mother

"In the south, it was nothing for a black man robbing a white establishment to get life." by richard ross

“My name is Lee Albert Ansley and I’m sixty-five years old. I’m from Jacksonville Florida. I’ve been around the block a few times. I’ve been an addict; I’ve been a fool. I’m here for a parole violation, but I’ve done a total of 38 years.

I was raised by my mom and my big momma-my Grandmomma. There were only two adults in the house. The only time I saw my father was when he came to beat me. My momma would call my daddy when I would do something wrong and I would see him then. Basically that is all I saw of him at a very young age. My mother was fifteen years old when she had me. She already had a son before me—my oldest brother who is a year older than I am. Then she had two more. Three boys and one girl. She was a child with children.

Growing up I lived in a predominantly segregated neighborhood. All my friends were black because I lived in a black neighborhood. The only interaction I had with people outside my neighborhood was school, and it was totally black. Everything was black. The first encounter I had with people of a different origin was a negative experience. Some white guys jumped on me for walking down the street. That was shocking. Other than I was in the segregated south in 1950.

I don’t know when my grandmomma had my momma. She only had two kids, my uncle and my mom. I would assume that she was in her twenties. She came from a large family. Her family was a large family. Her daddy, Mr. Mathis, had about 13 or 14 kids. They were out there in the country and I don’t know exactly how that impacted her relationships with guys—I don’t know too much about my big mommas upbringing.

My mommma had me, my oldest brother, and my younger brother, but she gave him up to go and list with his grandmomma, and so my grandmomma raised him. Then she had my sister, who was baby girl—now that I think of it, my sister had her first kid when she was in high school. There goes that aspect of them being children raising children again.

When I first got charged I was seventeen years old. I was influenced by my peers who said, “Let’s go rob somebody.” I said, “OK.” As simple as that. I got arrested a day after my eighteenth birthday, but all the crimes I committed were when I was 17 years old. All of the crimes were robbery, but on one of the incidents, the guy in the store got shot. He stayed in the hospital for three hours and then released him because it was just a flesh wound. On one of the other charges, although I did not molest her, there was a girl and I looked down her dress. So…there were aggravating factors that resulted in me getting a life sentence.

The night I got arrested, the police officers interrogated me. I didn’t know that juveniles in custody have the right to refrain from talking until they contact our peoples, attorney and all that stuff. Anyways, the guy that I had caught the robbery charge with, said that I was with him during other robberies. They fooled me into saying that yea we did it. I stayed in jailed nine months, then my momma convinced me to plead guilty to the robbery charges. She had gotten a long distance attorney, who years later became known as a “hanging judge” because he was hard on crime in Jacksonville, and he had told her to tell me to plead guilty. Anyway, I listened to my momma, she said, “go ahead and plead guilty. Let’s get out of this fighting…give me some kind of relief.” So I plead guilty for those two robbery charges—they gave me life. I have the documents to prove it.

In the south, it was nothing for a black man robbing a white establishment to get life. As far as I was concerned, I saw a lot of that going on. It was 1969, the judge was white, the prosecutor was white, my attorney was white.

I was eligible for parole, after ten years, and was released in ’79. In 1983 I got 75 years for a robbery, in ’85 I went back to court and got exonerated. In 85’ they reinstated my parole. I caught a new charge and went back in in 1990. I was released again in ’99, and came back in 2001. I’ve been back ever since. “

Everglades Correctional Institution

Date of Receipt: August 1969

SENTENCED TO LIFE

"It was never easy being a kid and going straight to prison..." by richard ross

"My age is 41. I was charged in 1990. I was fifteen years old when I got charged with murder. I did not have anything around me, any support system, anything to look up to. It is very easy to get into things and not know the consequences to things. At fifteen I did not know the consequences of a murder.

I grew up in Florida city. My mother was a single mother. She was a drug addict (god bless her soul). She had been to prison already something like three times. My grandparents tried to raise me and do things for me that my parents could not do for me. They had already raised their kids, so they were of older age.

I lost so much. I lost my mom. I have never seen my father in my life. I don’t even know what he looks like. Everybody has a story to tell. I lost everything. I lost everybody that I have ever had in my life, except my grandparents. They are 87 years old and they still stick with me. That’s who I have in my life. That’s my support system.

I am way better now than when I came in. I had to grow up in here because of all the violence that takes place in here. It was never easy being a kid and going straight to prison, having never been inside of juvenile facility. I felt like I was sent here to die. I was so young. I didn’t know anything about this other side of life..."

Dade Correctional Institution. Dade, Florida

Date of Receipt: November 1991

SENTENCED TO LIFE

"There isn't a sober person in the family." by richard ross

We have the same mother. Haven't seen dad since I was three, when he died drinking. I'm in here for drugs, pills, weed, and some harder stuff. I've been at this facility for 11 months. I went through the Drugs and Alcohol Program, but I got drunk the same day I finished. —T.P., age 17

I'm in the 9th grade, I flunked out of my first school. We grew up on the reservation. Everywhere on the res, you can find alcohol, pills, meth—the men drink and the women do pills. There isn't a sober person in the family.

—I.P., age 15

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"I was angry and got in a fight..." by richard ross

I came in yesterday to LP. Spent the night here and am here this morning. I didn’t have any lunch. I’m in 7th grade, 8th grade soon. I live with my mom, aunt, cousin… my grandma went to Mexico. I’m going to be here three days and then I go to court. I might go home from there in days or hours. Over at LP it’s quiet and lonely. My mom knows I’m here. My dad is in Mexico. We all have papers. In LP I was just in a room reading by myself. When they bring you here, they handcuff your hands and your feet. Your feet are separated by this little chain and you have to walk at full speed and it hurts. I couldn’t call my Mom because it’s after 1PM and she goes to work. Maybe tomorrow. The police came yesterday at 10 AM. My mom is a bus driver. I was angry and got in a fight with my 13-year-old cousin about who had to clean up. The neighbors called the police. My mother was home. My cousin wasn’t arrested. My mom couldn't break up the fight between my cousin and me. I pushed my mom away. They say I bruised her… but look at my bruises. I am here because I hurt her arm. I said I was sorry and she was crying.

—D.T., age 12

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"I've been coming here since I was ten or eleven." by richard ross

I'm being held in detention. I've been coming here since I was ten or eleven. I was expelled from school in the 6th grade. There are problems at home. My younger brother is on probation. My mom works for the cable company. I live with my mother, grandmother, and aunt—she's 15.

I don't talk to my father, he left when I was six. He tried to visit me once but I said I didn't wanna see him.

—J., age 13

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Let facilities take root in our neighborhoods by richard ross

A version of this article was originally published by the NY Daily News.

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At age 15, I was arrested for stealing a car and was sentenced to juvenile prison until my 21st birthday. In mid-90s Illinois, the sole female juvenile prison was located in a Chicago suburb, five hours north of my rural town. Visitations were held weekly, but without public transit options, my single mother — who bicycled to work — was unable to come.

In the two decades since, several states have shifted from warehousing delinquents in remote prisons to localizing them in treatment centers that address their psychological needs. In 2012, Gov. Cuomo approved the Close To Home initiative, which relocates young offenders nearer to their communities, where they can restoratively transition back home.

The idea is sound and progressive: Being within MetroCard proximity to their families allows kids to stay in touch with their support networks while receiving transferable school credits, reducing both dropout and re-entry rates. Close to Home facilities offer enhanced counseling services, too.

But not everyone believes in the project — especially not when it’s in their backyard. On Tuesday, residents of South Ozone Park celebrated the city controller’s decision to reject a contract to operate a facility putting up to 18 teenagers in their neighborhood. This comes after months of heated protests and a civil suit filed against the children’s service agency, which locals claim was trying to turn their neighborhood into a dumping ground.

After hearing plans to build a treatment center in Queens Village, neighbors there erupted into their own revolt, vowing to follow South Ozone’s example.

Opponents say they have safety concerns. It can appear they are more motivated by fear of diminished property values. Neither reason justifies blocking the program.

Kids eligible for it are either non-violent offenders like me or do not pose a clear or present danger. They’re just young people in need of a second chance.

If, that is, they’re anything like me. My delinquency started when I was 13, after my parents divorced and my siblings fanned out among friends. I went from a crowded bedroom to an empty trailer and was left confused and angry. I didn’t understand my mother’s need to work 16-hour shifts and sleep during her time off.

I began running away, committing petty crimes and using various substances to numb my sense of loss. By the time I was arrested, I knew that being taken off the streets probably saved my life.

During the first year, letters home were frequent. I sent, “Miss you,” crayoned with blue bubble letters, followed by, “Please send a photo, I’m afraid I’ll forget your face.” Correspondence rapidly dwindled, and in a final note, I wrote, “Sorry for the pain I caused, wish I could have gotten it together sooner.”

I got used to the locking of steel doors, barbed-wire fences and caged windows. Stifled cries echoing down the hall as I tossed in my sleep became home.

After two years, I was paroled for good behavior to a group home in a small town, still out of my mother’s reach. My progression into independent living was hinged upon finding a job — but the revelation of my facility’s address sabotaged employment opportunities. The resentment among the locals in Illinois mirrored the current climate in Queens. My existence had pockmarked their town.

New laws bumped my release date to age 19, but I couldn’t celebrate; I wasn’t really ready to be freed.

Landing in a battered women’s shelter and acquiring a mentor was my turning point. Through her nurturing, I was able to find something positive within myself and walk a different path.

I’m now a 33-year-old college grad who lives near South Ozone with my husband. I’ve been in the city for almost a decade, and as I witness these protests, I’m reminded of how it felt to be loathed by people who didn’t understand my predicament.

If they keep juvenile facilities out of their neighborhood, NIMBY opponents may win a small victory. But it will pose a larger, lasting threat to the city’s future.

Blanchard is a writer and teacher.

"I never got a chance to go to regular school." by richard ross

I’m getting my 72 hearing. That’s means I’m supposed to be heard within 3 days. I came in yesterday. I’ve been here three times before. First time I was 14. I live with my mom, stepdad, five brothers and three sisters. I stay with my dad sometimes. I’ve been suspended from school because I didn’t do my work on time. I was suspended twice and then they put me in here. I’m hoping I get 28 days in boot camp and then can go home. I was in a SPAN program, the county alternative school. It’s a place to get your GED. I never got a chance to go to regular school. I stayed in alternative schools most of my life.

I was originally charged with DV (domestic violence). I was with my sister who is 14 in her friend’s mother’s car. I was in the front seat and my sister wanted to get into the front seat, so she called the police because she knew I was on probation for my school suspension.

—L., age 15

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"I lost my freedom in detention!" by richard ross

This week, Juvenile In Justice concludes the features on two adults who spent much of their childhood lives in detention.
Jose Vidrio shares his experience of being in and out of the juvenile justice system and the conditions of confinement, and touches on his achievements as an adult now.
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by Jose Vidrio I was physically abused by my father. When I was young, my sister and I were always afraid of my father because we didn't know what mood he was going to come in. My Dad was this big macho guy that didn't like hugs and or kisses for his birthday or Father’s Day, especially coming from me. He thought that it was a gay gesture and if I attempted to do so, he would hit me of course. I can say that alcohol did play a big factor here; when my father was drinking his mood was unpredictable.

I started to get into trouble when I was 10 years of age. I did three months then because of tagging and refusing to give my name. I guess when my mother left my father I kinda took advantage and would leave the house a lot. When I was 12, I was arrested for armed robbery and did almost 2 years in Juvi. When I was 15, I was sentenced to 10 years and did 5 and 1/2. I came out when I was 21 years of age.

When I was in CYA, I was in isolation from 6AM to 10PM. They put me in a "cold room" with just my boxers on—there was no mattress, no sheets. All day I walked around the 8’x10’ room and did random workouts because the room was so cold. By the time that they put me back in my cell I was so tired that I just wanted to go to sleep. Sometimes the staff members would go inside when I was asleep and they would beat me before putting me in the cold room. Sometimes the staff members would put me with other rival gang members to fight in the rec room.

Sometimes the staff members would go inside when I was asleep and they would beat me before putting me in the cold room. Sometimes the staff members would put me with other rival gang members to fight in the rec room.

I guess that I can say that there was no love at home. My mother was always yelling and screaming at us. We didn't understand and take into consideration that she was going through a hard time divorcing my dad and she hid us while doing it for a while.

I lost my freedom in detention! I have learned that it is easier to mess up your background than it is to restore it. I also gained some knowledge about my history, family, and also graduated high school in there as well as doing my first communion. As far as the food, if we ever had meat, it didn’t taste like meat. We called it mystery meat because it tasted funny. We joked and said that maybe it was gopher meat because they had a big problem in the yard.

I lost my freedom in detention! I have learned that it is easier to mess up your background than it is to restore it.

I was just approved for a Certificate of Rehabilitation on Oct 8th and I am very excited about that. I currently work for a radiology company processing insurance claims and reconciliation from complicated claims. In April 2016, I will be graduating with my Bachelors of Business in Health Care Management.

I talk to all of my family, including my father and we talk good. I am not going to say that we have the best relationship but he is in our lives. I talk to family that I have never spoke to before. I am married and have been with my wife for 13, going on 14 years. I have 5 children that keep me busy and love them to death. And yes, I give them all kisses and hugs, both my boys and my girls.

—Jose Vidrio

"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

"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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"A fire happened in my house. They blamed it on me. " by richard ross

A fire happened in my house. They blamed it on me. My mother’s 40 now. I’m an only child. I had a brother but he died when he was young. I never met him. I was taken into custody at Rikers on seven different charges. There was some kind of socket in my house that blew up. My mother was into alcohol and drugs. I live with my grandma. I ran away from here because I hadn’t seen my family in a long time so I went to see my grandma, my auntie and my cousins in Brooklyn for three or four days, and I came back here and they put me on restriction, so no games and no rec. But now I’m off restriction. I was in foster homes. Then it took me six or seven months to be accepted into this program. I was basically raised here. The people here I respect. They give me respect the same way I give them respect. I might be an artist someday. I like Michelangelo, David something, Leonardo.

—S., Age 13

S., age 13-1

S., age 13-1

"My stomach was telling me one thing, but my mind was telling me another." by richard ross

My father is Muslim. He lives in Northeast. I was living with my mom, grandmother, and 14-year-old little brother. My parents separated when I was younger. My mom kicked me out and put me on the streets when I was 15. She said, "You don't live here anymore." My grandfather died when he was 60, my mother’s father. My mom was 33. That's when she started losing it, she started smoking dippers--cigarettes dipped in embalming fluid. She kept on getting more aggressive. It wasn't my mother; it was the dippers. My mom mazed me before I came in the house. She came swinging at me. My little brother didn't know what it was about. That's when things started getting real sour.

I remember worrying about what I was going to eat at the moment. I needed to rob somebody to get some money to eat. Then I saw a police officer, and he saw both the hostility and pain in my face. He brought me here; they gave me a bowl of cereal and somewhere to sleep. They set up a meeting with my mom and father. They helped me patch my relationship with my mom and father. They put me in youth sponsorship programs, leadership programs for African American males, called Frontline Dads, and programs like the Barbershop. There are places you can get things right. There are different places you can get help. Each one you can discuss things in different ways. At ball courts, if you show pain you get looked at differently. At the Barbershop you can let the pain out. It's like a symposium that’s community based. They helped me realize the deeper demons I had. Since 6th grade I was known as the dirty kid. I couldn't afford clothes. And lots of kids didn't want to be friends with me. I wanted to be nicely dressed so I started selling drugs to clothe me and put food in my mouth. I watched my mom sell drugs. Then my cousins, N. and E., were big time drug dealers and they just came home. They said this is not the life for you. And then my grandma said, “This path you on, I’m going to have to bury you.” It opened my perspective.

My grandma said, “This path you on, I’m going to have to bury you.”

I had a lot of support here but I had no family support. These people here took me in as a family. You can see it in their eyes. They go in their pockets to make sure you’re okay. I wasn't used to seeing somebody cared. I ain’t smile in a long time. I had legitimate food on the table and a place to sleep. I looked at other kids and realized I was chasing fashion but didn't have the right direction from a family. My father used to sell drugs and people used to shoot at the house I was in while I was in there but I never had it that hard. Sure there were times I came in the house and I was only looking at the back of the refrigerator. I watched my mom deal with abusive relationships. At age 10, my mom had a boyfriend and an altercation and she locked me in the bathroom with my little brother. They would physically go at it. She would have her back to the door to protect us. She was screaming, “When we had the opportunity we shoulda run for help.” I always had a sense of trying to protect my mother but I was 10.

P.B., age 17

P.B., age 17

I been in the shelter 21 days. I go to Northeast High School. I was selling drugs and was becoming used to being on the streets. I repeated freshman year three times. My father gave up on me; I heard it from my mom as well. Think about what you hear when your parents say I don't love you. I went form being on the streets to being able to walk down streets knowing I overcame struggles. I was redeeming credits for 10th and 11th grade. Now I’m getting educated. There was a time when I was only street smart. I’m trying to work with younger kids and an organization called waking youth, its organizing basketball games so kids can have something to do without their family. Some kids have it so twisted; they think the street life is glorified. When I was younger I didn't fear death, I thought it comes for everybody. The only reason I didn't fear dying was I didn't have any reason to live. Since I been here, I see a bigger world. Everything I really have, started here. They hooked me up with Mr. Pender from teen ambassadors. They took me to the art museum of JFK. I was at Youth Study Center for a while and also Vision Quest, which is a type of Juvenile Justice placement.

I was in for assaulting an officer, both in school and out. The police were looking down upon me; they took my hostility and used it to their advantage. They tried to fuck me up. But I saw everything I worked for going down the drain. My grandfather, uncle and aunt were getting in an altercation. My aunt called the police; the police did the grizzly look at them. It’s a funny and intimidating look. They gave me this hard look but I turned my head submissively they told me they were going to take me out back and let a couple of shells off. I had a purple plastic fork and they had bulletproof vests. They pushed me and started swinging on me. And they say I assaulted them, with a plastic purple fork. They say they are there to serve and protect but I say 7 grown men with their hands up fighting a boy with a plastic purple fork. When I realized the situation I dropped to the ground, they started kicking me and they banged my head against the cement. I was bear meat. I was bruised up for 3-4 weeks. They took me to the Youth (the youth study center) for 2 or 3 days. They didn't put me in isolation. There I’m at brother Oc’s. He made my time smooth there. He wanted to never see me again. He helped keep me quiet and pray like a Muslim. That way you get extra food. He guided me in the right direction but also keeps it real because I can read the history of the streets on him.

I’m on probation. Next week I get to call court and meet with the public defender. I don't know if I get to go home. Judge Cooperman, last time she looked at me carefully at who I am. I hope they send me to placement. But they may send me to Vision Quest or St. Gabe’s or to do 9-12 up the Pic, which is adult jail cause I turn 18 in two months. Or they might send me out of county. Assaulting an officer is not a misdemeanor. But knowing the path I was on, I could be six feet under; you live and you learn.

Cops can get away with shit. An African American male, we’re all getting made to be the most aggressive of all races. We fall into our own stereotype. The way we keep it real, we think, is not really keeping it real for yourself but catching a body or selling drugs. That's the wrong way to go. Everybody from YES will be in the courtroom, I hope. My mom relapsed with dippers a week ago. It’s part of being a man that I can handle the situation better now. To try to help my little brother who is too young to understand. To help my grandmother who said, "Yeah, I got scared for you." And I’m trying to help Mr. Little, my friend here, and trying to put him in AA. I can’t even come back here, they cut funding for RYP (Runaway Youth Program) kids would come here in the middle of the night but no more. I accepted that at 9 or 10 I was going to be incarcerated. They call me gang affiliated, but I’m with Murder Society, which is making and understanding the revolution, deciding to aim for early retirement.

Cops can get away with shit. An African American male, we’re all getting made to be the most aggressive of all races. We fall into our own stereotype.

You don't need nobody to get yourself together, I’m all me from the muscle (heart). Murderer was almost who I was, now I’m someone different. When I came back to court I saw the look of disappointment on their face--it was real. If Cooperman looks at me and says send him up, I can’t blame her. When I took that first punch, it changed everything. My streets came on. Now I’m taking anger management. There is a 21-day limit on RYP. It’s not run through DHS. When I first came here there were 15 boys and 15 girls. Now there are 6 boys and 8 girls. When I assaulted the police officer and taken into custody I was glad. I was about to turn back to the streets and was looking for somebody to rob. My stomach was telling me one thing, but my mind was telling me another.

—P.B., Age 17

"It’s easy to get in the system, but hard to get out of it." by richard ross

I go to education alternatives. I’m in 10th grade, I have been here a month now. The people I see are my mother, grandmother and probation officer. Since treatment, I have been in a Christian home and residential treatment center and shelter care for about a year. I was in YSCP—Youth Family Community Partnership—with my grandmother who was taking care of me. I live with my half brother and two cousins who live with me during the school week. My aunt has custody but the two girls stay with my grandmother during the week and go home on weekends. There are four kids at my house during the week. My mom is 35. My mom lost custody when I was nine months old. I was being neglected. My mom used to smoke weed and cigarettes. My mom now lives in Eastlake. She’s doing good right now. Mom is going to AA meetings.

I used to smoke weed and drink and hung out with the wrong peer group. Sad as that. They say I have the social age of a 17-18 year old and the mental age of five or six year old. I am here for grand theft auto and misuse of a credit card….and I had a firearm. I got picked up with my friends, and with ¼ ounce of weed and a gun. They were all trying to blame it on me. They have it as a conspiracy case. The police charged us all with the same thing. I am not gang affiliated. My dad is deceased. He died in Las Vegas. He came to see me when I was born. He was stabbed, involved with cocaine, and other stuff.

I didn’t use my head before I acted. I just go with the flow. The first time I was here I was 13 or 14. I had a home detention violation. I was in House Four then. I was 13 when I had a theft. Some kids at that time would steal stuff at home depot and they would blame it on me because I was the youngest. My mom works as a maid. I did have a job as a busboy, but I guess I don’t have a job no more. I usually do better when I am working. I am a hands-on type of person. They have me on drugs here. Vivance 70s and 30s, Filoxogene (Prozac), and Hydroxalene for anxiety. The others are for ADHD. Oh, and Intuniv.

— D.T., age 16-2

— D.T., age 16-2

I am here because I got into an altercation. He punched me and another inmate two days ago. He’s on my Pod. Pod C. So, he was written up as the aggressor. We have behavior management. They have levels and privileges. We need to have additional staff and training. To get more staff we have an interviewpalooza. We don’t have any Masie Evaluations. They give me Tylenol for my lip. The kid that hit me is Hispanic.

My dad was African American, and my mom white. I want to be a Blue Angel or a commercial pilot. I think I can because although I was charged, I was never convicted with a felony. I am not sure if my juvenile record can be expunged. My brother was charged with spray painting a bike. He got yelled at, but that was it. It’s easy to get in the system, but hard to get out of it. I see the judge in a month. I spoke to the public defender. I did 14 months before on past cases. They might release me at home.

— D.T., age 16

"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

"We were too scarred." by richard ross

I live with my mom in Brownsville. That Flexin’ dancing is called Getting Light. They do it on the A train and C train a lot. I have 3 brothers and 3 sisters. I live with my stepdad. My dad is locked up. He has always been locked up and not really in my life much. I like my stepdad. He is very respectful. He spoils me. I went into foster care the first time when I was seven. My baby brother died and they said early that my stepdad murdered him. They took him to prison. They took all the kids away. I ended up with two sisters, living right up the block. We stayed there four or five years. They would threaten me and best me up. One of them (other kids in the foster home) stabbed me in the back. We didn’t report them. We were too scarred. I tried but they told me if we did, they would lie. I AWOLed a lot. My mother doesn’t give me any freedom. She’s knocked me unconscious. My sisters and brothers were beat by my mom all the time. She was charged with neglect. I’m not sure if she is getting any mental health services. She’s a great liar. She even accused me of murdering my baby brother. I ask myself why she brought me into the world. She has nine kids all together now. Some days she loves me, other days she hates me. She can give a fake smile that can convince anyone that the lie she is telling is the truth. She abuses us all the time. She beat us with a belt buckle. Then she goes out clubbing. She was in foster care once. Now ACS pays for it all. But still, I would rather be home. I don’t drink. I don’t smoke. I just go out and run away from my home. How can you earn trust if you are not given any standard to shoot for? I’m not allowed to go out at all instead of being given a curfew and see if I come home on time.

My mother doesn’t give me any freedom. She’s knocked me unconscious.

O., age 15

O., age 15

We don’t get any family counseling. But I think we will get some soon. She has an order of protection against me so I can’t go home. I was fighting with my older sister and I smacked her with a lamp. It was kind of serious. I was locked up and in jail over on Atlantic Mall jail. Then ACS picked me up. I was at the Children’s Center for two weeks. Now I have been here five months. I’m already stressing out. I got into one fight. Sometimes you have to show people who you are. Sometimes you have to forget about everything else that happened to you. I have gotten MAC awards in different classes I get 80 or 90s. I’m in 10th grade. I was held back in 5th grade. I had ADHD meds when I was younger. I’m on bi-polar meds now. Feel like I don’t need them all the time. I am not extreme bi-polar. I made a big mistake throwing the lamp . . . that’s why I am here. And all the other stuff too.

— O., Age 16.

"There was a lot of violence." by richard ross

I’ve been here six months. I’m from Washington Heights. I’ve been in ACS since I was 12—four years now. My home is my mom and three siblings: my eight year-old sister, my seven year-old sister, my eighteen year-old brother, and my one month-old baby. It’s four all together. My mom is a home health aid. I don’t talk to my dad. There is no stepdad. No I don’t have kids. I was 12 years old when I was taken into foster care. There was a lot of confusion in my family. There was a lot of violence.

K., age 16

K., age 16

The first foster home was in the Bronx. I was there with a family. There were a lot of conflicts. They took all my siblings into foster care. No, my mom hasn’t had any mental health treatment. She did have anger management counseling though. My mom would cook at home. She would make Chicken Alfredo. I’m in ninth grade. I have been in 18 foster homes. There hasn’t been a lot of abuse, but lots of drama. Me and my sisters were split up after the 6th foster home. My sisters went back to my mother. I would like to be there, but me and my mother don’t get along.

— K., Age 16.

"I don’t want anyone to play me like I’m weak. . ." by richard ross

This is my second time in. I live with my grandma who’s 50 and my mom who is 32. My dad was shot dead when I was 8. They had his funeral on my birthday. It was an altercation. I don’t know what it is about. I live with my grandmother. She has legal custody. My mother lives on the west side but she says it’s too dangerous. They have sort of gangs there like the Boss, the Bloods, Crips, GD but it’s not a serious gang. I came in in October. I was here for two months. Then I was out. And I came back in in January. I’m in for fighting and harassment. They had it as a first-degree assault and then they made it a third degree. I got in a fight with a girl and knocked her teeth out. I don’t know why. I’ve got anger management issues.

B.X

B.X

My dad was shot dead when I was 8.They had his funeral on my birthday.

The only men in my life are my uncle, some cousins and my mom’s boyfriend. My mom works at Wendy’s. I’m in 10th grade. I hope I leave tomorrow. They recommended me for Indian River class, which is downtown. I got in a Facebook argument. Normally I don’t get into fights. I take advanced classes at school. The stuff you get in school here is too easy. I need more of a challenge. I think I’d like to go into the Army to be a nurse or maybe be a homicide detective. My cousins have all been in the Army. They’ve been to Afghanistan and Iraq. I like to leave my house on weekends and hang out with both boys and girls. No real boyfriend. Tuscaloosa ain’t no bad place. You never know what other people are going through, and people don’t know what I’m going through. I don’t want anyone to play me like I’m weak so I don’t walk away from a fight.

- B.X., 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.

"We almost starved to death." by richard ross

This is the second time I’m here. I’ve been here three months now. The first time I was 15 and here for a month. I got tired of the stuff at home so I ran away. I survived by breaking into houses. So I’m here mostly for B&E and burglary. I live with my mom and stepdad. My sisters are both 6. And then I have a younger sister. My mom’s about 40. My dad died of heart attack when I was 4. My mom was doing crack and abandoned me and my sisters. I was staying in a foster home for two or three years. My little sisters and me were abandoned. We almost starved to death. And then I was staying with other relatives and a hospital for two months in Birmingham. Then my mom got me back. She said she was clean but there were problems. I think she was on drugs again.

I was so angry I would strip the bark off trees.

T

T

They said I had behavioral problems and would break toys, push around my sisters, and go off by myself. I was so angry I would strip the bark off trees. They put me in children’s hospital. I was angry at the situation and my mother. I sometimes don’t want to see her, most times. She would badmouth my grandmother. She’s a tough one. Several times she would leave us all without food. I would get extra food at school for the twins and I got in trouble for that. She would leave my 8-month-old sister unsupervised. Where was DHR? I don’t know. They arrested my mom. She did 9 months for a combination of drugs and child abuse. My stepdad was not in the picture until I was 10. There was really no support for my mom either. They put me in Big Oak Ranch. It’s a Christian school in Gadsten. There’s a group for boys and a group for girls about two hours from Tuscaloosa. I’ll probably be there for two years, until I’m 18. I’ve never done drugs. My mom’s boyfriend would beat me and my younger sisters with a belt. Where was Child Protective Services? That’s a question I ask myself but I don’t know the answer.

- 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.

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

CA_Central_12_22_13-29

 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.

". . . my mom was schizophrenic and blind." by richard ross

I went to a foster care placement at age 13 because my mom was schizophrenic and blind. She couldn’t take care of me. My dad is on probation in Ohio. I call him sometimes. My tattoo C.R.E.A.M.? It stands for ‘Cash Rules Everything Around Me.” I was living with my grandma and aunt, and then they got inspected and I was taken from them. My mother used to say certain groceries were poisoning food. We couldn’t go into certain grocery stores. She thought that I was inviting friends over to beat her up and urinate and take craps on the bed. She was completely delusional, but she has no therapist and she doesn’t take drugs.

She thought that I was inviting friends over to beat her up and urinate and take craps on the bed.

CA_Central_12_15_13-25

I have one sister. She lives in Las Vegas. The first time I was in foster care the foster mom has 2 real sons and 3 foster kids. I stayed there 2 years, until I was 15, and kicked out for misbehavior. I went to another foster home in Paramount. After six months, I AWOLed. Then I went to a group home in the Valley. It was a six-month for probation and foster kids combined. It wasn't a bad neighborhood; it wasn't lockdown. There was a therapist every week. We would have 2-hour group meetings. They got really boring and repetitive. They would want you to do this shit—“creative visualization.” When I get out I want to go to Santa Monica CC.

-L.E., age 17

 

**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.