"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

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


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.