aggravated robbery

"I'm here because of something I did with my brother." by richard ross

I’ve been here like 4 days or a week. Sometimes I like being in my cell or watching TV or eating lunch or making Christmas decorations. I'm here because of something I did with my brother. He’s like 19 or 24, I don’t know. I live with my mom and dad. Brother is arrested right now. They just had me out of my school. He was arrested for aggravated robbery from a Quick Mart. I’m in special ed in school. I can hardly spell but I can read some. I was ditching school a lot. My mom and dad have visited me twice. They’re both on SS, and they’re both citizens.

—L.B., age 12



"She was incarcerated when I was born—so was my dad." by richard ross

I’ve been here twice. I live with my great grandmother. She’s 85. I don’t know where my mother is. I know my daddy is incarcerated. He has been there about eight months now for drug trafficking. My mom went to jail numerous times for selling drugs. She was incarcerated when I was born—so was my dad. My great grandma adopted me. She was given full custody when I was born. I’m in 10th grade. I have a couple of units of general stuff. I have one younger brother and a younger sister. I see them twice a year if I am lucky. I think my mother takes care of them. I don’t even know where she is or even her phone number. I saw them at a family gathering once. We don’t have a good relationship. I feel she abandoned me and I never had a chance to really be. She put so much pressure on my great grandmother to take care of me without giving no help, no support.

I am here for aggravated robbery. Wrong place, wrong time. I was with two males when they snatched a phone. I was guilty by association. I have been here a month now. This is my first time in. I think I get out the next day. I was in for a PV (probation violation) for cutting off my ankle bracelet. I had an aunt and cousin both dying of cancer. My aunt and my cousin both passed. I went to their funeral. I don’t look at this as punishment but as a learning experience. Monday I go talk to a judge and either I go home or they make me stay. But I know this is not the place for me. There is one kid here that I know from my neighborhood.

— N.I., age 16



"My dead friends are written here." by richard ross



I did the artwork. I’m here eight months. I am waiting for trial. The case was bonded over to the adult system. Most were charged or in the process of being bonded over. My mom and stepfather would visit. My dad is deceased. He was shot when I was six or seven. I was 14 when I was in ODYS Juvenile Prison. They tried to say I was in the Heartless Felons. It started in Youth Detention System. My mom always had custody of me. No one ever sent me to treatment. There was never any of that, just punishment. My mom tried to get me counseling once. They prescribed meds like Aderol for ADHD and Ridilin at night. When I was 14 I got an aggravated robbery with a one year gun specification. That’s an extra one to three on the sentence. They never charged me with gang stuff.

Guns? Most good guns go for around $250. My father died from a gun so I am scarred by that. I didn’t really need counseling. I have a good relationship with my mother, but not with strangers. My mom is a good woman. She is unemployed and doing hair in the house. She is a respiratory therapist looking for work. She is also going to school. I live with her and three sisters.

Here there are other kids that are older, but many of them are in ODYS and some younger ones like 11 or 12. The staff here are bullies. They abuse their authority. I think I am on attempted murder. I can get 12-15 if I lose. They offered a plea of six to eight. I have a paid lawyer. They will expunge my record when I am older and I hope I can go in the military.

Gangs? I'm not affiliated, but HN4L is Hill Niggas for Life. They killed a couple of kids from my neighborhood. My dead friends are written here. They all died last year—all of gunshots.

— O.S., age 18