jail

"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

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"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

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"I couldn’t stay in the house." by richard ross

I was in foster care since 10th grade. I’ve been here a year. It’s boring. I was at a group home for a while, but she wasn’t feeding me there. I went out and stole food. She wasn’t treating me right. I couldn’t stay in the house. I was locked up a while for robbery. Then they put me in foster care for after care. But then they were mad at me because I went to jail. I was living in a place where there was no room for me there. I live with my dad, my mom and my grandma. They visit me every month. They just want to see me do good so I’m here. I don’t think they can give me the right care. They both work at a hospital. I want to work with sanitation; they make a lot of money. (He leaves the room and then comes back in to make sure I know…) I want to get famous.

—Q., age 17

I don’t think they can give me the right care.

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"My mother lost her rights." by richard ross

I’m in 10th grade. I was three or four when I entered the foster care system. I’ve been to 13 different homes. I just didn’t fit in. The case worker didn’t feel I fit in and I would go to a respite foster home. I would still be going to the same school and they would try to help me out. When I come back from school I would pack and go to a new foster home. My cousin was trying to take care of all my brothers and sisters but that didn’t work. I was suspended from kindergarten for throwing chairs. My mother lost her rights. No one ever told me why. They just told me she’s in jail. I still haven’t figured out why. I can’t speak to her until I’m 18. My cousin came and took care of me when I was a baby, and all my brothers and sisters.

It will be tough getting adopted at 15 and gay. I’m realistic.

C., age 15

C., age 15

The first foster home I remember was just a woman and she took in me and one of my brothers. My brother and sister went back to Oklahoma. They’ve been in 13 different foster homes. I saw a lot of stuff happening. A lot of abuse the whole time I was growing up. My 6th foster home worked for three years, then my anger came back. It will be tough getting adopted at 15 and gay. I’m realistic. Part of it is my aunt came back took me from the foster home, and then my anger came back. My caseworker took me to a psychiatric hospital. My anger and my temper, they were all afraid I might have a back flash. They said I had anger management issues. They gave me Depacote, Resperdol, and Clonadine. I want to be an artist. I like doing anime. I’m up for adoption right now to the right home or to a foster home but I haven’t found one yet. I’ll get done with my cottage, processing with skills and then I step down to cottage with more free will. Then after that, if a parent wants to adopt me, they talk to a case worker and we would have to have court approval.

- C., Age 15

"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.

"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.

"It’s all around me, that’s all I see." by richard ross

I’ve been here three weeks. This is my third time here. First time I was here I was 14. I was 11 when I started using meth. My mom’s an alcoholic; my uncle and my dad are addicts. It’s all around me; that’s all I see. I live in the valley in North Hollywood. I was abused when I was eight by my mom’s boyfriend. We filed a report, but he split and they never found him. It was a couple of years later that DCFS got involved. The social worker found that my mom wasn’t able to parent me. I wasn’t in school. Later on they found out that she was drinking a lot and she was never at home. I was living on the street at that point. No one was ever telling me anything, that I was doing good or bad. There were no consequences for anything I was doing. There was no involvement by any adults. At twelve I was taken away. This woman social worker took me from school to a group home. I don't know what’s going to happen . . . maybe placement.I’ll never go back to my mother; it would be a miracle if she stays sober. CA_Central_12_15_13-14

They closed my DCFS case recently after two years. The first time I was in placement, it was for six months. They liked me there and said I could go home after a while. But then I ended up in and out of placement and jail. I was in a camp until mid-summer. Then I was released to my mom who I hadn’t seen in three years. It was good—my mom was actually trying to be a mom. But my drug use was affecting me. They tried getting me treatment, but it wasn’t successful. I’ve been to a lot of different types of treatment. The longest I was clean was five months in camp. On the outs I was able to stay clean for maybe a week, but then I would go back.

I had to give her the opportunity to be a mom. I wish she had tried to get sober earlier

I’ve never had to buy drugs, it was always there. I never prostituted, but my mom was prostituting. I chose not to. Or maybe I did in a way. By using drugs and things I had to do favors for the drugs. A lot of my uncles were gang members . . . I grew up with this. I get so caught up in it. I was mad at my mom for a cool minute, but then I had to forgive her. I had to give her the opportunity to be a mom. I wish she had tried to get sober earlier. It was hard on me; I’m the second youngest. I’m happy my mom changed for my nine-year-old sister. I do want to stop coming to jail, but I don't want to lie to myself and say I’m never coming back . . . cause I will.

-S.O., 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.

"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.

A Mother's Plea: Stop Solitary Confinement of Children by richard ross

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Via ACLU:

In 2005, Vicky Gunderson’s 17-year-old son, Kirk (pictured above), committed suicide while in solitary confinement in a Wisconsin jail. Here's her story:

 

"As a mother, not being able to hug and comfort my son when he was alone in a concrete box was like the worst form of hell. Knowing our son Kirk ended his own life while being held in solitary confinement, after he requested to not be left alone...I cannot describe that to you. Kirk was only 17. It was two days after Christmas.

Since Kirk’s death I’ve learned that kids as young as 13 are locked up in cells away from human contact for days or months at a time all across the country. It has a devastating impact on their development, especially for those with mental health problems.

The Federal Bureau of Prisons has announced a review of its use of solitary confinement. As part of that process, Attorney General Holder can ban the solitary confinement of young people in the care of the federal government. That would help set a standard for all facilities across the country, like the jail where Kirk died.

Please join me in calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to ban solitary confinement of youth held by the federal government."

 

Please join Vicky Gunderson and Juvenile In Justice in signing the ACLU petition to ban the solitary confinement of children in federal custody: https://www.aclu.org/secure/mothers-plea-stop-solitary-confinement-children