house arrest

"They put me on adult probation at 13." by richard ross

I first came here at 13. My first charge was having a knife and drugs. The drugs? Weed. I was here for a week—was the worst place I ever want to be...locked up. I came back a couple of months later. More weed charges. They put me on adult probation at 13. This went on and on. They call this “sanction house,” where a judge outs you if you keep on misbehaving. But whatever they call it—a jail is a jail. Same thing. I came back for dropping dirty. Dad asked if they could put me on house arrest. He came from Laos. He came by plane when he was about 19. He welds and works side jobs at car lots. I never visited Laos. One day I would like to. I don’t know much about my stepmom. My real mom lives in another state. My brother lives with her. He gets in trouble on and off. I was going to school until about seventh grade, then I started bringing weed around and by eighth grade I was gang-banging. I’m a member of the Piru Bloods. There are about 15 of us. The other gangs are just fake. I’m also with the FL. We go against the F-13.

I met different people and they disliked me for the colors I was showing. I guess I got in trouble when I started looking for respect. It was eighth grade when I got a gun. A shotgun costs $50. A handgun: about $150. You have to be careful and make sure a gun isn’t dirty or has a body on it. I’m charged with murder. It happened in my house when I was on house arrest. I was with a friend who did it. The older guy started to come at me. He was Mexican and had a knife. He dropped the knife when he was coming at us and my friend picked it up and stabbed him. He is in County Adult charged with “overkill”. That's when you keep on shooting somebody after they are dead…or in this case he was coming at me with a knife so I threw a rock. Then we started beating him and I tried to get him to drop the knife. I was on drugs and blacked out. I started drinking alcohol and was taking Xanax.

I’ve been in here a year. I been in 20 different rooms here. They keep moving me. I went to a waiver hearing and they are talking about me pleading guilty and getting 3-7 years in juvie, then parole for five years, with 25-to-life back up. Possible time if violating parole. I go to court in 16 days to plead guilty. I would be there until I am 23. I heard it was better than this. Better food, better programs and people that don’t act like little kids. I read a lot here. James Patterson—I like him and mysteries and stuff.

—T.Q., age 17



"I don’t know my mother. My dad lives in Mexico." by richard ross

I’ve been here five days. This is my first time here. I’m 13. I was in LP for one night when I was 12. I’m being charged with B&E (breaking & entering) at my school. I’ve been here now because I was charged with assault with a deadly weapon at school, but I didn’t have a weapon. I don’t trust anybody but my family. I’m not a gang member and I live in a pretty good neighborhood. I’m in the eighth grade. I got in a fight with a security guard; they had my phone, my money, and my bus pass. It was a new security guard. They switch them everyday. They fired the other one that knew me for something that she did. I was going to a special high school. It was for kids who were kicked out of regular school.

My grandma visited me today, it’s Easter Sunday. Tomorrow is a court day. I sleep in my room with one of my brothers, the little one. He’s 14. My oldest brother is on house arrest for possession of a controlled substance. He was in LP for a month.

My grandma adopted me when I was a baby. I don’t know my mother. My dad lives in Mexico. I have five brothers, but I live with two of them. I also live with my auntie. I saw my mom two or three weeks ago.  I remember when I first met my mom—it was at a park. She’s tall and skinny. Me and my brothers all had vanilla ice cream cones with her. She kept on crying the whole time she was eating it.

—B.B., age 13



"I always stuck with school. I always had good grades." by richard ross

I’ve been here two months now. The first time I was here was on a burglary charge. I was 14. Two other times I was here for cutting off my house arrest bracelet. Old charges that popped up and they sent me back downstairs from the courtroom down to detention. My P.O. (probation officer) is having a placement meeting for me. My dad, mother, and grandmother visit. Sometimes my sister visits. She is 17. My dad and mom don’t live together. My mom lost custody a couple of years ago. I was about nine years old. My mom and dad have both been involved with me. I was never in a foster home. My grandmother has been raising me for more than six years. I’m in regular high school classes, but we have about 12-13 kids in each class. We do a lot of work on computers there.

N.K., age 17

N.K., age 17

I always stuck with school. I always had good grades. No one ever checked on my homework. No one.

I have always been falling into a bad crowd. Only a few of my family members share the same behavior—my uncle and my god brother. They’re not in any gangs—they just like to be out on the streets. What does “on the streets” mean? Having fun, getting money— the easy way of doing what they enjoy doing. They hustle and look for easy money. It is hard and very, very tempting, but best to stay away from it. My mom is at home with my sister. She straightened up her life after she got out of jail. She completed probation. She drinks here and there but she doesn’t smoke anymore so I’m proud of her for that. A drink here and there or a smoke here and there is normal. It’s not like kids don’t know what they are doing is wrong. They are just not thinking of the consequences. When we do things like “hitting licks”—robbing someone or breaking into a house—it’s a way to make money. People use that phrase everywhere. “Me and my friend just hit a lick on a house down the street for $500.”

I always stuck with school. I always had good grades. No one ever checked on my homework. No one. My grandmother is responsible for me.

—N.K., age 17

"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

"…if I ever get on track." by richard ross

I was here six times. The first time I was 13. I live with my mom, step dad, sister and two brothers. My mom visits me once or twice a week. I had a lot of VP (Violation of Probations). I broke an iPhone so they called it criminal damage. My Mom called the police. They have me in programs like New Directions for drug and alcohol rehabilitation. I did the program from July 1st to October 15th. 14 Weeks. I was on pills like Xanex and Molly. I experimented with anything and everything. I used the program to learn how to cope with my life. There are better things to do than drugs. It was a mandatory program where I was a resident. It was lock down treatment. I violated probation by having arguments with my mom. I violated the rules of house arrest.

At age 14 I picked up an MIP (Minor in Possession) for alcohol and weed. My mom sent me to Alabama when I was 12 to live with my dad. He was a drill Sgt. in the army. He would wake me up at 4:30 AM and beat me if I didn’t wake up. He would give me $20 at the beginning of the week and tell me to get my own food. He worked in the Post Office after he left the army. I told my mom how bad it was for me, but she thought I was just saying that. I got myself kicked out of his house so I went to live with a friend. My father came and kicked the door down. He pretty much beat me. I had a black eye and bruises. He put me on a bus back from Alabama to Ohio by myself. I have been here a month now. The judge knows I keep on getting into arguments with my mom.

— F.E., age 17

— F.E., age 17

He was a drill Sgt. in the army.

He would wake me up at 4:30 AM and beat me if I didn’t wake up.

He would give me $20 at the beginning of the week and tell me to get my own food.

I am going to go to Lakewood College and then to Kent State and do a degree in Psychology...if I ever get on track. CPS was never involved. My parents always wanted all the issues to stay in the house. After the fight in Alabama, I had so much resentment, I kind of raked out. My sister is a 4.0 student. My grandma is not my actual grandma. She went through a lot of physical and sexual abuse when she was little. My Mom went through the same. I think my mom sees a lot of myself in her. She treats me badly. She sent my little sister to my dad’s house as well. Ever since I left Alabama, I never spoke to my dad. He does things like calls on HIS birthday, not mine. He only thinks of himself.

— F.E., age 17

". . .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.


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.