I’m up for adoption right now to the right home or to a foster home but I haven’t found one yet. I’ll get done with my cottage, processing with skills and then I step down to cottage with more free will. Then after that, if a parent wants to adopt me, they talk to a case worker and we would have to have court approval.

- C., Age 15