gang

"I am always asking, 'Where is my dad?'" by richard ross

I got in trouble here. Criminal damage, destruction of property. I kicked down a door in my mom’s house. She took all my electronics. I wanted to be on Facebook. I broke into my room to get my laptop. They originally took it away from me because I was suspended from school. I got in a fight with a girl at school. I've known her since kindergarten. She was talking a lot of smack. Calling me a bitch, a whore. She told me my boyfriend was cheating on me with her. My boyfriend is 17. We are having sex, but nobody is going to find out. My mom called the police. I was out on a probation violation and I failed a UA. I ran again to be with my homeboys. Doing some weed and pills. I would be labeled as gang affiliated with Southside. I get A’s and B’s in school. I live with my mom and stepdad. My stepdad works at a factory making trash cans with lids on them. I don’t know my real dad. Mom is a R.N. at a hospital. I don’t know my dad’s real name. He lied to my mom about everything, including his name and left. My stepdad visited me once. My grandparents, uncles, aunt, and mom visit. I was placed in JJA custody.

I am leaving Sunday to go to a group home. I’ve never been to a group home, but I hear stuff goes on there. Too many fights. I don’t want to get any more charges. I had a PV, flunked a UA, and they put out a warrant for running and not going home. I ran to another state and hung with some homies I know. I was always treated good…but I have anger in me. My friends have dads and I am always asking “Where is my dad?”

—S.Q., age 16

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"Mom does the best she can." by richard ross

I’m from the East Side. I have two sisters, 12 and six. I think they probably took over my room. I was 15 on my first visit here. I was picked up three days ago on a warrant for not appearing in court. I got out of camp and didn’t check in with my PO (probation officer) for eight months. I just wanted to be done with probation and all that shit. I was chilling with my homie and the cops stopped us for open containers and they ran my ID and found me with an open warrant. They would describe me as gang affiliated. I been here a bunch. Maybe 25 times. Mostly violations, and little misdemeanors. They always portray gang members as a negative thing, but there are different levels. Some people just like to hang with their homies rather than hard core banging. If you are identified as a gang member they finger print you, take your DNA. They make you sign a document that you are affiliated. They showed it to my mom and told her what it was about but she didn’t understand it. I have minor charges “hanging” over me. These are forgotten if you don’t stray as an adult, but if you do, they make those charges a part of your history and you have to answer for them as an adult. I didn’t really go to school on the outs. I think I am supposed to be in 12th grade. I go to court tomorrow.

"I been here a bunch. Maybe 25 times. Mostly violations, and little misdemeanors."

My mom visits me. She’s a box checker in the strawberry fields. She has her resident papers and has been here 18 years. My dad passed away when I was 5. He was DUI and went off a cliff. I was in AS (administrative segregation) for a week one time. I try to stay straight here. I was never in foster care. I had lots of issues when I was young. There was no dad in my house and there was a lot of domestic violence. There were always men beating on my mom and myself. Her ex-husband was violent. I think it was because I wasn’t his real biological son. My mom filed a restraining order against him. He was arrested and kicked out of the country.

Mom does the best she can. She works in the strawberry fields Monday through Saturday. When the girls are in school sometimes my aunt helps out. She lives with us. I will tell the judge, “you gave me a lot of chances but I blew most of them.” I was a skater when I was 13/14 but they don’t have space in this town for those kids.

—J., age 18

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"I was jumped in when I was nine." by richard ross

I’ve been here 32 days. This is my fourth time. I have drug paraphernalia, threatening to hurt somebody, criminal theft, criminal property damage, battery, assault and intentional battery—which is forcefully or angrily touching. I was 14 when I picked up my first battery. I got in a fight. I have a gang affiliation. I was jumped in when I was nine. I started doing some of this origami. This is a crane and another bird.

—E.K., age 15

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"This is a complicated neighborhood." by richard ross

I live with my mom and four brothers. Two of the brothers are from the same parent. One by a different dad another from a different dad. And then one from the same dad and a different mom. And then there are some stepbrothers. My grandma on my dad’s side is dead. My grandma and grandpa are on vacation. I’ve been here twice. The first time I was twelve. I was at LP first for two days. Then the morning of the third day they moved me here. I’ve been here two months. For battery and robbery. Me and my homies jumped a guy. He was a grown man.

I’m affiliated. We have rules; you don't disrespect ladies and old folks. Like I would never disrespect my grandfather. My older brother has never been caught. He has a four-year college degree from Michigan State. He’s working, but he’s also banging. He doesn’t act like a stupid little homie, but he still chills with them. My dad is affiliated too, but with a different gang. I can get along with members of other gangs; if you don't disrespect me, I won't disrespect you. But if there is disrespect happening we’re going to get down.

The sheriff, he be cool with my dad and he knows me. But I got picked up by some other cops that don't normally patrol in our hood, so they brought me to a different station so I wouldn't get released so quick. They said I was selling marijuana. This is where they stabbed me in the back. This is a complicated neighborhood. I'm on the borderland, right where a bunch of gangs have been beefing up. Everyone is in some sort of gang.

But my mom is not gang banging. She went to college. She has to be supporting me and my brothers. She works at a fruitcake factory. Couple days of the week she works for the homeless; she’s a Christian. I live with my little brother who's eight, a three-year-old, and a 16-year-old and some other kids. She’s a good mother, she keeps clothes on my back and feeds me and everything. You feel me? I started fighting to protect my brother. I would have never gotten affiliated if anybody would have helped me. I got jumped and told the principal, told security; they didn't help me. All of a sudden there are 187 kids in front of my house ready to fade. My momma told me to go in the house I did. But from that point on, I knew I was gonna join up with the gang.

—L.B., age 13

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"I ran away because my boyfriend pressured me." by richard ross

I'm in 12th grade. I've lived in here for 8 years, but I'm originally from the Bronx. My mom and dad still live together. I ran away because my boyfriend pressured me. I'm waiting for a slot to open up at another facility, I've been waiting for three months. I want to go to city college. I stay in the girls' wing, there's more than 100 girls here. Many of 'em are gang members.

—S.F., age 17

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"I was on the run for a month..." by richard ross

I’ve been here 245 days. I caught a gang case—robbery. I was 12 when I first came here. They have me as a member of the Heartless Felons. Mom works at the clinic. My dad doesn’t have a job. My mom and dad live together. I have four brothers and two sisters. I’m the oldest. My dad went on trial when I was nine. I tried to find a way to get it going on my own. He went down for six years on drug charges. I have been here eight times. I hope they send me home on house arrest. Sometimes when you are on house arrest it is a set up because the box don’t work—then the police come and get you. I was on the run for a month—then I turned myself in. I just want to be free. They used to have programs for kids when I was younger but they stopped. I was smoking for a while, but I didn’t do it for ten months. They gave me RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) charges as a gang member. They had me for assault, vandalism, menacing, participating in a criminal gang, engaging in corrupt activity, and two conspiracy counts. I fought somebody. Then they dropped all the charges except the menacing, vandalism, and attempt to participate in a criminal gang. I have a private lawyer. My parents hired him. It’s all a lot of gang stuff….so the RICO. But I ain’t in no gang. I’m in 10th grade. IEA. In school. Not in special ed. They charged me as an adult. This is county. The kid I was charged with ain’t going to snitch so they dropped the assault. They gave me a plea deal. The most time they can give me is 18 months. I do adult at Mansfield. I got into trouble too many times.

— E.V., age 17

— E.V., age 17

Kids go through intake in about 20-25 minutes. There is a 24 hour nurse on staff. There are Part time doctors. They kids get a TB shot, have to do a urine sample for drugs and SDIs. They get it at least once a year, not more frequently if they are pulled in more often. They have an option of being tested for HIV. Usually we can tell about drug use with jittery eyes. The kids are fingerprinted only in special circumstances, and by court order.

— E.V., age 17

"She had me when she was 16." by richard ross

O.E., age 17

O.E., age 17

I’m here for two weeks. This is the first time I have been here. I live with my mom, daddy, and grandma. I have seen them twice on a Saturday. Once on a Wednesday. I have five sisters, from three different dads. All the girls live with my mom and me. I am close with my sisters. I am the oldest. The youngest is five. We don’t have a problem visiting together. I see the judge in three days. Hopefully, she will send me home. I was on probation for GTA (Grand Theft Auto) and was doing well. Now I am here for robbery. I am in 11th grade, but I don’t go to school because I am home-schooled. My mom has me enrolled in a program called ECOT. It is computer schooling. I do better at home. At school I get distracted easily. People say stuff to me and I go off. I don’t like to argue, I just go straight to fight. I don’t have any gang affiliation.

I see the judge in three days. Hopefully, she will send me home.

My dad works at a car wash and my mother is a home health aide. My great grandmother is taking care of her brother. I have my own bedroom. They let the little ones sleep together. I hate the food here. It’s nasty and they don’t give you enough—for real. Like we had broccoli, salad, a little meat, chicken, rice, and macaroni. My great grandmother cooks for everybody. We may be at my grandma’s house. But, I am MOSTLY there on the other side of town. My auntie drives me over there. My auntie lives in a two family house. My grandma is 56, My mother is 33. She had me when she was 16.

— O.E., age 17

"You know what a hitman is right?" by richard ross

I'm 18 years old. I'm in IBRU. I been here about a month. I’ve been in Beaumont since July 8. About nine months. I was 16 when I first went in to Juvie. I originally went to juvie for probation violation on a fighting charge. It was a school incident, I was fighting in school, the judge gave me probation. There are lots of cops in school here. I'm in 11th grade. I had just started ninth grade when I got into the fight. It was a minor fight but I still get an assault charge because you fightin’ on school grounds and stuff. When the fight happened they restrain you and separate you and put you in cuffs and stuff, and then they call your parents. You get cuffed if you fighting at school. If your parents can’t pick you up they take you to detention. But nine times out of 10 if you get in a fight at school you gettin’ suspended and a fighting charge.

...nine times out of 10 if you get in a fight at school you gettin’ suspended and a fighting charge.

D.D., age 18

D.D., age 18

I'm from Lynchburg, Virginia. It’s a pretty easy college town. I did other things to get here, there were other charges. People usually come here for other charges. I'm about to go back home. I live with my grandma grant grandpa. My mom passed in a car accident, head-on truck collision in 2005, 10 years ago. I was six or seven years old. I don't know where my dad is. I don't even know my dad's name.

I can't be out with the other kids. I'm in protective custody because I got hit and the investigator said there were too many hits out on me. People put hits out on other residence and stuff like that. You know what a hitman is right? It's like the Mafia but it's for kids out here. I don't know why they would put it out on me, I get along with mostly everybody. I’m not gang affiliated. I don’t really even know who the gangs are other than your Bloods and your Cripps and whatever other gangs you got.

— D.D., age 18

"I shouldn't have told them. . ." by richard ross

They say I’m a Crip, but I’m not. My girlfriend was 13, but we broke up. I’ve been here two weeks now. This is my first time here. I was hanging out at a park during the day, messing up. We used to do stuff and cause some problems near an after school program. They said I was in a gang because I hang out with friends. I shouldn’t have told them they were my friends. They read me my rights and all. “You have the right to remain silent…anything you say can and will be used against you.” I shouldn’t have said that I stopped using drugs, because that could mean that I had been using drugs. I shouldn’t have told them these guys were friends, because they were gang members. I was stupid.

I was being bad because there was something burning inside me.

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I was fighting every day. I had a lot of anger in me.

I’m in eighth grade. I live in Long Beach with my mom and little sister. I have three brothers and four sisters. I have a twin brother. He lives in Sacramento with my auntie. There are three sets of twins in the family and two singles. Eight kids. I was being bad because there was something burning inside me. I was taken away from my mom. She was beating my older brother with an extension cord. They said my 15-year-old brother was touching my sister sexually and my mom beat him. When we were taken away, I had to go to a foster home. They split us up and the twin went to the auntie, then I was thrown out of my aunts and I was put in with my other auntie - with my big brother. We were at two different foster homes, then with two different aunties, one I forgot her name. I was fighting with my brothers and cousins. I was bad at school. The court wanted me to go to another foster home.

I was staying with my big brother and wasn’t listening to my teachers. I was fighting every day. I had a lot of anger in me. I was fighting and cussing in school a lot. I went to a group home in Compton with four or five other boys. I was ten. My mom had custody, but then she had problems and said I started stealing her stuff, but she kept on losing it. She was drinking a lot of 40s. Now she’s been sober for years. So she got custody back of me and my little sister. I see my twin brother once in a while. I was born and live in Long Beach, but I lived in Sacramento for a lot of years. But my auntie’s house burned down. My cousin was cooking and she let the stove on and boom - everything flared up. I would like to live with my auntie, but my mom never gives me an answer if I am going to live with them or not. I don’t want to live with another foster home. Why do I want to live with a stranger if I can live with my mom? I don’t get it.

-S.M., age 13

 

**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.

". . .nothing but some stupid shit." by richard ross

I have been here two months. This is my first time here. They just picked me up in the streets right after school. I went to the station. I couldn’t go home. They wouldn’t let me go to my mom. I was on probation. I’m here for nothing but some stupid shit. I live with my mother, two brothers and my sister. My 18-year-old sister is going to Pierce College. My 22-year-old brother finished college. My other sister is messing up. She ditches school. She is supposed to go to school at 7AM, but my mom goes into work at 7:30AM and my sister wants to come back to the house. She is messing up. She is hanging out with the wrong people.

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I couldn’t go home. They wouldn’t let me go to my mom.

They say I am gang affiliated, but that’s not true. My dad is in Mexico. He was deported for drinking in front of the apartment house where we live. Public intoxication. There was a warrant out for him and he was in jail for a week before he was deported. He didn‘t have any papers. My mom has papers though. I’ve been on house arrest. My court date was in 2012 and then my second was July of 2013. I had house arrest, but they cut it short. They told me if I did one thing wrong I would be in Juvie. I had four months to be straight and then there would not have been any problems. My mom works at a fast food restaurant. After school, I go to my grandma’s to eat. My 18-year-old brother watches me.

-D.C., age 13

 

**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.

"I was gang since day one." by richard ross

I’m from Watts. I’ve been here two weeks. I am in seventh grade. First time I was here earlier this year. I was here five weeks ago for a week. I was brought in at 3AM by LAPD. I went to court yesterday. There was no space for 13 year-olds there so now I am here in Unit J. My grandma visits me. My mom passed away when I was three. My dad lives in Long Beach. There’s a restraining order that my grandma put on him. He was in jail when my mom died. She was in a car accident on the 105. Her car flipped over and she was thrown out and the car ran over her. She never liked wearing seatbelts. My brother was there with her. He has had 17 surgeries in his head. He’s 18 now. My dad builds big boats like the Titanic. Central_CA_4.20.14-8

I am wearing my county shoes. They are jail shoes.

They would describe me as gang affiliated with BHW. Bounty Hunter Watts. They are mostly blacks, but take Hispanics. I was gang since day one. I was born in the projects. My grandma gets SSI. She adopted us. Me and my three brothers and my sister. I went to Compton Court. My grandmother and brother were there and my lawyer Mr. G. He said, “I am trying to bring you out of jail. I don’t want you in there.” My grandma can barely walk. She has leg problems. She was making tamales for 20 years putting cornhusks on her knees. It sucked up the liquid from her bones. I’ll probably go to placement. Judge got to decide where, placement or a group home. My other grandma passed away three years ago. It was on my sister’s birthday. She was going to have her quinceañera, but she didn’t want to have it because that was the day she died. She died of alcohol poisoning. I am wearing my county shoes. They are jail shoes.

- H.C., age 13

 

**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.

"Really I'm doing time here for nothing." by richard ross

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 The judge just doesn’t know what the fuck to do with me.

She gives me extra time for just stupid shit.

 

I live in Hawthorne. This is my second time here. My mom is on disability. My stepdad sells airplane parts. I have a little sister who’s eight or nine. Two weeks here and two weeks there. Really I’m doing time here for nothing. They say I cut off my bracelet, but I never got it on. My court said I didn’t go to counseling, but it was never scheduled. They put extra stuff on my thing for stuff I didn’t do. Really all I would do would be stay out a lot, because I didn’t want to be home. I wanted to be with my friends. Some of them are gang affiliated, but some of them are not. Some skaters and just casuals. My mother would get mad at me because I would stay out past the 10 o’clock curfew. I didn't want to go to school. I was just an angry person back then. I don't want to go to placement, I want to go home. The judge just doesn’t know what the fuck to do with me. She gives me extra time for just stupid shit.

-S.I., Age 15

 

**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.

"I was messed up." by richard ross

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I should have graduated in here but I’m gonna go to a continuation school. I don’t have much education.

I’m gonna be here four more months even though I’m 18. When I went to court they said I would have to do six months. I’ve been here 3 times. I’m from El Salvador. I came here when I was eight. My mom married a citizen, so now I’m a citizen as well. As soon as I get out, my mom wants to take me to Salvador to show me what it’s like. I was at a party and it got raided and the cops asked me for information. I didn’t give them any; I wouldn’t even give them my name. I was messed up. I should have given them my name. I live with my mom who works at a fabric factory and my stepdad who works at a pawnshop. My younger sister is sixteen and she has a two-year-old daughter. I have an older brother—they’ve both been in the system before. I’m not really a gang member but I’ve done some tagging. A1A and stuff like that. I should have graduated in here but I’m gonna go to a continuation school. I don’t have much education. I get out in two months, and then I don’t know.

-K.G., age 18

 

**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.

"When you lead this life . . ." by richard ross

I’ve been here five months. I live in North Hollywood. This is my seventh time here. I was born in Koreatown. I was living with my dad and four brothers. My mom is not in the picture. My dad was in jail until I was 12. My grandma raised me from two to 12. There was no grandpa. My dad was around for about a year when he got out of prison, but he violated and went back. Now he’s been out for about a year again, and I’m living with him. He works at a hospital cleaning equipment. Three of my brothers live with me. I have four brothers: 17, 18, 19, and 20. They all have different moms. And they’re all in Clanton—it’s a Valley gang. I’m gang affiliated. I got jumped in for 13 seconds. Sometimes you have to go on different missions. No, I didn't get humped in, I’m a virgin. If you get humped in, you stay a hoodrat and get used over and over by the homies.

It’s embarrassing. It’s really not me in here, it’s all the mistakes I’ve done in here.

I should be in 11th grade, but I dropped out in 8th grade. I don’t go to school. I’ve been to lots of placements, camps. The longest I was home since I was 12 was nine months. I have no history of abuse. I just go AWOL a lot to hang out with my homies. Now I’ve been living with my brother’s baby mama. She’s 17 now. She was 15 when she had her baby. That brother is in jail. He’s the 18 year old. He’s out of state, doing a homicide. If I win my fitness, I’ll get a job. It’s embarrassing. It’s really not me in here, it’s all the mistakes I’ve done in here. It’s gonna be hard for me to change, but I’m really working on it.

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When you lead this life and you’re on the outs, you just count your days, because that’s where it leads you.

My family is the gang, really. My uncles, my aunts, even my grandmother who’s 52 is in a gang. My cousins are the peewees; they do all the work. My dad, he’s a duke. He’s 32. He sells drugs everywhere in LA. I was selling as well. My family’s uncontrollable. My five uncles—three are in jail for murder, two for attempted murder. My aunts are in for 211—deadly weapons. I’ve got one brother fighting murder, another brother in and out of juvie, they’re all dope related, they’re all in the gang . . . my family is the gang. When you lead this life and you’re on the outs, you just count your days, because that’s where it leads you.

-L.V., age 16

 

**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.

"Because I’m the new girl" by richard ross

I’ve been here and there for a month at a time. I was a month in girl care. Mom and dad don’t live together. If I get out, I really don’t have anywhere to live. The last time I lived with my mom was in a shelter, four years ago. It was a shelter for kids as well over on Gower in Hollywood. I had just turned 12. I remember it there was never a birthday cake for me. I’ve been in group homes where there’s a lot of dual supervision. One group home had boys and girls together, DCFS and probation. And they were completely out of control. They were crazy. They be peeing on other people’s beds, or taking a crap . . . they’d be having sex . . . I stayed there for three days, and then I got kicked out. One of the staff was very provoking, so I choked her and went. Then they put me in another placement. It was a six-bed place, three different houses.

They were trying to get me to stay with my sister . . . but she don't want me.

I’ve always been fighting a lot . . . I just don’t like to be disrespected. I should get a high school diploma soon. They were trying to get me to stay with my sister—she’s 22—but she don't want me. My days here are me just sitting here, until like, at least next year. My mom is a meth addict and she sells crack out of our house. My dad, he’s a pimp. He’s also on drugs. My mom started doing drugs when we were taken from her…or maybe before then. My dad, he was doing drugs since forever. I went AWOL from placement just so I could go to a mall and chill with my friends. Usually I just do some weed. When I was 13 I drank for two weeks straight. I poisoned myself and I could have died, but I didn’t. I would get real bad beatings from my mom. She kicked me in the face when we were living in the shelter. She started choking me, they pulled her off and took me away.

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I’m mostly here because I don’t have a place to go to.

I barely talk to my dad. I’ve never been to a foster home. Nobody wants any older body in a foster home. I think foster homes are a lot quieter. Group homes I get into lots of fights just because I’m the new girl. I was gangbanging but they never caught me or charged me. When you bang you protect your territory, nobody can touch your property, or make any money on the property you own. If they try, the gang put on a T.O.S.—termination on sight. Means you kill them, hurt them, or beat them up bad. I’m part of BPS, the Jungles. Black Peace Stones. The Jungles are the projects; they’re in Crenshaw. They run from Coliseum all the way up. Girls get humped into the gang. Means they have to have sex with all the gang members. If you’re gay or a virgin, then you have to fight. You fight to get your rankings. You fight boys or you get jumped on or you do one-on-ones. Honestly I don't know where my case stands. I might get camp, or lockdown, or placement. But nobody from placement has come to get me. Most of the places I’ve been are dual custody. I’m mostly here because I don’t have a place to go to.

-T.U., Age 16

 

**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.

". . . it wasn’t loaded." by richard ross

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DCFS put me with my granny . . . She’s a saint.

Grandma visits every Sunday. I’ve been here for four months. I consider this an opportunity for learning. My mom passed away when I was 12 from cancer. DCFS put me with my granny. My dad is not around. She takes care of my two brothers, my two sisters, and her own mentally disabled daughter. She’s a saint. She’s my legal guardian. I’ve never been to a foster home. I’m not a gang member. I knew I screwed up. I feel bad for myself but also for my grandmother. Everybody has guns, its no big deal. A friend gave me a gun . . . it wasn’t loaded. The school is in the hood. Most of the kids grew up around that shit, so it wasn’t no big deal to them. It was just “you got caught with a gun, oh well.” But to everybody else, there was some other shooting going on in Colorado, so I was supposed to be real bad.

-K.R., age 16

 

**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.

"My son is now in foster care." by richard ross

I live with my mom and my sister. I’ve been here three times . . . Now I’m waiting for a different placement. I was in my first placement at 12. I AWOLed from school a lot. I started hanging out with my boyfriend. I though it was okay because I looked at a lot of magazines and everyone seemed to be just hanging out. The first time I came to placement a social worker came to school, this old guy, and said, “I’m taking you to a group home.” It was six kids in Orange County. I also had to go to a new school. I stayed there two months, then I AWOLed. I met up with some girl and we split and I just slept at her house for three days. Then I arranged to meet with my cousin through Facebook and he sort of set me up. They took me to a mental health lockdown for three months. But then I had to leave because MediCal only pays for 90 days. So they took me to a group home in Hollywood. I was there for three months and then I graduated. I went home. CA_Central_12_15_13-13

 I though it was okay because I looked at a lot of magazines and everyone seemed to be just hanging out.

I got pregnant at 14 while I was in placement. My son is now in foster care. I saw him last month. He’s a year and two months. He’s beautiful. His father is the boyfriend that I AWOLed from the second time I was in placement. My first placement was in Torrance. It's a bigger facility. Then I asked the court to release me to a shelter in Hollywood. So I stayed at a homeless shelter. It was a DCFS hold for runaways. I stayed there 30 days, the max. I AWOLed with a different boyfriend. Yea I do some drugs, weed, meth, I pop pills, ecstasy, mollies, and inhalants like NOS. They use it for speed car racing. I’ve never had to prostitute. I have my second boyfriend’s name tattooed on me. He’s a gang banger, 18th Street Gang. There’s both Latinos and Blacks in the gang. What’s this for? Is this gonna be on TV or something?

-W.T., age 16

 

**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.

" . . . because of my age, I'm here." by richard ross

I’m in seventh grade but I don’t do good. There are too many kids and I can’t pay attention.

CA_Central_12_15_13-11

This is my first time here and my last time. I’ve been here 4 months. Why so long? **shrug** I don't understand the whole thing, like the court process. I’ve never been in this situation. It was 2 p.m. in the afternoon when the police called my mom and told her they had to bring me to the police station in Baldwin Park. They took mug shots and fingerprinted me. I’m not in any gang. I live with my two sisters, two brothers, and a stepdad. I’m in seventh grade but I don’t do good. There are too many kids and I can’t pay attention. My mom doesn’t work. First they took me to another facility for a day and a night after the police station. Then because of my age, I’m here.

-N.W., 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.

"In my country people play like that." by richard ross

This is my first time I detention. I’ve been here 5 months because my attorney said I need to see a special doctor. I’m from Norwalk. I live with my mom, who’s a babysitter, stepdad, who’s a mechanic, and three step brothers. I don't know my real dad. I’m in eighth grade. No there’s no gang affiliation. I’m here because of an incident. I came to the US. from Nicaragua. I did something that I didn't know it was illegal. I didn't know the rules and laws. In my country people play like that. I think the attorney told me to see a doctor to see if I know the difference between good and bad. CA_Central_12_15_13-9

I did something that I didn't know it was illegal.

My mom is fighting for her papers. I came to the US. on a U5 visa. It allows somebody in the family to visit a family member when he’s been hurt. I visited my brother because he was raped by my uncle. He was five. I think my uncle was in jail, but he’s out now. My mom doesn't like him. I was living with my aunt and uncle here and I came with my grandma by airplane. They tried to send me back to Nicaragua, but they may put me with a program or placement here. I didn't know what I did was wrong.

-I.N., Age 13

 

**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.

"They tried to get me involved . . ." by richard ross

I’m from Palmdale. This is my first time here. I’ve been here three months. I’m from Helena, Montana. I live there with my mom, stepdad, two sisters and a brother. I was visiting my grandpa and grandma in Palmdale. I go there once a year during the summer as it gives me a break from my mom and her a break from us. I was with my brother. He does drugs like heroine. I visit a month every year. My brother is part of a gang, but they don’t have a name. They are just kids that hang out together. At home I was suspended for truancy. I was in sixth grade. CA_Central_12_15_13-6

My brother is part of a gang, but they don’t have a name. They are just kids that hang out together.

A lot of time here I play with my cousins they are four and five. My brother does heroine like twice a month. They tried to get me involved but I didn’t want to. I ran home and told my mom. She called the police and my brother was sent to jail twice for drugs and possession. Mom is a vet at an animal shelter. Not horses or big animals. My dad works at a gas station. He’s with my step-mom and other cousins. I don’t see him much. My mom, grandma, grandpa, and stepdad have visited me here. This is where Palmdale is on the map.

-C.N., 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.