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!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Entry #1214
My Journey
                I’ve been incarcerated for the past seven months and it’s been a challenge. But, honestly the real challenge is when I get out two days from now. I’ve been coming in and out of this place for the last four years. I still remember the first time I walked in these gates, telling myself I will never come back again, but here you find me writing from the same room four years later.
                At the age of five my mom’s ex-husband did things to me a little girl should not go through. My mom found out and he was sent to prison. As I started growing up, I would act out. I was depressed and felt like I had no one on my side. I got into middle school and started hanging around a bad crowd. I was running away from home, fighting at school and arguing with my mom. Then I got into drugs. I started with pot, then twisting the pipe, and let me tell you, one inhale was all it took for me to fall in love. I tried to put down the pipe and move on but damn I love the high.
                One night I was with my ex-boyfriend and his friends, we did something really dumb that brought us all in here. I did 30 days, was put on probation and an ankle monitor for 60 days. My mom tried and tried to talk to me, but everything she said went in one ear and out the other one. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do, with no one to tell me anything. I didn’t care about how bad I was destroying my family.
                My drug abuse got out of control, I was using multiple times throughout the day. I stole money from my mom just to make sure I always had a sack with me. Finally I got a wakeup call and told myself this needed to stop. I asked my Probation Officer for help with my addiction and she put me in an inpatient drug group here in juvenile hall.
                The months here have really opened my eyes, my relationship with mom is put back together. I love her so much and I’m grateful she never gave up on me. Thank you Momma for being so rough on me.
                When I get released things are going to be a real challenge, but with the help of my mom and the tools I got here, I can push myself forward, with my head held high and a smile on my face. I can’t look back. The past has made me the person I am today, strong. There will always be hard times, but that is life. I want to thank all the staff and my counselors here that have helped me through it all, for simply believing in me. Here is to next time not happening.  Only the strong survive.

Entry #1215
When I am Free
If my struggle could speak it would tell you that I am now weak. The race that I was in got too big; everything stopped because of this. It is now my 13th month in juvie with 4 more to go. Please let me out, so we can see what I can be when I am free. 

Entry #1216
Everywhere I Go
I hate how my addiction makes me go out of my way to do stupid shit.
The real me disappears. Hella people tell me how different I become.
I struggle to get by, burning bridges with everyone I know. It’s all about getting high.
I am hiding from people who are trying to help me.
My life is a daily struggle.
Everything that comes into my mind I end up doing.
I am running from authority because I am always messing up.
The thought never gets out of my head.
When I’m locked up it’s easier to get by without dwelling on my addiction.
When I walk out the doors, everywhere I go, I can get dope.

Entry #1217
Girl with Scars
I am the happy one, who likes to smile past all my troubles.
I am the hyper, crazy one, who might flash on you for no reason.
I am the defiant one, who would never tell you the reason why.
I am the one with the scars and their secrets.

I am the messed up one, who thinks my future will be no better than my past.
The one who thinks I’ve been given too many chances.
I am the helpless one, who can’t change what’s been done.
I am the hurt one, but much more hurt on the inside.

I am the one with the scars, their angry message is asking to be set free.
Asking to stop piling up one after another.
I am the strong one, who is determined to not give in to my past.

I am the dreamer, who imagines a different life, imagines a time when there was nothing to worry about except toys and friends.
A time when things like rape, abuse, molestation, prostitution, drugs, and family destruction didn’t exist.

I am the childlike one, who remembers nothing but the bad things because there was no good.
I am the one with the wounds, but they are not me.
And one day their image will be hidden from the ones who can see.
And one day their meaning will be a badge of resiliency.
I am the girl with scars.

Entry #1218
If my fist could speak it would tell me to stop beating myself up and relax.
If my eyes could speak they would tell you about my struggles: my addiction and the sacrifices I’ve made. Also, they would tell you all the screwed up shit I’ve done and seen.  I went from a good easy going life to a life in the streets having to steal and sell drugs just to get a day’s meal.
I watched as all the tweakers would do whatever it took to get there fix: stealing, hurting and hustling.  Some days I made hundreds of dollars. Some I struggled to make $50.  After a while it became harder and harder dodging the cops and watching my back each day until I moved out to Sac.
I started making so much money I didn’t know what to do with it and then it all ended like a snap of my fingers. It felt like a dream. I wish it could have been a dream because the consequences were the worst thing I’ve experienced. I was so close to death, but the worst part was finding my best friend, who always had my back and always made sure I had food, clothes and money in my pocket, dead in a garbage can. It opened up my eyes and showed me that this isn’t the life I want to live. This life ain’t for me.

Entry #1219
Grandma Said
About three years ago I lost my grandma to cancer. When I lost my grandma I was locked up. The day before she died I talked to her on the phone and she told me that she loved me no matter what happened. The next day at visiting I saw my grandpa in the counseling room we use for private conversations. As soon as I saw my grandpa in there I knew what had happened. He told me that my grandma had passed away and I burst into tears. It felt like my whole world came crashing down on me. It was like I didn’t know what the **** to do anymore. I felt like I was just going to give up on the world. All I know is that for a year or more I was saying F the world. I was very sad and began self-medicating to kill the pain of the loss. Before she passed, my grandma had told me that if I kept going down the same road I would either end up in prison or dead.

Sometimes Bad Events Have a Good Ending
                I have always heard people say, “Everything happens for a reason," and I never fully understood what they meant. As a child, I always wondered why everything bad was happening to me. I never had a father figure growing up. I grew up seeing a lot of drug use, alcohol, and I’ve seen my mom make a lot of dumb decisions. I had to cut my childhood short to become a father figure to my little brothers and sisters. I’ve had to fight a couple of my mom’s boyfriends’, because they would get drunk, and try to hit her. She made a lot of dumb choices like abusing drugs, and alcohol. We would struggle to keep a place, because my mom couldn’t stay clean and keep a job. I couldn’t get mad at her though, because she had always tried to keep us fed and clothed. After a while, I found out she was selling drugs to get by and pay the bills.
                I wanted to get a job to help out, but no one would hire a fifteen year old. Being in the streets as much as I was, I only knew two ways to get money. One was to rob people or houses. The other was to sell drugs. That’s when I made the decision to start selling. I felt I had to do what I had to do. For once in my life, I was actually helping my family, instead of causing more problems. I stopped going to school, so I could focus on making money. I felt like it was my only option, because I was too young to get a job. The fact that I was providing for my family made me feel good, even though it was not the right way to make money.
                I sold drugs for about two years and I was out of school for about a year and a half. I was helping pay rent, and even bought my mom her own car. I had a good amount of money saved up. I was planning to stop selling, and invest my money into something legal. I wanted to just get rid of everything I had, and then start up something new. Just when I thought everything was going good for me; I was locked up and lost everything I had worked hard for. The police raided my house, and they knew exactly where everything was.
                When I got locked up, I felt my life was over. I didn’t know how to feel. I honestly didn’t want to deal with anything anymore. The first thing I realized was that I was surrounded by nothing but my enemies. I hated this place, because of the food, the living spaces and the staff. I felt like I was never going to get out. I went to court for about four months before I was sentenced.
                The time I’ve spent here has given me time to think about a lot of stuff. After a while, I got to know the staff better and they turned out to be really cool and helpful. When I went through tough times they would be there for me. I really appreciate what they have done for me. Now, I think about everything in a different manner. I have been in this facility for about six months now and I have about four days left before I go home. I really don’t regret getting locked up anymore, because I have changed the way I look at my life. I have caught up on my credits and I am now looking forward to graduating next year through adult school. Also I have joined programs to help me kick my habit of smoking and drinking. These programs are going to help me get a job too. I’m glad I’ve been given this second chance to do better, not only for me, but for the benefit of my family. I’m going to change my life. I’m tired of struggling.

Entry #1221
Not Locked Up
The real me becomes angry for being told what to do.
I struggle to listen to adults that are trying to lead me in the right path so I can become a better father for my kid and live a happier and healthier life.

I am hiding my feelings towards my family because I’m too scared to talk about what will happen if my mom goes back to her old ways. Will my dad decide to leave us again? Will my mom make the right choices?

My life is good. At first it wasn’t so great, but then we moved to California. I didn’t really want to, but my mom stayed clean. I met my girlfriend/babymomma, and we are so happy together. Then all of a sudden my dad came back into my life and it was even better until I started to get into trouble. Now I’m in the hall trying to change my ways, but it’s so difficult.

I long for a better future and to be a wonderful father for my baby girl.  Also, to stay out of the hall, clean, so I can be there for my kid when she is born and in her life….not locked up.

I am running from my family problems instead of talking with someone or getting help. I build all my emotions inside and take it out on other people when it’s not their fault.

Entry #1222
If you really knew me, you’d know I miss my grandma. You’d know she’s the first thing I think of every morning. If you really knew me, you’d know how worried I am about her. You’d know I’m constantly wondering if she’s asking for my help. You’d know how guilty I feel for being away from her.  You’d know how much it hurts knowing she might need me and no matter what I couldn’t rescue her the way she’s rescued me my whole life. If you really knew me, you’d know I’d do anything to be with her and that I miss her terribly.
If you really knew me, you’d know I love my mom. You’d know she’s my hero and I can count on her for everything. If you really knew me, you’d know we weren’t always this close. You’d know we’ve been through a lot. You would know there’s a lot of things from the past that I used to resent her for. You’d know how I feel when she can’t help me. You’d know how I feel to be away from her and you’d know why I feel that way. If you really knew me you’d know seeing her is the best part of my day. You’d know that I try to be strong but when I see her I break. I see that she won’t let me know she’s hurting. You’d know I can see the pain in her eyes. I see her holding back tears knowing she can’t take me home. You’d know even when she’s not happy she does all she can to make sure I am. You’d know all I want is to see her happy.
If you really knew me, you’d know I love my brother. You’d know he’s my best friend. If you knew me, you’d know how much I appreciate everything he does for me. You’d know how thankful I am for him. If you really knew me, you’d know I’m glad he protects me. If you knew me, you’d know I miss him. If you knew me, you’d know I’m sorry he has to change his life for me. If you knew me, you’d know how hard I’m trying to make things stay the same.
If you really knew me, you’d know I miss my aunt. You would know how guilty I feel. You would know how sorry I am for fighting with her. If you really knew me, you’d know if could go back and change it I would.  If you really knew me, you’d know how much I still hurt after all these years. If you really knew me, you’d know I think of her often. You’d know I blame myself. You’d know I miss her so much. You’d know that I’m worried I caused that for someone else.
If you really knew me, you’d know I’m going to change. You’d know I’ll never put my family in this position again. You’d know I’m going to fix things. You’d know that when I come home things will be different. If you really knew me, you’d know I’m going to fix my family.

Entry #1223
One Day
In my addiction of alcohol, the real me becomes aggressive.
In my addiction of stress, I struggle to stay calm.
In my addiction of not speaking, I am hiding the way I feel inside.
In my addiction of struggle, my life is going to be successful one day.

Entry #1224
No Backing Down
I finally realized I’m not so different than others. We all have been through similar experiences in life, except I don’t get any family support, no encouragement, just put downs. We all have things in common that we use to do/still do until this day, like drugs, guns, stealing cars, getting mixed up with the wrong crowd, hanging around the wrong crowd without knowing it, and more. I always looked up to loved ones; I don’t know why I did. Most of them are in prison or in jail and have kids they’ll never see again. I never wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps. My mom would get so angry. She would tell me  I would end up just like my father. Here I am ridin’ in the path of his footsteps. I’m facing 6 months and was looking at 3 years in prison for a new case I caught in another city. I was so disappointed, but I’m over it now. I knew it was going to happen one day, it runs so deep in my family. I call it a “family curse”. I’m locked up for the 2nd time and for my first violation. I can’t wait until I get out of here. I snapped one day because I’m not there to protect my family. I try to stay sane. But it’s like these evil thoughts love to play mind games with me. I have to think positive as I tell myself. So I’m leaving the past behind me for good. Time for change and I have no time to waste. I even set goals because I would contemplate on suicide. Setting goals helped me out a lot. I refuse to take the easy way out especially knowing everyone would be pleased to see me fall, but hate to see me rise. I just have to make it. My number one goal is to never give up and never back down.

Entry #1225
Ten Is Enough
I only have 3 days left in the hall and then I’ll be a high school graduate and a college student. The first thing that I’m going to do when I get out is to start looking for a job where I can get money to help support myself. All my life I’ve always been the kid that just kept coming back to the hall and this is my 10th  time here, my last time, because if I get arrested again I go up to county. I’m going to try my best to stay out of trouble so I can be with my girl and at least try to get my son back. I intend to stop hanging out with the wrong crowd. If I keep doing the same stupid shit I’ll end up in prison, not where I want my life to end up.

Entry #1226
Rest In Paradise: Forever My Brother
                In September, I lost a very close friend who I considered more like family, more than friend. That day was the worst day of my life, I was in pain and have never been the same. It was so unexpected. I remember the day I heard what had happened; I was at school playing football during P.E. when I overheard one of the other kids talking with our P.E. teacher about somebody dying. I didn’t pay too much attention to their conversation at first because you hear about people dying every day.
                It wasn’t until after I heard the name of the person that had died, that I started getting nervous, my heart was pounding and the whole time I was hoping it wasn’t my friend. Literally about two minutes later, I got a call from my girlfriend and she confirmed that it was my friend. He had been shot and killed. I broke down in tears. I was in so much pain. I was hoping it wasn’t true. Hoping that he at least pulled through.
                I was crying so much I couldn’t even think straight; I lost it and started punching anything that was in site. My P.E. teacher saw me, sized up the situation and walked over to me, grabbed me and held me tight in his arms, while trying to calm me down. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t stop crying. I was sent home for the day. I tried so hard to keep my friend off my mind but I just couldn’t. I was in so much pain, pain I’ve never felt before. I lost one of my closest friends. I’ve never been the same. My heart felt cold and numb. I felt lost, confused.
                In March, I was blessed with my first born daughter; my whole world brightened. I just wish he was here to see her. I wish I could bring him and all the rest of my fallen loved ones back. It hurts so much knowing he’s gone and never coming back. As long as I’m breathing I’m going to keep his name alive.

Entry #1227
The 3rd time I had to cope with loss of a loved one I was devastated. I didn’t think it’d be my girl.  When I found out about it I was in pieces.  All I would do all day was drink and smoke.  I was hella depressed. I couldn’t go to her funeral because it mas in the south where her family was. I would sit in class all day spun out. I never got good grades. After a while it hurt less and I knew she had a bad life. At least I know she’s in a better place.

Entry #1228
I felt very hopeless when I lost my father. I lost him just like I lost my family. I was only six or seven years old when my parents got divorced. I remember that night like it was yesterday. My mom was screaming at my dad, telling him to leave the house and never come back. He had gotten caught smoking dope in the bathroom. Even though my dad was the one paying the bills at the house she still kicked him out and soon after divorced him. Through all the problems my family has had, my dad has always been the person in my life who never gave up on me. I know he honestly loves me. I felt so helpless because my father was being thrown out of my life and there was nothing I could do about it.

Entry #1229
 Alone by myself
Sitting far from you
Crying about you
Hating you
Pain because of you
Forgetting you
Getting rid of you

Together with you
Standing next to you
Laughing with you
Loving you
Happiness due to you
Remembering you
Trying to find you

Alone by myself or together with you
Sitting far away or standing next to you
Crying about you or laughing with you
Hating you or loving you
Pain because of you or happiness due to you
Forgetting you or remembering you
Getting rid of you or trying to find you
Always or forever

Entry #1230
Last Memory
My last memory is when I went over to my little sister’s house for the first time. I got there and the house was so gross; I could not believe that she was living there. I was about to get up to the door and knock but before I could she opened the door. The first thing that she said was, “Would you please watch Lion King with me?” The second I said yes her little face lit up so much. I almost started to cry because she was in the worst place ever. I never thought that girl would smile ever again, but, boom, there it was, that little smile!  I don’t know how she could do it because that place was so nasty. There was dog crap all over the place! But that was not the worst. We walked up to her bedroom where she was sleeping on the floor with only a nasty old blanket that had who knows what kind of crap on it. She walked over to this ugly old chair that was so dirty. I could not let her sit on it. So I grabbed her blanket and sat on it and told her to come sit with me. We started the movie and not even ten minutes into the movie she fell to sleep in my arms. She looked so peaceful, like she didn’t have a gosh dang worry in the world. I always wanted to take her out of that place, but I couldn’t. I sat there until about eleven at night, then I had to leave. I got up and put her in what she called a bed on the floor. I was about to leave and she woke up and she asked if I could take her with me to my house, but I couldn’t. She had this really sad face that I couldn’t take, so started to cry and she asked me why I was crying. I said it was because I love her so much. She asked me if I could pray with her. We prayed and she said that she really loved me. I said goodbye. I found out that she passed away four months later after getting really sick. She had lung cancer and that is the last memory I have of her.  

Entry #1231
In my addiction I hate the rush of the drug I learned to love.
My addiction tugged and pulled at my emotions, to the point I could no longer even give my mother a hug.
Soul searching for the girl I use to be.
I look in the mirror and I don’t even know who I see.
Addiction almost took my brother’s life away.
Our relationship turned to dust.
I tried to numb the pain
But it never went away.
Went from 14 and drinking every day
To 17 and getting spun everyday
Nothing ever changed.
The drugs created more hate and pain.
Replacing one bad habit for another
Crystal meth had become my only escape.
I felt like my faith had been taken away.
I watched good friends start to lose their heads
They didn’t care if they ended up dead.
Addiction ruined who I am
It’s time to put my drug use to an end
And find a way to start again.

Entry #1232
I am addicted. I am addicted to marijuana. In my addiction, my life is full of trouble, confusion, and sadness and it looks like I was used to it. In my addiction I’m finally glad to feel sober after five months total and it’s great to feel this way.
I am addicted. I am addicted to methamphetamine. In my addiction, I hate to think about my friends, family and life in general. Is it a reflection of me? In my addiction the real me becomes selfish, greedy and careless and hurts a lot of people that care about me.                           
I am addicted. I am addicted to alcohol. In my addiction, betrayal comes in a form of death, unhappiness and depression, making me feel hopeless, guilty and lonely. In my addiction, I struggle to live a sober healthy life and to actually be happy.                                                   
I am addicted to drugs, alcohol and I know I’m ruining my life, but I believe that I can have a second chance for a brighter future. In my addiction I am hiding my self-confidence and self-esteem. In my addiction, I can only overcome it by wanting to change and be a better person. I want to be successful and not depend on my addiction.

Entry #1233
I run away from everything I love. It’s not what I want to do, but I’m good at it. I don’t want to lose anyone, so I run before I can stop. With nothing to lose I won’t have to deal with loss. If I do care about someone and I lose them, before I have a chance to run, I run to something new before I know there gone.

Entry #1234
This poem is important to me because, beyond and behind the past 17 years of my life my mother was never there. She claimed me as her friend, got me into drugs, and many other things as well. She wouldn’t believe me when I told her what had happened, all she could do was attack me and end in the words “I love my husband more than you.” I lived with my grandparents since I was born, never knew this lady who called herself “mom” until I was six years old; I’m 17 now, about to be 18. I went down her road, started doing meth, and last year I hurt her. All of this happened because she attacked me for the case of her new fiancĂ© trying to leave her. Now I’m in juvi again, after doing six months for assault. This time I’m in for drug addiction doing another six months. So life wasn’t easy for me but I keep moving forward smiling making sure I make myself and others happy. I’m working on me finally and I realize that I don’t need that lady in my life anymore. She’ll regret not being there when I succeed without her there. Even though she never loved me, I later realized I don’t love her either. I fake an “I love you” with a smile but, that’s only when I wanted something because I knew I’d get my way. Now I’ve considered that leaving her alone is best for me. After all the years my family told me over and over to stay away, I finally understand why.
Dear Mom,
I just thought you should know what I’m doing now.
I am a strong person who spends a lot of time hanging out with my friends.
I just thought you should know how I’m feeling.
I am happy because for once I don’t feel like I need you in my life.
I just thought you should know what I’ve been through.
Since the last time I saw you I have grown so much.
The time I finally left you alone was especially important to me.
I just though you should know what I wish for the future.
I hope that you realize what you’ve done to me.
I just thought you should know what I don’t miss about you.
I am glad I don’t have to worry about you bringing me down or hurting me anymore.

Entry #1235
I hate being addicted.
I want it every hour…
every minute…   
every second.
It makes me paranoid.
I see things that aren’t really there.
After I blow the first big cloud I want more and more.
I try to stay away but I can’t.
My life is ruined after I blow the last big cloud.
Now I’m back in the hall.
Now that I’m back. I plan to stay away from the shadows and clouds.
I plan to pursue my life goals and make my mom proud.