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!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Entry #1236
Everything In My Power
            On June first, I was released from juvenile hall. I was happier than I could ever be and I had it all planned out: moving in with my dad who was diagnosed with liver cancer. The first night I was released I was hanging out with my friends at a school after hours. I'll admit I was doing some things I shouldn’t have been doing, drinking, smoking, etc. I was too drunk to even keep my head up and I hear, “What's up mother *******!” Then 9 gunshots... We all scattered and started running the opposite direction. Luckily nobody was shot.
            About a week later me, my dad, and my brother went to the park to let my dog play and when we got back our mobile home was gone! The landlord took it because we were late on our rent. My counseling services put us in a hotel for about a month, and then we were kicked out because it was a hotel, not a motel. So my counselor put us in a motel. We were kicked out of there for leaving our dog in the room... stupid right? Then, my counselor moved us to a third motel room where we got kicked out of the next day for the room supposedly being too dirty.  
            I felt like we couldn't do anything right, so I went back to smoking dope and abandon my family, leaving my mom, my brother, and my dying dad behind. I started doing my own thing and stopped going to my required locations probation had me going to every week. My probation officer gave me a call about a week later and told me I needed to come in and test. My stomach dropped. I ruined it. I messed up everything.  When I tested, they detained me and I was taken to juvenile hall, where I remain for a violation of probation.
            While here my brother told me on the phone that my dad has 3 to 6 months to live. I messed up. If I get out before my dad dies, I am going to do it all different. I am going to do everything in my power to stay out and spend as much time with my dad as possible. I will try my hardest to care and provide for my family no matter what. (Love you dad.) 

Entry  #1237
I Can Feel
“Sometimes you have to smile and act like everything is okay,  hold back the tears and walk away.” When I think about how I don’t get visits and how my family doesn’t write me, I act like it doesn’t bother me. I hear about all the other girls’ visits and how they talk about when they get out, their moms and dads are going to take them out to eat. Also take them school shopping. I hear about how much they miss their bedroom and the things they have. I wish I had that, but I never show it. I have a smile on my face every day. No one knows it’s fake. Truth is I have very little that makes me truly happy. I’ve learned that sometimes the best thing to do is smile and act like everything is okay, so people don’t know I how truly feel. When people ask me, “Who do you live with, your mom and dad?” I answer no. There’s always that next question “Why not?”  Then that happy, bubbly person fades away because now they know the truth. My mom is in prison and my dad is a dope fiend struggling with life himself. Every day I am smiling and saying funny things to make people laugh so I don’t have to think about how ****** up my life has been. For the past four months I’ve been in juvenile hall in the drug program. I’ve been completely sober and it feels good being sober. Don’t get me wrong, but one thing I can’t stand about being sober is the fact that I can feel. I used to block everything out, put that smile on my face and act like everything is okay. Now, I’m sober and reality kicks in and everything seems real, because it is. I try my hardest to be that happy person everyone thinks I am, because the truth is sometimes you have to smile and act like everything is okay, hold back the tears and walk away.

Entry # 1238
Where will it start, when will this end?
Will the voices continue, or finally perish?
Are you lost, or are you found?
I’m fading from all this pain.
I see the light, but close my eyes.
There is nothing left for me here.
I hold on to the truth deep down inside,
But always caught found using lies.
I tried to hold on,
See the white around the black.
Lost the one I loved,
Gained the things I tried to fight.
I once believed,
But my faith was wronged.
The sinister gray world turned,
Now darkness surrounds me.
Tried to live free,

But the guilt and grief have found me.
A time that was once bliss,
Seem to never last.
Too late
Already gone,

Entry #1239
The Stress
            Today, I’ve learned to cope with the stress, anger and depression; it has been a long hard journey. I have spent 8 months coming in and out of the hall. The first couple of times was a breeze… 30 days? 60 days? Did them like a cake walk. It was making me mad, but it wasn’t until I got committed 180 days I really started comprehend how much I really hurt myself and hurt my family that would do anything for me. I’m tired of asking to do everything: use the bathroom, get a drink of water, sharpen my pencil and much more. I’ve learned that I really just need to learn how to program and get out of here and continue my life. The problem is that I haven’t been on the right and narrow path. I’ve gone off the road and into the dirt, but being in here has really shown me that I’m tired of making that quick buck just so when I slip up I can get caught up and spend time in the hall. And when I turn 18 it’s not going to be no 60 days, it will be a long, long time. I don’t want that for my life. I want to make my own family proud, provide for my family and give back to my loved ones who have done so much for me.  I want to show them I can truly make them proud of me and I know how to make the right choices when given a dilemma, showing the whole world and myself that I can live my life clean and sober and make my money legally. I want a safe and happy environment for my child. There’s a lot I need to do, so when I get out in 17 days, I’m going to prove to myself that this isn’t just all talk. I’ll make my family proud.    

Entry #1240
It’s Going To Start Now
Growing up wasn't easy on the streets a lot of rivals and haters everywhere I be. These so called friends they claim to be, they are hating on me for doing me. Whenever I needed them they were nowhere to be seen, so day and night I started to realize this gang life wasn't the same to me. I realized I always end up behind bars sitting in my cell looking at a brick white wall asking myself, “When am I going to change?” I hate the way I’m going in life, staying on the streets at night with homies. I thought they were my boys till I finally realized I don't need them in my life. They’re no good for me and just bad for my health. It’s time to make a change and it’s going to start now. As soon as I graduate from here it’s going to be me and my family that I’m going to worry about. I hope the others stuck in the struggle can change before they get deeper in this lifestyle.

Entry #1241
Things I hide
“Sometimes you have to smile and act like everything’s okay, hold back the tears, and walk away.”
I pretend like everything is fine when I really feel like I’m dying inside
You’d never think so, because I don’t let it show
I’m sad inside, but you’d never know
I’m different when I’m not locked up
But when I’m here my guard is up
I’m in my feelings when I’m alone
I hope the other minors don’t know
I’m getting tired of being strong
But that’s what I have to do to keep moving on
So even though I want to cry
You won’t see because I hold it inside
But I know for sure that once I’m out
The tears will fall like they’ve been in a drought
Then I guess everyone will see          
I hurt from all the things I’ve seen
I can only be strong for so long
Can anyone say what I’m doing is wrong?
Even though I don’t know why
Sometimes I just need to cry
Letting everything come out
Makes me feel better inside and out

Entry #1242
I miss being free
I can't wait to be reunited with my family
I think about them every day
It makes me smile when I see my mom smile because it means I finally did something right
8 months and I'm still here in the hall, but this time I'm not leaving empty handed
I'm getting my diploma
I'm making my mom proud
I wouldn't have accomplished everything that I have accomplished without the support of my family and the hall staff
I proved my haters and enemies wrong
I showed them that I could become successful
And I'm going to continue to be successful
I miss my family... I want my freedom... And hope is all I have for now.

Entry # 1243
From time of dark
You are there
You act as light
And guide the young out
You show them truth
And blast the lies
You act as a statue
And become a symbol

You give hope
In times of need
But in the end
Nothing is forever
So until I see you again
I hope you continue
To be the light you are
Never to dim or be covered
Entry #1244
I smile because of you
I laugh because of you
I am happy because of you
I am grateful because of you
I wake up everyday because of you
I get weak because of you
I break into pieces because of you
I am hurting because of you
I feel unappreciated because of you
I can't sleep right because of you

Entry #1245
It makes me smile when I see my little brothers and sisters having fun
It makes me smile when someone compliments me
It makes me smile when my older brother and I actually have a conversation
It makes me smile when I’m with my boyfriend
It makes me smile when my mom takes me places
            when I eat ice cream
            when I sing or dance in front of my home girls
It makes me smile when I’m in church
It makes me smile when I’m angry but showing people I’m happy
It makes me smile when I make good decisions and listen to my mom
            when my family is happy
            when I’m having fun
It makes me smile when I get my toe nails done
            when I hear music
            when I spend time with my friends and family
It makes me smile when I tell my mom “good morning and I love you”
            when I have makeup on
            when I see or hear things on Facebook or Facebook in general
It makes me smile when I have my phone
            when I take selfies
            when I chitchat with boys
It makes me smile when my family and friends tell me that they love me
            when I go to parties with my sisters and home girls
It makes me smile on my birthday
            when I go swimming
            when I get letters in juvenile hall
            on my release day
            when I hear my mom’s beautiful voice
It makes me smile when I get new clothes and shoes
            when I hold babies
            when my mom and dad give me money
It makes me smile when I make new friends or meet new people
            when my wishes become true
            when I have lots of money
It makes me smile when the days are over

Entry #1246
People have been
Telling me I am
Addicted to drugs
For a long time.
I always told them they were wrong.
I was blinded by the fact that I was
Actually addicted. Although
I’ve never done hard drugs,
I was doing over-the-counter
Cough syrup and weed.
Occasionally other things,
Like pills and what not.
One day I realized that I actually had a problem
Because I couldn’t remember
A time when I wasn’t high.
I was neglecting my family,
Stealing money from my parents,
And lying. My excuse for using was always,
“I’m just a teen trying to have fun.”
That’s what it started out as,
But once I was getting
High so much that my life changed and I was affecting other people.
I realized I had a problem.

Entry #1247
A time when I had to smile and act like everything was ok and hold back my anger/tears and just walk away was last year. I got left at apartment alone because we ended up getting kicked out. I had problems with my mom and her boyfriend and I didn't want to move in to her boyfriend’s house, so I got left alone with three Pitbull puppies. We got them because we were supposed to move into a house but plans changed. That night I got left alone around 11:00pm at night with just my basket of my clothes, my three dogs, and their bag of food. I walked to my girlfriends and I was awake all night in her parking lot with my dogs because I had nowhere to stay. It sucked knowing my mom actually left me alone for her boyfriend and took my brothers with her. My girlfriend would look at me and I would smile to her and act like it didn't bother me, like everything was going to be okay. I didn't cry or anything. I just walked away out of my mom’s life for about half a year without seeing her or talking to her. She didn't help me out the whole time I was in the streets looking for a home. I moved from place to place, city to city. It was just crazy for me having to pack my things all the time from place to place. But I went through it all. My friends fed me. My girlfriend and her family, a lot of people helped out but I was still on my own. I was struggling, but I made it without my mom. I got a couple jobs and I even got my own apartment. Eventually I started talking to my mom because of certain reasons.  Therefore, she told me I had a warrant of my arrest so I turned myself in and now I'm in here for 5-8 months.  Two of my dogs got adopted and the other one, my girlfriend has.

Entry# 1248
No Time
Nobody has time to dwell in the past, that’s why my days went by fast, until I crashed back into this mess. Now I’m trapped. I can’t deal with this stress. But wait, I see the light shining down on me, with all you people trying to clown on me. You see, I have looked to the higher power. Thank God for my every hour. Now I’m just chilling with my thoughts. Will it be Heaven or Hell? I can’t wait for my PO to let me out of this cell, so I can tell my girl how much I love her. I’m not holding back because I have to uncover the truth in this mix of lies. I live. All of the pain I have caused her, hoping she will forgive me.

With all of the time I spend thinking, it’s no wonder my old mentality is shrinking. It might be sinking because, I want a better life. My life is like a knife. Hold it right, I’m safe, but I slip up I get sliced. I have to reach out for help. I can’t keep my goals on the shelf forever. I’m never going to stop trying to find my true potential, even though the Psych Doctor thinks I’m mental. I’m not. I just have a lot of problems, but problems can be solved if I put your mind to it, but I won’t get there if I just say, “screw it.” I won’t get anywhere with that attitude. You might think I’m rude, but I’m just not in the mood to hear you whine. I’m just being real. So real, all these lame *** hating fakers couldn’t see me with 20/20 vision. I’m on a mission to take back my life. I don’t have time to stand here and cry, so I’ll stand tall and fight until my life runs out. I might just make something of myself, but it won’t happen overnight.

Entry #1249
Things You’d Never See
There’s a problem in our society
We think we know from what we see
When you look at me I bet you think
You know all there is to know of me
By looking at me you’d never think
I’ve been through the things that make me, me
You’d never see what I’ve had to see
Like loving a man who’d beat on me
Cover bruises up so no one sees
Hide all the pain inside of me
You’d never know my family
There were five of us but now there’s three
Grandma, auntie, mom, brother and me
Take me away because I’m in juvie
Take auntie out, may she rest in peace
You’re probably wondering about my daddy
That man doesn’t have any time for me
He’s too busy selling dope in the streets
I didn’t even meet the fool until I was thirteen
You’d never look in the mirror and stare back at me
Scars covering my body, all five foot three
Little lines from my thighs to feet
Dang, who wouldn’t want to be me?
You’d never think I’ve been to juvie
Doing six months right now for smoking weed
Eighty days until I leave
I’ll go back to be with my family
So when you think you know me
Just simply think of what you really see
Before you start defining me

Entry # 1250
Hopes & Dreams
I hope that in the future my children can live a better life than I have lived. I dream of the smile on my family’s face when they see what I have turned my life into. I hope the feelings people get when they see me in the stores, or on the streets will be peace, not hate. I dream about the day I will be able to tell the world what I do without feeling ashamed. I hope I will be able to be friends with people that have a positive influence on my life. I dream about having the money to help my mom pay her bills, to help my sister get into college, and to keep my brother out of trouble. I hope I will be good enough at what I do to keep doing it. I dream about living a great life, without using drugs or alcohol. I hope I will grow old knowing I did right by my family. I hope my brother and sister think highly of me when they grow up. I dream of waking up next to my wife in a nice house that I can call my own.

Entry #1251
Life’s Code
How we know
Which is right?
Does not follow a book
But instead a code
Each identical to your own
It is a code known to all
A code meant to act
A guild meant for life
We learn and build it as we go
For which it stands
Is who we are
That is a moral code

Entry #1252
Makes Me Smile
It makes me smile to see my son smile
            to see him happy
            when I play with my him
It makes me smile to think of my grandma
            to hear my son say mom
            when I give my son kisses
It makes me smile to know I have a stable place
            to know I have enough food for my son
            to know my son is healthy
It makes me smile when things go right
            when I get to drive my car
            when I have lots of money
It makes me smile when I get all the laundry done
It makes me smile to think of old memories
It makes me smile when I finish a good book
            when I accomplish something
            when the day ends
            when I smoke weed
It makes me smile when I have my freedom
It makes me smile when I get letters
It makes me smile to eat good food
            to drink MTN DEW
It makes me smile when I hang out with Angel
It makes me smile to think about my future
It makes me smile to know I get out soon
It makes me smile to talk to my siblings
It makes me smile to know I have such a handsome son
It makes me smile when someone says their proud of me

Entry #1253
I wake up every day in the hall smiling knowing my family and my girlfriend  are still there supporting me, but another part of me wakes up sad knowing deep down inside I’m letting them all down because all I do is promise, promise, promise, that I will stay clean and sober and not end up back in the hall. Now I have a daughter on the way and I still can’t get on track. I’ve been constantly blaming other people for my mistakes and getting mad at all the counselors that I think are bossing me around, but in reality I know they’re trying to help me change to be a better father so I can be there for my family and daughter. I have 2 weeks left in the hall and about 20 days till my baby is born. Hopefully I can keep my promise this time and be there for my daughter’s life and just hopefully I can change for the better. 

Entry #1254
Peppermint Coffee
I smile when I am gardening, feeling the sunshine and the cool breeze, hearing the birds chirping.
I smile when I see my family is around me.
I smile when I am healthy and go fishing.  When I am around wildlife and nature.
I love waking up and taking a deep breath of fresh air, seeing the sun rise, and drinking a fresh pot of peppermint coffee.
I can’t wait until I’m at home, sitting by the river in the morning breeze, sipping my first cup.

Entry #1255
Three More Days…
My release date is only three days away. I think that it’s funny because I never thought that I would ever get out of this place. It feels like I have been here forever. Here I am going on 200-something days spent in juvenile hall. I have changed so much over the past seven months of my life. The kid who came into booking with handcuffs on his wrists, well he is just not the same anymore. I look back at my life before I got arrested; it seems so dark. Deep down inside I was so hurt and hated my life: constantly controlled by drugs and alcohol. My life got so unbearable that the week of my arrest I armed myself with a knife and had a 45 minute stand-off with the police, me challenging them to shoot me the entire time. I wanted it to all be over for good, you know? However, I am so thankful that the only thing those cops shot me with was a taser. Here I am eight months later and still on this planet. For once, my life actually seems worth living. Spending more than half of 2016 locked up honestly has been the best thing to happen to me in a long, long time. I can’t wait to find out what my life will be like after I am released from this pace. I have a good feeling about things, that’s for sure.

Entry # 1256
Titans Curse
A warrior’s heart forever trapped
Tortured soul neither strong nor weak
But something is between
A weight not meant to hold
The curses cure not despair
A path of healing never easy
One can only fight for so long
So look for peace through the darkness

Entry #1257
Good Times
It makes me smile when I eat menudo
             when I eat shrimp
             when I eat posole
             when I eat Taco Bell
             when I eat pizza
It makes me smile when I eat hot Cheetos
             when I eat takis
             when I eat carne asada
It makes me smile when I eat Denny’s
             when I drink Pepsi
It makes me smile when I get Jordan’s
             when I get Nikes
It makes me smile when I listen to music
             when I get on Facebook
             when I get on YouTube
             when I get on Instagram
It makes me smile when I get compliments
             when I see the homies
             when I see hello kitty
It makes me smile when I have money
             when I go shopping
             when I do new things
It makes me smile when I go cruising
             when I go to the beach
It makes me smile when I see my mom
             when I see my sister
             when I see my brother
It makes me smile when I see cute boys
             when I see Belinda
             when I see Destiny

Entry # 1258
Inner Demon
I am from Death and Darkness
A land of Shadows
A place where the strong survive
From the Bones of the past
And the cries of newborns
To the castle of gold
With the gates of silver
And for the pit of lava which surrounds it
From the Monsters and Creepers
All which come
I am the Bridge to the Dark World and Shadowlands
One in which is all but forgotten like I am nothing
But in the End
I am your Nightmare
The one you bury in Hope of living
From Here you rung and Here you return
For I am the Beginning as well as the End
Believe what you must but I’ll be waiting
For I am eternal and tired of hiding.

Entry #1259
It makes me smile to feel my baby kick.
            to no she’s awake.
            to know I’m almost out.
It makes me smile when I have food in my mouth.
             when I eat orange chicken.
             knowing my dad can cook it in the kitchen
It will makes me when I find my baby’s name.
It makes me smile to know I’m a stage, and
It makes me smile to know my parents are okay.
It makes me smile to see my love’s face.
             to no he’s okay, and
             to be here today.
It makes me smile to know my baby’s father is still here.
             to know he’s going nowhere.
It makes me smile to see my parent’s.
It makes me smile because I don’t have to worry about warrants.
It makes me smile knowing my brother is doing well today.
             knowing he’s graduating any day.
It makes me smile waking up to another day.
It makes me smile when I have a great day.
It makes me smile to see Jessica today.
It makes me smile to see I’m doing well.
             when I remember the good.
             when I have my phone.
             when I hear the ringtone.
It makes me smile knowing my baby is healthy.
It makes me smile to see my siblings.
            to know they’re still here for me.
It makes me smile to see my nephew some days.
             to no he’s turning two any day.
It makes me smile knowing my best friend.
             knowing he’s still alive this day.
It makes me smile seeing my mom some days.
It makes me smile knowing she gets more beautiful every day.

Entry #1260
Night of Ice
I miss is walking through the park whenever I want, going where I want. I miss the ice.  I miss skating.
The ice helped me forget my past of the day. The ice sucks the bad out: made me feel like a different person.

There is a magic on the ice that heals and brings people together.
The friends that are made are different than the ones that are made at a school or the park.
There’s the music, the hot coco, watching people have fun, and having conversations about what you wouldn't talk about to anyone else of in any other place.

That is the one thing that I miss the most. I hope it will come again someday.

Entry #1261
To Be Free
It makes me smile to be free and enjoy the freedom at hand, the mist of the waves and my feet in the sand.
It also makes me smile to be in control of my own day and not stop myself from whatever it is I want to say.
I miss my family and my own comfy bed, I miss home-cooked meals and my mom putting braids in my head.
I can't wait to get out and fly over seas; the thought of being detained brings me to my knees.
I think about the kisses and hugs. All you get in here are disses and mugs.
I miss the family perks because they're all out of love, although when I came through those intake doors all those emotions were gone, like a migrating dove.

Entry #1262
This is my first time being locked up. I didn’t know what to expect. I walked in the pod and met a stage three.  Later he was one of the only people I would talk to. I fell asleep easy the first night. I couldn’t believe I was in Juvenile Hall.
            I woke up the next morning and didn’t believe I was here. I thought it was a dream. My first few weeks here were pretty hard. I was learning everything from scratch.
            But after a while I got the hang of things. Pretty soon I was going for my stage two and I accomplished it. I got it after one month and others took longer than I did. I then realized it might not be so bad. I would see my parent’s on the weekends for visits and that helped a lot.
            I started going for my stage three. I am a stage three before my half time. That was something I was really proud of. I was trying to go on furloughs. I have now been here four months and going on my first furlough next week, hopefully.
            Being in here was a big change for me, but with a little help and support from my family I’m getting through it. I’m learning a lot about myself and to appreciate the things I have.

Entry #1263
A Blink Into My Life
I’m labeled as a criminal, it’s not subliminal, and it’s obvious.
My friends’ parents used to think the worst of me, thinking' I live my life on ignorance.
They questioned my motives of why I sold drugs.
So my sister can eat the last food in the fridge, so my family can have all the necessities,
I’m going to be a man and get my own cash so there’s one less person for my mother to have to worry about.
So I can go out and get new clothes without my mom having' to worry about having' enough money for the rent after shopping. The list can go on.
But I need to switch my lane, get a job, and be safe. When I’m out all night, I know my mother is worrying if I’ll be alive the next day or if I'm going to be on my way to the prison. I can’t have my mom with those worries, along with my sister watching me do wrong. I'm going to try my best to make up for my mistakes, but it’s my life. I have to overcome my dilemma, and I promise I'm going to make it big. I promise momma. 

Entry #1264
Black Swordsman
Here I am in my cloak of midnight
A reassuring weight on my back
Two swords, one blue one black
My faith in humanity forever crushed
Only to trust the blades I honed
I fight the monsters that remain
To live and stand another day
Or I am the black swordsman
Wirth title and right burdened only by my life
Two blades forever cursed
Never to trust only to hold

Entry #1265
I miss seeing pretty girls, family, and sunsets;
I miss hearing jokes and compliments;
I miss sharing, giving and accomplishing things;
I miss good food, new undies, fresh socks and soft toilet paper;
I miss adrenaline rushes, scary movies and refreshing purified water;
I smile when I’m in nature experiencing winter snow and summer heat,
I miss hanging out with friends, going to the river, and going to the club;
I miss swimming, bike rides, and snowboarding;
I smile with a nice summer, good music, and good times;