JH Artwork

JH Artwork

Writing Exchange 2006-2018

This blog was created to display some of the powerful writing being done by incarcerated youth. Participants currently include juvenile hall facilities in Siskiyou, El Dorado, Placer, Fresno, and Butte County. Students are given journal topics and asked to write what needs to be written. Several entries are handpicked from each classroom site and posted to the blog anonymously. Students at each site then read the material together, discussing the writing and connecting with others.

Planned Exchanges

Planned Exchanges 2018: January 26, February 23, March 23, April 27

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Entry #1580
Upside Down
I’m from a family that loves me,
from bare feet on hot sun-blazing streets and long nights on the trampoline
I’m from home cooked meals and pies on the holidays
From sibling rivalry and having to choose which parent to spend the next holiday with
I’m from stolen cars and bad role models,
From fights between my parents,
From soda and sandwiches at Honey Run and every day bike rides with my dad,
Smoky air and hidden emotion
I’m from drugs and alcohol every night, dogfights, fistfights, and stabbings
From drug deals and vicious attack dogs that are all too anxious
I am from a new bb gun every so often
I’m from a real Harley Davidson on my sixth birthday
From elders and family members in and out of prison, drug over doses and funerals
I’m from the fairgrounds my mom worked at
Where she got us in for the monster trucks, fireworks and fair rides,
From the long walk to the illegal swimming hole,
A house fire on a stormy night that turned my life upside down
From strong armed robbery and attempted carjacking at the age of ten and assault and robbery again at the age of seventeen
I’m from The Regal Inn with top ramen and Tap every night,
Strong relationships with my sisters but my brothers not so much
I am from my cell number.

Entry #1581
I am from long days on the beach where I learned to swim.
From long walks with my dogs, Mona and Tupanga.
I am from sailboats and surfboards.
From learning to drive on race tracks.
I am from foster homes and group homes.
I am from knowing who I was to not knowing at all.
From being free then trapped like a caged animal.
I am from these blue doors and white walls I've learned to love.
From blue pants and a yellow shirt.
I am from the dreams of one day being free and never returning to the system.
From loving and not being loved back.
I am from having everything to having nothing.
From living in a house to sleeping on the streets.
I am from good times and bad times.
From being the person everyone wanted to be, to the person everyone hates.
From never looking for cops to always on the lookout.
I am from living in San Diego to living here.
From the innocent little boy to the criminal I am now.
I am from classic cars and trucks.
From race cars and four wheel drives.
I am from being rich to being poor.
From going to school to ditching every day.
I am from a troubled childhood.
From being away from my family for eight years to living with them.
From never knowing my father to calling a stranger dad.

Entry #1582
Holiday with Family
            If I could get one thing for Christmas this year, I’d choose to be home with my family. This is the first time I won’t be able to go home to be with my family for the holidays. I’ll miss being around my twin brother for the holidays and waking up to my family.
            Being in here and not having the choice to be at home with my family really makes my heart ache, especially with my grandpa in hospice care on his death bed. I will not get to spend another holiday with him because I’m in here.
            It’s for the best I believe. I could possibly be dead right now if I hadn’t been arrested that day. All I remember that day was waking up in a hospital bed handcuffed to the rail and opening my eyes to a cop in front of me. My alcohol level was four times the legal limit. They said if I would have drank much more I could have died. I needed this wakeup call. It really made me see what I want to do in life. I want to be able to make my family proud of the person I have become, not upset and stressing every day because I’m locked up. My goal is to finish school and do what I have to do to be able to be somebody that they will be proud of.

Entry #1583
Where Is Freedom
I miss real food
I miss being in the dark
I miss long, hot showers
I miss smoking woods
I miss my friends.
I am from waking up at a friend’s and starting to break up weed to roll up the wood.
I am from waking up and turning on music.
I miss not feeling owned
I miss feeling like I’m my own person, and I choose what I want to do for the day.
I miss real beds
I miss listening to good music, not the same 15 songs on the radio.
I miss looking out my window and seeing the view, not brick walls.
I miss being able to talk on the phone.

Entry #1584
I’m Ready
I am from Budweiser and Marlboro Reds
From hanging out at the river
From a little town in the mountains to a little town in the valley
I am from riding bikes all day to, “You’d better get home before the street lights turn on.”
I am from hunting, fishing and riding dirt bikes
From archery and BMX.
I’m from, “I can’t do this and everyone’s against me,” to “I’m almost graduated and thanks for the support”.
I’m from more than just crime and drugs.
I’m from a happy outlook on my life.
I’m ready to go home

Entry #1585
Lost Memories
I’m from beer cans and Slip’n Slides.
From a willow tree in the front yard with a treehouse in it
and camping at Millsap Bar.
From a tall angry family including a parent with the initials that of M.A.D .
I’m from loud and obnoxious people.
And “Quit tattle telling.” 
I’m from a happy go-lucky team and peanut butter-banana jet puff sandwiches.
I’m from getting bucked off horses.
And from looking at lost memories.

Entry #1586
I am writing this letter to let you know I am leaving you in 2017. Although you made me feel good in so many ways, you led me right into a hole. I depended on you to help me walk away from my problems, but you only made me walk right into new ones. You were unhealthy for me in various ways. I am focusing on my future now, and I definitely do not see you in it. This new chapter in my life is going to shape me into a better person. Nothing but positive things will come out of this. I am going to start the career I have always wanted. I am going to make my family proud and not let them down this time around. Don’t take it personal, but I am making a turn for the better and I am never looking back.

Entry #1587
Grape Stomping
I am from family gatherings at the park where we would bar-b-que.
I am from wine country and grape stomping competitions.
I am from the hikes in the cemetery where I lost my toy sword.
From playing in the streets till the streetlights came on.
I am from walking around barefoot till my feet were blistered and black.
I am from every day A.A. meetings in the morning with my father.
I am from Thanksgivings at the community center.
From custody battles where my mother ultimately lost.
I am from skipping school to smoke weed.
From getting drunk and breaking into cars and houses.
I am from committing crimes with friends.
From getting caught during an attempted robbery.
I am from changing my life from semi-positive to negative and back again.

Entry #1588
Don’t Trip
I’m facing years for what
I’ve done
Don’t trip, Mom, it’s something we can
You can blame me for why we had to
If it wasn’t for my choices, we wouldn’t
Have to live this way.
I’m knowing I’ll hit the
Waiting on my appeal, hoping
That I win,
Mom, I love you unconditionally,
I only wished I was present
With you physically.

Entry #1589
Happy Boredom
I am from bicycles, flea markets and yard sales
I am from the tall oak tree next to my front porch
From having family reunions once every summer
And eating delicious home cooked meals.

I am from doing chores to avoid getting yelled at.
From "Do the dishes!" and "Make your bed!"
I am from going to my friend’s house every weekend to play video games
And walking my brown skinny Chihuahua every morning

I am from the time my friend tripped on my chair and broke his arm.
And getting laughed at for making the slightest mistake.
From going to church every Sunday and ending up slumped.
I am from one happy family and one boring life.

Entry #1590
Where I Am From
I am from a place that isn’t a drug store but sells gas.
I am from a place where lighters are ordinary items found around the house.
The most valuable thing in that house was our T.V.
Our front lawn was dirt; the backyard was yellow grass fields that stretched forever before you find the next place.
I am from smashed cake in your face on birthdays.
From a place where boys aren’t men if they cry.
I am from a family that is always arguing on holidays. I guess you can call my family crazy, I do.
I am eighteen. Third born out of four. My brother is a year younger and my sisters are both older than me.
I am from a place where we call our grandma Nana. And she raised all four of my mother’s kids including me.
I am from a place where Nana hated liars and she made sure to tell me. I was only a child and she seemed like she didn’t like me, but that wasn’t the case.  My Nana loves me, she tells me all time.
I am from a place where we barely talked about our feelings. Now it seems everyone is always worrying about me.
Growing up where I am from they always told me I was just like my mother.
I am from where it snows close to all the time.
I am from Top Romen noodles for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
I was eight years old when I asked where my mommy was, they told me she was in custody. I wrote her every week.
I am from a place where everything seems the same as yesterday and nothing seemed to change.
I am from long days that turned to lonely nights. I cried myself to sleep because I knew tomorrow he’d still be there.
I am from a place too dark to explain. I left my smile somewhere in the past and never found a new one.
I am from a place of love and pain. A place I wish I could forget.
I am not the same little girl. I came from an ugly place, but I didn’t let that stop me. Sure I might still be in custody but only for a couple more weeks and then I’ll be free.

Entry #1591
I am from hot August nights and cold swimming pools where pool noodles kept me afloat.
I'm from Orange juice and banana slices to chili Mac n Cheese on the stove.
I'm from Gatorades when I was sick...drink it slow. I'm from hot wheels and G.I Joes.
I'm from being the oldest, with two little bros.
From itching my eyes and rubbing my nose.
I'm from the allergy medicines everyday dose.

Entry #1592
I am from brim filled ashtrays and cigarette stained walls.
From sleeping at the river and fishing all night.
From "Make sure your right home after school", to "Get your homework done!"
I am from school bus fights and in-school suspension.
From hot-boxed contact highs.
And riding around in a gang of bikes.
I'm from where drinking and smoking at a young age was cool, but now is a habit.
I am from where traffic is a river of cars.
I am from me, that’s where I am from. 

Entry #1593
My childhood was rough growing up. My dad was locked up in prison most of my life. He was doing ok until he and my mom got really far into doing drugs. Then my dad and my mom split up, and not much longer after that he went to prison. When my dad was gone my mom started not coming home more and more. Then one day we got a call, my mom had been put in jail too. A few years after she and my dad got out of jail and prison, my mom had passed away of cancer. Ever since, when I looked back on my childhood it seemed as if I was going down the same path as my parents, only at a younger age. I got caught up into doing heavy drugs, then my girlfriend at the time broke up with me. Now I’ve been here in juvenile hall ever since.

Entry #1594
Gravel and Dust
I am from where the dirt is red and dry
From annoying flies buzzing in the stable
and the road is nothing but gravel and dust
I'm from playing with mud and making something useful
Where the waterfall was the only place to hide and think
From the smell of pine and red dirt
Where the drugs were close but out of sight
I'm from down to earth people, where the hippies roam
Where clay is the most magical thing
I'm from watering the "special plants" that smelt good and we as children never knew their power
Until now

Entry #1595
I Am From NY
I am from NY, from different items and different sorts.
I am from the Hood.
I am from the weeds, the roses growing like they should.
I am from misconception and heart in my chest like a sharp weapon, from Nana and Mom to Dad lookin’ at the past I never had.
I am from hard parts and dark hearts.
From never goin’ nowhere and havin’ a fresh start.
I am from Rochester wit stalled haters
I’m from a family like chocolate and jaw breakers.
From my dad in prison, my mom drugin’ while livin’ and heartbeats skippin’.
I am from the mind but the thing I value most is time.

Entry #1596
In My Room
I am from tools and engine parts
From going out on a boat and fishing
From hamburger helper and ice water
I'm from family gatherings and barbecues

From bustling cities in small places
To the smell of exhaust and cigarettes in the air
From not leaving the house and playing video games
I am from eating in my room and watching tv while my parents argue

I came from a small house in a big place
From one parent working while the other struggled to live
I am from the sounds of machines and the smoke they create

Entry #1597
I am from Marlboro Red 100s,
from fields of grass
and watching soap operas with the family.
I am from my grandpa cooking something new in our long island kitchen,
from BBQ steaks and homemade mash potatoes.
I am from noisy streets in the day time, to silence at night.
From gun shots in the air.
From the smell of wet concrete.
I am from boredom and waiting for my boys to slide through.
I am from parents in and out of jail and prison terms.
I’m from drug use and getting locked up.
I am from changing to a better person to never going back to my old ways.

Entry #1598
I Am From City Streets
I am from city streets
Corrupt in many ways,
I am from the Block
People can feel my pain,
Living in the jungle
Where we’re all prey
People know where I’m from
Just trying to get paid.
Since a young child
Always hearing police sirens,
These cold city streets
Filled with poverty.
Walking around as a child
The air smellin’ like urine,
Hoppin’ over fences
Signs that say private property.
As a young child
Lookin’ up to millionaires.
Walkin’ around the ghetto
Stomach filled with hunger.
We’re from the Block
Our dreams lead to tears.
We’re from the city streets
Filled with pain and anger.

Entry #1599
Prison Mail
I am from camel Turkish Golds
Where you find the cigarette butts laying around in the house
From marijuana smoke in the air
I am from antique plates on the walls and where they may fall down
From the screaming and yelling
I am from methadone and syringes being pulled back
From overdoses to death
I am from reckless driving and swerving in & out of lanes
From severe injuries
I am from no father around during my childhood
To being a teenager and just starting to talk to my dad through mail to prison
I am from driving to see my dad in prison every weekend to long naps on the way back home
From my mom crying because my dad’s locked up.
I am from candy from the dollar store to wrappers on the ground
From skittles and beef jerky.
I am from doing meth to being locked up every other week
From 14 months

Entry #1600
Lost in smoke and drugs
I let the drugs take control of me
It was very manipulating
I wasn’t on the right path to succession
My life was upside down
Nothing mattered but the need of drugs
The people around me were affected by my addiction
It was my best friend it helped me with my feelings
Like joy, sad, mad etc.
I needed it every day
Dope and weed was my choice of drug
I started stealing
I was turning into a petty thief
I knew I needed help
I need to stay away from distractions
I didn’t have any one to turn to for help
But the drugs were the ones helping me
I got arrested
Now I am in recovery in a substance abuse program
I’m going to stay away from my addiction for a while

Entry #1601
My Own Bedroom
I am from dollar menu’s at fast food restaurants.
From B-lines and bicycle’s to school.
I am from unregistered cars and no driver licenses.
From stolen candy bars to stolen bottles of whiskey.
I am from the poor side of town with hand-me-down clothes.
I am now from my own bedroom.
From a place that always has food and water.
A place with no worries about eviction.
I am from a job and college.
I am from a place with change.
From an offer of a new life and a better start.

Entry #1602
Poem for Change
I was athletic and outgoing. I remember crying myself to sleep when my dad left. I heard the immigration cuff my dad and throw him in a car. I saw the way the struggle shaped my family. I worried about how we would make it in the world. I thought I was going to graduate with my class but ended up in here. But I want to change.

I am confident. I think anyone can change. I need to go to college and start my career as a vet tech. I try to be more open and hardworking. I feel anticipation. I forgive myself. Now I can change.

I will make my momma proud. I choose to change my perspective on life. I dream about owning a mansion in the Bahamas. I hope to achieve my goals. I predict having a loving family and great career. I know I will be successful. I will change.

Entry #1603
From A Lost and Dark Place
I am from beer bottles and cans.
From the bamboo plant on the counter that has been there for years growing inch by inch.
I am from blond hair and blue eyes.
From football games on the T.V. and barbeques.
From trips to the river where they drink while I swim.
I am from sit down and be quiet or go to your room.
From don’t let the boogie man bite.
I am from Grossmont Hospital.
From beaches and tall buildings
I am from bowls of raisin brand or captain crunch cereal every morning.
From my step dad getting jumped and moving me and my brother far away.
I am from a blue bin full of old family pictures collecting dust in my closet.
From moving in with my brother because I didn’t want to act right.
From getting locked up and being put on probation.
I am going to be from 14 months locked up, to a changed person.
From a lost and dark place.

Entry #1604
The Smell of Wet Cedar
I am from a childhood of abuse
And a drug addicted dad
From parent’s fighting on the daily
I am from the smell of chemicals
my dad making honey oil with butane and acetone
it always gave me a headache
I’m from long hikes were the smell of wet cedar would make my day
From not very good people but a mom who was the best
She got me to school every day in the same old mini van
I’m from my first school fight and loving it so much I did it again
I am from blue doors, white walls, and short showers
And getting yelled at to go work out every day
I am from incarceration and thinking about my release

Entry #1605
R.I.P. Papa
            You were there when I was young and you were there when I was down, took me round the town and showed me everything I’m about. I’m missing all the times you took away my frown. I love it that you taught me everything has an amount, every moment you were there I was always safe and sound, and the times that were not the last would always count.
            I love you papa and I’m always gonna miss you, sometimes I wake up in the morning thinking I can kiss you. I see you in my sleep and I hear you in my head. I’m living what you taught me even though you are dead. I’m hoping that you’re proud that I’m coming to a man.
            Papa, you’re so smart making money on your bed, loving and consoling to and from the very end, I’m always thinking of the things that you did and that you said. Get your education, make your money, and drive a Chevy, another thing you taught me is that life is somewhat heavy.
            Rest in Peace my papa man, I really wasn’t ready, I’m waiting for the day I can say I’m living steady, I know if you were here with my stepdad it’d be deadly, that day with no confetti…

Entry #1606
My Choice
I used to complain
Then I realized
I’m the one to blame
Life isn’t always fair
It is what it is
Now I don’t care
I say I’m gonna change
But am I really?
Now I’m stuck in chains
Hopefully one day
I could feel happy
Instead of always feeling pain
What do I got to lose
Or gain
Either live a legal life or
The game.

Entry #1607
Reflection on Choices
If it’s one thing I’ve learned about life and always knew, it’s that life is made up of choices. You choose what you do. Always remember the consequences of your actions whether it be good or bad. Also, be mindful that sometimes doing what’s always easy isn’t always the right thing. Life may not always be easy but it is never impossible. Sometimes the easy way isn’t always the only way. Even though I kind of grasp the concept of these real life scenarios, I’m still learning to put them into practice.

Entry #1608
A New Start
What I want to leave behind is the hall. I’m always either here or at boot camp or group homes. I want to say goodbye to all the mistakes I’ve made. I’m getting sent to a group home, and I have a chance at a new start. I want to just get all this past me and move on and really start living my life.

Entry #1609
Real Love Is Hard To Come By
            They say real love is forever. I don’t know the exact definition of the word, but my baby’s father is as close as I’ve come to true love. When we broke up my dreams were shattered. I had his kid at thirteen. I was young, how was I to know if he’s really what I wanted. The harsh reality is I was barely a teen and I just wasn’t ready to face reality. I f****** up and left everything I had for nothing. I got locked up only a couple weeks after the break up for fighting. My daughter was nine months old when she came to visit me here in juvie. When I got out the first time he and I tried to work our differences out for our daughter. It didn’t work out; I wasn’t ready to stop doing me.
            He told me to wake up and make a change already. I loved him and I still do, but I am afraid it’s too late. I don’t know what I was thinking, but I know what I need to do to get my family back. I’ve been locked up since June 2017 and I know my daughter misses me. So no matter what kind of change I need to make, I am on my way to achieving it. My family may never be the way I dreamed it’d be, but as long as my daughter loves me NOTHING is going to stop me.
            2018 is just beginning. I can’t wait to go home in a couple of weeks. I am going to show my family what amazing things I can do when I set my mind to it. I am less than twenty-nine credits from graduating then it’s off to college for me. Relationships aren’t my thing, they never work out for me, but if I ever find the kind of love like the kind my daughters father showed me, I’ll never let it go to waste.
            No love is stronger than the love a Mother and daughter share. My daughter is the love of my life.

Entry #1610
The Day That Changed My Life

One day I woke up to realize at the end of the day I lost the homie who I thought would be there. The next day, I realized after he came over, something was wrong. I got a weird feeling and five minutes went by. I looked up to see five people walking up. Then it went by so fast. My homie took off running. All of a sudden all I remember is he looked back and fell to the ground. Then I realized my life changed from there.  I remember every day, don’t take your friends for granted cuz’ they’re not always gonna be there when you want them to be.