Today is the one-year anniversary / by richard ross

“Today is the one-year anniversary of me being here, in this cell. I like to read. I learned how to read in here. My favorite books are Dr. Seuss. My dad had diabetes and he lost his leg. Then something came loose and he died. My sister has diabetes too and my older brother is Down’s syndrome and was trached (tracheotomy.) We moved from Florida but we weren’t able to get the help and medications we needed for everybody.”

The director of this institution explains that the other 15 kids in the unit have intuitively become aware of his special needs and don’t taunt him, rather they help him.

The director is a retired school-teacher. Detention is often viewed as deterrence, rehabilitation and punishment. We often lean too much on the punishment side. This is an unusual site where the focus is on nurturing. The tone is set by the director. Many sites have directors that come from Adult corrections or are ex-police and military. The director also explains they are trying to boost moral of the staff and recently have raised the base salary from $8.25/hour to $10/hour and given the staff new badges.

The day his father died, N.P. ran away with his older brother who had a gun. He was apprehended and detained.

“I had a whole lotta anger built up in me. A whole lot. And we had to get counseling for that and stuff. A person come see us at the house and take us out and stuff like that. But to me it ain’t working. The only person could fix this is my daddy.”

-N.P., age 14