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: May 24; June 27; July 25; More To Come!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

February 25, 2013

Entry #178
At times, it all just comes back to me and it’s just simply overwhelming. A million unanswered questions rush through my head all at once. For instance, will I ever get to hold or kiss my beautiful girlfriend again? Will I be able to see my baby nieces and nephew one more time before I leave this world? Will I ever have a chance to start a family on my own? Will the judge give me a second chance in life? The list of questions keeps going and it seems to never end. At times I feel so lonely and depressed. Other times I feel like I just want to give up and lose faith, because my future seems to look so hopeless.
Each time I go to court it always puts me in a messed up mood, because it reminds me of how little the chances of me getting out are. Each time I go to court it stresses me out to the max because I always have to listen to my lawyer tell me, "Right now things are not looking good. You could be spending the rest of your life in prison, but I will do my best to help you out. Just hang on tight with me and be patient because it’s going to take some time." When I first heard those words I almost broke down but deep inside my heart crumbled into a million pieces like a cookie. I just keep telling my girlfriend that I will be home soon to hold her and never let her go again. It tears me apart inside because I hate the fact that I have to lie to my girlfriend, but at the same time I don’t want to stress her out and break her heart.
I pray like 3-5 times every day. I feel so alone and scared. At times I feel so weak, like a butterfly without its wings; so lonely, like Patrick without SpongeBob; so useless, like a shoe without laces; so lost, like an airplane without a pilot; so confused, like a world without day and night. I'm 16 years old and I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in prison. I think, "I'm too young for this shit.” I would give all I own and have just to be a kid one more time. I wish that I could wake up and this nightmare would just vanish. I just want to go home.

Entry #179
A Boy With A Dream
I can’t believe this is really my first time being incarcerated. I hope it is my last.
When I look around all I see is barbwire and fences. When I look in the mirror I see a boy who made mistakes that he regrets. I hope this is my last time being here because I am tired of this place and everything it has to offer.
I believe upon my release, I will be able to stay out of juvenile hall. I have a good life and I know I can keep it going good. I just need to stop associating with the wrong group of people and being a follower.
I know what to do now and when I look in the mirror after I just thought of this it comes to my head and I see a boy with a dream and it all adds up to my last time here.

I Was Young
When I was young I remember this horrible smell roaming through our trailer. It was the worst smell I have ever breathed. I remember there were a bunch of sucked up skeletons walking in and out of our house. My parents were cooking meth every day and they were also users. I never understood why me and my brothers weren’t allowed in their room.
My grandma never wanted us over there. Every time we had the chance we would go to grandmas. My parents were pretty violent with one another. It was like they were enemies. We rarely had good food. One of my favorite meals was water with cereal. As I grew older I understood why my grandma never wanted us over there.
C.P.S. came along at some point. They were investigating our parents. I remember my dad, he would hide his "stuff” and guns on our roof in the air conditioner. My sister would always watch us, but she was pretty young also. Often, I never really knew where my parents were.
One day the swat team came and raided our house. They took my parents. I remember my dad. He was screaming. We ended up moving out of the area and going to foster care for a couple months. We stayed with our grandmother. After that day we never lived with our parents again.
As years past my mom got out and we would barely see her. My dad ended up getting out and getting his life back together. I hated my childhood.

Entry #181
Thank God For Fridays
I stand in the facility that has changed my life: the way I look at the world and the way I look at opportunities in life that can benefit me. I have noticed that the time I’ve been in the hall, I’ve heard many kids say, "I’m never coming back in this place,” but choose the wrong choices when there out and come right back in. I ask myself if I will be like them and come back. But now that my daughters turning two I know I can’t afford to come back. I've spent too many treasured moments away from her and I don’t want to lose anymore. I know now the reasons why I’m not ever coming back. My daughter needs me more than anything at this time of her life and I’m done being selfish, choosing my own needs instead of hers. I know that I’m not coming back for that reason and that reason only. It has changed my ways and I thank God for every minute I spend with her on Fridays for the hour in the facility. I wish she never had to see her dad in here and for that I know she won’t ever have to see me in a place like this again. I will not come back and that’s a promise I will keep forever in my life for my own benefit and my daughters needs as her father.

Entry #182
I'm Not Coming Back
Most people get out and say, "I'm not going back." I don't want to come back here. The reason I always do end up coming back is because when I get out I start to think I'm free, but really I still have all these rules and regulations I have to follow. But what's really on my mind is not those rules, it's wanting to go out and say what's up to all the fellas, mess around, and get wasted like old times. So once this starts happening I get that mindset that’s like I don't care. I'm going to do what I want and there isn’t anything anyone one can do are say. But the reason I know I'm not coming back and why I know I'm not coming back is because, I've realized with my time in the hall that my family is much more worth my time than sitting in here missing them, missing my nephews and nieces grow without me. I've realized that the people I was choosing to surround myself with were not the people I want around me. They were causing me nothing but trouble. I'm not coming back.

Entry #183
I’m Ready
This is my second time being locked up in Juvenile Hall. The first time I was here, I only spent 3 weeks incarcerated. I had a year of probation. I finished 10 months of it. I only had 2 more months and I was done. The reason I even got locked up in the first place was because I got a battery charge. I came back the second time with the same charge. My first time I always said “I’m never coming back to this place.” I made the same mistake twice already. I’m ready to change. I feel like all this happened because I acted like I knew everything, and didn’t have to listen to anyone else. If I would have just listened to my Mother and my Grandparents, I probably wouldn’t have been in this situation in the first place. This time I’m NEVER coming back here. I realize I have too much to lose being in a place like this. Juvenile hall isn’t a place for someone who wants to go to college and do something with their life. No matter if I lose those so called “Friends”, I’m not going to put myself in any situation to return to this place.

Entry #184
Ways to stay out and away from the system
A way to stay out and away from the system is by running or working on a farm or ranch. Having and committing to a job is the best way to cope with staying away from drugs and alcohol and staying out of the system. Once a juvenile enters the juvenile detention system they usually go through a change of mind by stating that they will stay out and do better and won’t come back, and the next thing you know, most of them come right back in the system for getting in trouble for the same charge or even a higher charge.
The reason why people usually come back to the system is because they are used to doing the same thing over and over again on the streets and they don’t have any motivation to do better to stay out. So when they come back into the juvenile system, it’s more like a time off away from the streets and to sober up or rethink what happened and when they get out, they just do the same mistake again that puts them back into the juvenile system.
When a juvenile starts working and learning how to run and work on a farm, he or she is away from the streets and away from the bad people influencing them to do the bad things that were getting them into trouble. When a juvenile starts to work and learns how it feels to work and earn money, he or she starts to realize that if they work hard, they will get rewarded and he or she will learn to stay away from drugs, alcohol, and the streets that were controlling them to make bad decisions and will learn that doing bad things are wrong and will be punished.

Entry #185
It is so hard to stay out of the system because most of us don't want to give up our "bad habits." We say we want to do good and stay sober, but when you've done something for so long it becomes all you know. I smoke weed or drink or do whatever because it's fun to me and it gets me in a better mood. So when I don’t do those things I am bored all the time. I am in a bad mood or irritated because I don't have that drug or drink. Usually when I get in trouble I am under the influence. If I kick my "bad habits" I will be more likely to get on the straight and narrow and do good.

Entry #186
Trust On Loan
In life trust is a crucial piece to relationships with others. In my life I trust my grandparents with pretty much anything I need to say or express. I had a friend that I let borrow a laptop and he misplaced it. I was furious and I decided I was not his friend anymore and my trust for him dropped completely. In order to repair the trust that he broke he would have to replace or find the laptop that I let him borrow. Now it is difficult for me to trust others with borrowing my things because last time a very expensive possession I owned was misplaced. In the future I will have to think twice on how much I trust someone because even though I believed he was a good friend, he let me down and lost my laptop. Now I believe that trust takes time to be created or built up because sometimes bad things happen when you are quick to trust a person that you barley know. It was an eye opening experience to have something stolen from me because now I know not to lend expensive things out to people that are not family. I would suggest considering the people that you are putting your trust in because it can be a very hard decision.

Entry #187
I Can Remember
Trust. Oh, something uncommon in my life: to trust and to be trusted. I can say I am a trustworthy person. But for me to trust someone else easily, that is highly unlikely. Sad to say, it is that I have been through so much bad in my life, so much hurt. Abandonment, abuse, and so much more. Heartbreak, by family and “friends”. It’s painful. Trust is something that should not be taken lightly, and I sure don’t. So many people put trust into people they barely know. Even I have done that once or twice in the past. But I’ve learned from that. Immensely, have I learned from that. You can’t put trust into someone who hasn’t shown themselves trustworthy. And many people nowadays are not unfortunately. I have major trust issues.
My real dad pretty much just left me. I can remember being on the phone with him and he told me “I know, I abandoned you”. Those words still play over in my head all the time. And now, for many years, I’ve had the hardest time trusting people to not leave me, to not abandon me. Nevertheless, many people still have left. Like the first time I got locked up. When I got out I ended up switching schools. I lost all my friends that I had trusted to always be there for me, but in the end they weren’t. So now, with that, and many more reasons, I don’t trust anyone easily, not even my own mom and step-dad, though we’re working on that. Even they have lost my trust.
So many lies, so much pain. They used to drink. They would hurt me, and then apologize. To me, to each other. But it would still continue until. So from about 12 years old ‘til now, and I’m almost 18, I’ve come to close myself off and not trust anyone. Only opening up when I am sure I can. Because to trust someone, and let someone in easily will only result in heartbreak and pain if they were to ever break me and my trust. And I don’t want to feel that heartbreak and pain anymore.

Entry #188
What you Took From Me
Longing for you everyday and night.
Over and over again I found myself thinking of nothing but you.
Vacant, my heart was without you.
Everything I did was surrounded by the thought of you.
Broken is what I am now.
Eager, I was to please you.
Time after time you made me cry.
Revenge is what I want.
Affected by everything you did.
Youthfulness is what you took from me.
After all this, my love still remains.
Love and betrayal.

Entry #189
Staying Out Of The System
I think the system is money hungry.
Some people think twice but don’t know they have to think three times.
It’s hard not to act up in a world full of trouble.
There is no way out!
The cops and the judges think we’re monsters.
But stuff happens.
They tell you not to hang around the wrong people, but sometimes those wrong people are your family.
They tell you not to do drugs, but sometimes that’s the only way you can get away from the stress.
It’s hard to get out because the judge hears the same excuses every day.
So it’s not fair for the people who are telling the truth.
Nobody wants to be here. No one deserves to be here.
There is always a story behind a crime.
But again no one believes you.
Life isn’t fair at all and it never will be. PERIOD.
So that’s why it’s hard to stay out of the system.
If I am given a second chance I will stay out.
The reason I will stay out this time is because I am grown up and mature now.
I have a family to go home to.
This place is just for a bunch of fools, so I shouldn’t be here.
I’m ready to stay out and focus on the better things in life.
It’s hard to stay out the system, but this time I will stay out.
Entry #190
Getting Back Up
What is trust? Is it giving valuable information to someone and expecting them to be loyal and not give into temptation? Is it something you must earn and that can never be earned back once lost? Or can you somehow overlook the past and accept things how they are while proceeding forward? Trust can be in millions of different forms, yet once it gets broken, it can cut deep. What I learned the hard way was the saying, "Burn me once, shame on you. Burn me twice, shame on me." Although some people may be shady and untrustworthy you shouldn't let it affect you negatively your whole life. Life is a gift we must take. We might as well make the most of it. Another’s mistake shouldn't make you want to shut down completely no matter how rough the situation. You must somehow go beyond that stage and move forward for the better. What I'm trying to say is that we all fall down -some harder than others- but we're strong and stable enough to get back up on our own and continue to persevere throughout life.

Entry #191
Losing the People You Love
In 2011 I lost three people very close to me, and although it has been going on two years, the pain feels the same.
My brother was one of the closest people to me in this world and he was one of the people I lost in 2011. I wrote a song called “Incomplete” to express how I feel about losing my brother.
Day after day we pray, that you’re in a better place, and as time goes by I still see your face, I got this pain deep down in my heart, even when its sunny my life is dark, When God took you he took a part of me, (without you here bro, I am incomplete)
I’m incomplete man; a part of me is gone
Because my brother’s resting in peace while I’m making this song
It really kills me to know that my brother ain’t here
God why you take my bro, to me that was unfair
I got this pain in my heart that I can’t let go
And I got tears in my eyes, that I can’t let flow
I got burdens holding me back, but I keep on moving
And it’s like I never win, but keep on losing
Now that you’re gone, it’s hard for me day to day
Misery is all I see; I’m trying to look a different way
I keep a smile on my face, but inside I’m crying
Tryna live out my life, but inside I’m dying
The choices I make ain’t always right and I know
That when judgment day comes, I’ma reap what I sow
Since Feb. 13, I been stuck and lost on the road
The day that God took you, he turned my heart and soul cold
Day after day we pray, that you’re in a better place, and as time goes by I still see your face, I got this pain deep down in my heart, even when its sunny my life is dark, When God took you he took a part of me, (without you here bro, I am incomplete)
I’m missing you every day and I wish you was with us
But you’re in a better place and I know you’ll never forget us
I sit and I think, about the times that we shared
The good and the bad, and how you loved and you cared
Nobody could ever take your place in my heart
And that day that God took you it tore me apart
I sat and I cried, day after day
And it’s been two years but the pain never went away
I try not to cry to keep our family strong
But it’s hard not to shed a tear now that you’re gone
Day after day we pray, that you’re in a better place, and as time goes by I still see your face, I got this pain deep down in my heart, even when its sunny my life is dark, When God took you he took a part of me, (without you here bro, I am incomplete)

Entry #192
A New Mindset
I think it is so hard to stay out of the criminal justice system because while kids are here, they don’t learn anything. I mean yeah, they are away from friends and family but that doesn’t teach them anything. They come back because they don’t realize the wrongs of their ways, so they keep doing the same things over and over again. This is my last time here because I have realized how many people I have hurt living the lifestyle I was living. I hurt my friends and my family but most of all I hurt myself. I have learned many ways to cope with what goes on in my life and figured out why I did the things I did. I have people to help and support me so I can get out and have a new mindset and outlook on life and what I need to do to accomplish the goals I have set when I get out this time. I know what I want and need to do in life and that’s why I will not come back to jail again.

Entry #193
Moving On
Well it started with me hanging out with two of my good friends, drinking, smoking, and partying while never going to school. Then one day the three of us decided that we would start stealing bottles instead of paying for them. We had gotten away with it for a very long time. Then one day I decided that I was going to get four bottles so we could get drunk. I got two and I went in to get the other two when the workers grab me up and put me in handcuffs. I was hella scared and didn’t know what to do none of my friends were there to help me or say they had bottles as well. They just ran and left me to take all the blame. Then a few months later I got arrested for battery and stolen property and that resulted in my first 18 days in the hall. Before I got out I had told everyone that I was never again coming back. I got out and didn’t get into any trouble for almost a year. Then I started drinking and partying and I got locked up again. I'm still in here longer than before, but I think that it will be good for me so when I get out my life will be back on track and I’m not going to be worrying about the past! I’m going to focus on the future and school just so I can make the ones I love the most happy and proud of me.

Entry #194
The Monster, Trust
Trust in my life was never a problem until now. I didn’t realize how much trust meant to the people around me until it was too late. With all of the crimes I've committed people don't trust me. I'm a good kid and I know I am. I made mistakes, but with the mistakes I made, there’s no more trust. I’ve gone back and forth, one day saying I don’t give a crap about trust, to the next, how do I get it back. The more I think about it the more I realize how hard it is to get back. Trust isn't something you ask for. You earn it. With no trust you're just known as that little pain in the ass, but with it, you're a friend, a person someone can look up too, and a "good guy." That's what people want.
Sometimes I say I don't care but I always know that I do. I wish I could go back and not do the things that I did, not ruin the trust, not screw myself. I did and there's no going back. I now have to begin from scratch. Actually I'm in the negative. I will now have to do many right deeds along with trustful things for people to even look at me as a decent human being. I do have my family at least to help me through all of this. I'm still young and won't let these mistakes ruin my future, because I know it is bright.
So trust for me is now a problem. Some monster I have created. Once I get the "I don't care" and the "why try,” out of my heart, I can start taking steps in the right direction. I am determined to not let trust be a lifelong problem. It's not about the fall; it's how you get back up. I am a firm believer in that and only time will tell where I go from here. Since it is my future I have the final say and I will learn from my mistakes. Being in the hall to me has been life changing. I cannot wait for my time to shine.

Entry #195
Now That I’m Older
The first time I ever got incarcerated was in 2010. I was thirteen years of age with a felony charge. I spent 54 days in custody then got released with a year of probation. Now it’s 2013 and I’m in here for my 10th time. I have completed more than 450 days in custody and still have 2 years for my max. When I’m in juvenile hall I do pretty well with following the rules and program. When I’m out I continue doing good but then I mess up and I get violated for probation which lands back in the hall. I didn’t really care about coming in and out of this place, but now that I’m older I see that this life isn’t taking me anywhere positive.

Entry #196
No Respect
In middle all the way to high school it was all about trouble and seeing who was tougher because nobody wants to be a sissy. I was one of the top dogs. I was the top dog. I stay quiet most of the time but when things go down I'll be the first one to take flight.
I thought all my buddies would have my back, but one by one they started to fade away from the group. All of them went ahead and moved on while I'm still at the same spot, fighting and going to war with enemies. A year later when my buddies saw me not going anywhere and still broke, they didn't even show respect because they're all accomplishing things in life, but not me. What they don't realize is that I back them up.

Entry #197Juvenile HallThe white walls of juvenile hall, silver sinks and rusted doors,
Hard stone cold walls kept the room cold all through the night,
Not an inmate was walking all through the night,
But all you hear is silence and all you have to do is wonder what to call yourself,
Most say they’re hard for the crime,
But I think to myself and say wow, this is Juvenile Hall,
Then I think to myself, man I really messed up,
Deep in my thoughts I say I really hope I don’t get the years for the crime or maybe just a little time,
Then I think again what to call myself, cause I walk down the street and I fall into a hole in the ground,
And say it’s my fault that I’m in here and doing time,
It’s my fault for me seeing the white walls of Juvenile Hall,
This is helping me learn from my mistake and say I can do right when I get out.

Entry #198
Often most people find it difficult to get out of the criminal justice system because many individuals fall back into drug and alcohol use when they get released. Kids don’t learn anything while they are incarcerated and think that smoking and drinking will solve their problems. Most don’t realize that you are not the same person when drug addiction starts to take control.
I am positive that this is my last time being incarcerated because I might be here for a while. I also have accepted the Lord in my life, which helps me to be a better man. I feel like I have been restored as a human being.
Some of the things I have noticed, is I have a whole new attitude and demeanor. I notice that even the way I look at certain things is different than usual. I feel like this is the Lord blessing me. This is why I am positive that I will never be back in juvenile hall.

Entry #199
Who You Really Are
Who you really are,
Are the stars that light up my darkness.
Who you really are,
Is the wind that only with your breeze can wipe away tears and put my life back in gear?
Who you really are,
Is the pain that was in my heart but know my love just gains from the start.
Who you really are,
Is my jazz to my music notes.
Who you really are?
Is my life, my everything, feeling your gentle touch
Baby, I don’t ask for much.
Who you really are?
Is when my heart skips a beat every time I see you
cross that street?
Who you really are?
Is my reflection looking back at me?

Entry #200
Rap Sheet
People ask why it’s so hard to get out of the system after you’ve been put in it and I tell them the same thing every time. I tell them I’ve been in the system for so long already because when I get out of the hall I go right back to what I was doing before I got locked up, like doing drugs and gangbanging. Life in the system is no joke. If you’re not 18 and you get stopped by the police your past comes up every time they type your name in. IT SUCKS!! Once you’re in the system you’re in it for life, no matter if you change your life or not. It doesn’t matter if you got caught with a knife, paraphernalia, or a candy bar you just stole, it WILL come up on your rap sheet and that gives the police reason to search you and maybe even on your way to being locked up for a while.

Entry #201
Add It Up
It’s hard to stay out the system because when people get a release date, the only thing they start thinking about is going to get a quick come up so they can smoke weed and some cigarettes and that’s what gets them back here in that cell.
If people would think about getting a job and making an honest living, maybe it wouldn’t be as bad for many people in the system right now like me. When I get out of here, I’m going to get a job telling our young ones that the fast life is not the place for them.
I had to learn the hard way when I got locked up for something that I wasn’t a part of. But that’s what happens when you are trying to move too fast, at a young age, trying ride with the older crowd. And if you are anything like me you’re going keep it stitch lips and sit down for your friends, even though they wouldn’t do the same for you.
That’s why I learned if you go try and live in that fast life, trying to get that fast money, you’ve got to stay solid till the end. Or else it could be your life. It may seem nice in the beginning getting all that fast money and all those females, but think about where you going to be in ten years or even twenty years.
Now take a minute to think about it You’re going to be either in a box with your family throwing flowers on it, crying, asking why or you’re going to be in that cell looking at 40 to life for something that wasn’t even worth it.
You know, since I have been in here I’ve asked everybody the same question… “Was it worth it?” They all say the same thing, “No.”
Now think about it. Do you really want to be that kid that has to talk to your momma through a glass and watch tears roll down her eyes? I really don’t think you do, because that’s what I thought until I saw her face crying, which just broke my heart and put me in tears to see my mom just cry; to hear her on the phone saying why, but at the moment you are not thinking about that. All you are thinking about is that money. But really think. Add up the time you spend out there hustling, robbing, doing whatever you’re doing with the money you get from hustling. Now what you get is less than minimum wage most of the time. So just stop and ask yourself, is it really worth the time that the system gives you?

Entry #202
Coming Back All These Years
Why do we come back all these years? Why is it so easy? Do we really know? All we have to do is sit home, not do drugs, not fight, go to school, and pick the right friends. Sounds easy, right? Then why don't we do it? Me, I try and cheat probation, drink on the weekends, disobey curphew, and just don't listen period. I think I can get away with it, but I don't. It always catches up with me, slowly but surely it always does. Now I’m sitting here for 224 days typing on the lamest keyboard in the world, wanting to go home. And why am I in this predicament right now? Because I thought I could cheat probation. I thought I could drink. I thought wrong.
I just want to go home.

Entry #203
The Mind of Troubled Teens
Why I think teens can’t stay out of the system is because of what’s out on the streets such as weed, dope, meth, and alcohol. They miss a phone call to their probation officer and the next thing you know they’re right back in the system. Many people put their personal needs over what really matters to their family, so if they can’t find themselves, they’re lost. Most of the time they put their friends before anything else and when their family doesn’t give what they want, they go to their friends and ask for the money. Then their friends may give them the money, but then they might want them to pay them back.
For instance, they have to do a favor for them, but they don’t know what the favor is until the last minute. They might be scared, but they don’t show it, because they want to be tough. Some of us teens do things because their family is in need of some quick money and they push it too far.
Many mothers, fathers and other family members have gone though the same thing, and the only thing they know is teaching the game their kids.
The only way to stay out of the system is to make a goal and put together a plan that will help you meet that goal. That’s the key to success and a goal without a plan is just a dream, someone once told me. Most of us are going to get out and do something again and not think about the consequence of our actions. Then we worry about what’s going to happen to us and every action has a good or bad consequence. We have the key to our life, no one can do it for us.