"Everything there was horrible." by richard ross

Soon I’m going to be 18. I’m black, Spanish, Jamaican and Guinanese. My mom’s a great cook. She’s makes yam and mac and cheese. I’ve been here about a year. I’m going to be discharged soon. I started getting into trouble when I was 16. I was coming home late, violating curfew, not listening to rules. Now I realize it’s time not to play no more. I got locked up, court remanded, sent to Rikers. Everything there was horrible. The food. The beds. The guards. It was all horrible. We had to do so many strip searches. They never call you by your name; they call you by your number. The stuff I saw at Rikers changed up my act. There are things you just can’t understand but if you’re on the street you understand them differently. Here I got into trouble because they said I threatened staff. I think staff is always mad at you. I’m not threatened by the staff here, not like at Rikers. I’m here with people who have problems and can’t be at home.

V., age 17

V., age 17

I’m not threatened by the staff here, not like at Rikers.

I’m in the cottage which is for kids with sexual behavior issues. I had problems with the way I approach females. I approached them with a bad attitude rather than as evens. My mom would never hit me but she would take away my video games and I want to be a video game designer. Sometimes we get group therapy here, sometimes individual. I got a scar here. I got cut by glass. And here’s another scar. A couple of us from our cottage got into a battle with another cottage. There were a couple of them and a couple of us. They called for a big mediation but at the end of the day the supervisors blamed it on me and my cottage mate. We are NSP, which means we can’t go out of state but it’s no big deal. I’m in 12th grade but I have to pass my Regents to graduate. I want to be a game designer or be a chef, have my own TV show. I know I have to have an education first. My mom visits me. I have no idea where my dad is. I didn’t grow up with him. I have a stepfather but we sort of talk from time to time but we don’t hang out. All my siblings live at home. I trust my mom. She never gave up on me. She works at an arts and crafts place. She used to work at Target.

—V., age 17