The following essays are true in every way. The writers (inmates) being juveniles, the names were withheld to protect their rights.
We weren't paid or forced to write these essays. We volunteered freely, so that the word can get across to the younger generation, because we care an unlawful lot about our younger people and we don't want them to come to a place like this. We feel that if they knew what to expect ahead of time, they might think twice about committing crimes.
The students that wrote these very important essays are offenders with very serious charges, juveniles, including myself. Our records consist of charges like armed robberies, grand larcenies, burglaries 1 and 2, arsons. We feel that we can help the younger boys and girls before they're exposed to the life of crime, which is better known as the fast life.
Some people seem to get the wrong definition of fast life. All fast life means is early death. Some people seem to think that fast life means you're speeding or something, but that's not so. If you read these little essays, you should get a clear understanding of what it means. So, please read carefully.
Age 19 THE INSTITUTIONAL LIFE
I started getting locked up when I was 12 or 13 years old. To me, it was a big joke. I figured that if my "buddies" were there, things were decent in terms of my protection. But I came to find out that my friends were nothing but "back stabbing faggies." So, by them stabbing me in the back (turning against me) that kind of left me on my own.
I started my incarcerated life at the receiving home where I really had a bad experience. I was forced to fight every day because I wasn't about to let anyone harm me. I lost most of my fights, but I still didn't give up. So by me continuing to fight, the other guys began to like me.
That's when I began to gain a reputation. They used to call me "Lil Butchie" but I started to grow gradually, you know? That made things worse. I began going up against bigger and stronger guys. That's when I really started moving up in the world, because by me fighting the bigger guys, I began to put fear in a lot of people's hearts. As a matter of fact, a guy stabbed me four times in the chest because I didn't pay him in a crap game. I was 14 years old at the time and was placed on the critical list for two weeks because the knife injured my heart.
My life as a criminal has been nothing but pain for a lot of people, including me. I've hurt a lot of people and I'm really sorry that I ever got into the life of crime. But, if I had a chance to tell young people how to stay away from the life of crime, I surely would. Because, so many young guys are getting killed and locked up that it's a shame.
I feel that the young people deserve much more than the life of crime, because all the fast life can offer people is incarceration, death or both. Some inmates think that I should just worry about my family, but that's not so because I'm the type of guy that has feelings for, not only my family, but others.
It hurts me to see a young person come up like I did, you dig? And the reason it hurts is because they have the opportunities while they are young. See, I dropped out in the seventh grade. I didn't have to but, just to be with the fellows, I did it. My father always told me that I would regret the day that I dropped out of school, and sure as hell, I did. Even though I doubted it at that time.
You know, it's a hurting feeling to have to watch your back all the time because someone is after you for sticking them up or taking something from their people. That's real scary. In my life, I've been in three shoot-outs with a group of guys they call the "stick-up boys." I've been stuck up at shotgun point (sawed-off double barrel).
I've been through more pain than the average 40-year- old man. Sometimes I cry at night when I think about my life. It's a nightmare for real. I hope somebody reads this and let let the youngsters learn something because it's almost too late. See, young people don't look at life seriously, they just want to have fun. But, like I always say, "What'll make you laugh, will make you cry," and that's true. I'm a living witness. So please, let this sink in. Okay?
First of all, let me describe myself. I'm dark skinned, 17 years of age, 5 feet 11 1/2 inches tall and weigh 172 pounds.
I would like to tell you a little about my life in committing crimes, which is a bad way to live and a bad route to follow.
It started when I committed my first juvenile crime: (1) robbery (force and violence) 8-21-75; (2) assault with a deadly weapon, 9-23-77 (and flunked the seventh grade); (3) robbery (pocket book snatch), 4-21-78 (was placed at 1212 Park Road group home); (4) simple assault, 2-7-80; (5) marijuana and unauthorized use of a vehicle, 10-21-80; (6) assault with a deadly weapon (gun), 11-1-80, and (7) assault with intent to kill (placed at Oak Hill Youth Center). I last attended school at Hine Junior High (ninth grade).
Being a person with so much experience with crimes makes him feel like he has ruined his life forever, but it's not true because everybody has a destination in life and has to make commitments in life. I would suggest that we, as black Americans in a society with "confusion," "frustration," "decisions," "destruction" and "depressions," have two alternatives, (1) to live in a world of "vice-versa" and never accomplish anything in life; or (2) live in a world with wondrous things. But, people as ourselves (blacks that is) are going to have problems like these in a generation of white citizens because each generation is seeking to do better than the other, which isscausing the world to be like it is now.
So I suggest to every reader who reads this notation that we have to overcome living in a world of trouble, which is what the white generation wants so they can have more publicity over our black generation. The reason I said more publicity is because it makes the white generation feel like they are more complicated, sophisticated, socialized and recognized than we are.
But everybody has been recognized in a violent and social way. That has been what whites expected, in other words, when we are in our society communicating with one another and criticizing each other and producing violent acts, which puts our generation in a bad predicament. The white generation can gain higher grounds and greater things.
So I ask of all of you who read this to take it in serious consideration because we will be able to overcome all of this violence towards our authorities and generation, and most importantly, get what everybody needs, an education.
Age 17 Hello Readers:
I'm going to start my essay off by telling the readers a little about myself. I am the oldest of age and come from a middle-class family. I am the oldest of four siblings still residing at home. I was attending Sherwood High School in Sandy Spring, Md.; the last grade I attended was the 10th grade.
My life involving crime is bad for one who is as young as I. I caught my first charge at the age of 9, to be exact 5-25-74; it was a burglary II. My second charge was arson, 12-10-77, my third charge was a burglary II, 6-14,78, and my fourth charge was a UUV (unauthorized use of a vehicle) on 7-13-79.
I didn't get incarcerated until I reached the age of 15. I was placed in a boys home for youngsters around my age. Evidently I did not learn from this experience because I am serving a two-year term at the Oak Hill Youth Center on a receiving stolen property and USCA (?????) charges.
Being incarcerated can be a good or bad experience, depending on the individual, if he wants to prosper from this experience. Being in an institution is being told when to use the bathroom, when to get up and when to go to bed, and if you can't deal with that, I advise you to stay out in the real world called "society."
My advice to the younger generation would be to stay in school and don't get caught up in crime because it's real easy to get into and very hard to get out of. It will ruin your life.
If I had a wish, my wish would be to start my life over again and make it better. I already have two handicaps, and that is that I have been in trouble with the law and that's one thing that I have to live with for the rest of my life. The other is that I am a black American growing up in a white society. So to all the young black Americans, set goals and prepare yourself in life for the times that we have made it through. I was always told that the one thing the white man is scared of is a black person with an education.
Age 17 BEING LOCKED UP AIN'T NO JOKE
Hustling. Smoking pot. Hanging out. Trying to be one of the boys, That's all I wanted to do. But now I have learned that all I was doing was just being another victim of society. Living in a jungle. Trying to survive -- that's the name of the game. Coming from a family of seven, things were rough for us.
In Harlem, where we lived, I started hanging with a group of boys. We would get into trouble. I even became a member of a gang called "Baby Demons." I got arrested for shoplifting when I was 9 years old . . . a sweatsuit, everyone in the gang wanted a sweatsuit . . . Momma couldn't afford to get me one so I decided to take it.
Then, Momma died and I had to live with my older sister Debra. If it weren't for her, all my little brothers and sisters and I would have been placed in foster homes. I just couldn't get along with her. I didn't have respect for anyone who would try to tell me what to do.
But now I have learned that respect is very important. Especially in the joint. It is hard for you to get respect. Well, not really, all you have to do is act crazy and you get all the respect in the world. But I don't like going through all that. I tell the brothers that for you to get respect, you have to respect someone else. I had to learn the hard way. I wouldn't listen.
I didn't understand what I was getting into when I started hanging on the corner with the boys. All I wanted to do is get high and make a fast dollar. I started smoking pot with the boys, then selling it.
Hanging out with the wrong crowd and not listening got me locked up. I was younger than all the other boys. I guess I was easy to influence. I was ready for anything and to do anything.
I liked to do a crime by myself. I knew that I would have less chance of getting caught. I remember pulling a job by myself and nearly getting myself killed. After doing my first job by myself, it got good to me. I kept doing it until one night, as I was about to rob someone, a man walked up to me with a gun out. I'm glad I didn't make a wrong move because he would have shot me. I was arrested after being picked out of a lineup. I was charged with robbery with a weapon.
I was put in a group home, and I was put in an institution -- Spofford. See, Spofford was the kind of place where you would have to fight for just looking at someone wrong. There were all these guys, from all over New York -- Bronx, Manhattan, Queens -- but it didn't make a difference. Some were thieves, murderers, pickpockets, pocketbook snatchers, dope boys, robbers. Once I met a guy from Queens. He had killed an old lady for $3. I think he got a lot of time for that.
In court, the judge said I was to be placed in a group home. By this time, I was going on 16. Nothing had changed with me. I was back on the street, doing the same thing. This time I felt that I had done something -- going to jail. Jail was part of hustling. The boys would say you have to crawl before you walk.
I became bolder. I started acting older than my age . . . hanging out with guys who had experience. I thought that I would be able to understand the game much better, but all I was doing was getting dumber . . . not knowing what Ihen to g was getting into. I started helping the white man destroy my kind. I know he put the drugs in the community. And all his peddlers, all they were doing was making the top man rich. I started traveling with these older guys. I was the youngest out of the whole crew. The money was good but the time is real, real rough. I was on the run.
I was 17 years old and I used an alias when I got arrested and got right out of jail. But then, I got arrested again and this time it was something big.
I came to the Nation's Capital to see my girlfriend who just had my baby. I was scared. I had used a lot of aliases to get me out of jail and the alias name that I used got me sent to jail. I was in federal court and they don't play around. I was facing 15 years in jail, maybe life. That's because of my felony record.
But the judge ruled that my case should be in juvenile court because I was still 17. I was taken out of the jail and sent down to a place called the Oak Hill Youth Center. Later, I was given a two-year commitment. That's where I am today. 225 miles away from home. I have made a great improvement here. Things that I never thought I could do, I have done. I am now working on my G.E.D. I know it will be hard, but I've started already.
I say to all the brothers that society has a plan for you. If you look around, all you see is our black brothers. In all of the places I've been, most of the population was black. Some white, but mostly black. Especially here in the Nation's Capital. Down here, we are all black. Over at the D.C. Jail -- all black. Down at Lorton -- all black.
Wake up little brother. If we stopped getting locked up, there would be a lot of people out of a job. So don't listen when they say that they are trying to stop crime. They ain't for real. The white man wants us to stay down. They want to keep us mentally, morally and spiritually dead.
Wake up. Wake up, my brother. I'm not a racist, but why should I love and care for him and his kind when he don't care for me or my kind.
The authors of these letters cannot be named under the confidentiality rules of the juvenile justice system. All of them are residents of Oak Hill Youth Center in Laurel, Md., the District's juvenile institution. The letters were written for this spring's law day ceremonies in the city's junior and senior high schools.