Teenagers discuss life in Juvenile Hall
The following essays were written by juvenile offenders housed in a maximum-security facility.
These stories are true and written in their own words. It is their hope that you will take their advice seriously and do not make the same mistakes that they did.
Jonathan - age 16
I'm experiencing all the pain in my life being here. I was locked up at the age of 16. I sit here and tears are falling from my face. I am so scared, I feel so lonely, so lost, so confused and sad. I realized that I have made a wrong choice in my life and can't go back and change anything ( like hanging out with the wrong kind of crowd ). Now I am regretting it all. I just can't believe I'm going through this at such a young age.
Being held in a small cold cell really sucks, because you're by yourself day and night just thinking about your life, telling yourself how you're going to change once you get out. There is no one there to support you whenever you need help. You share other inmate's clothes. You are ordered around and you are told what to wear, when to sleep, and also what to eat. The worst part of being locked up is that a lot of things you love get taken away from you, such as your freedom, rights, family, friends, goals and dreams that you're looking forward to pursuing. I miss out on special things I use to do with my family.
I just can't wait until the day I get released to see my parents in person side by side and tell them how much I love them and thank them for all their support they have given me. Your parents are always the ones suffering the pain and agony while you're being locked up. Your parents are always on your side no matter what.
The message I really want to get across to whoever reads this is to stay away from all the things that you know are bad. Stay in school, get all your education, so later in life you won't regret all the things you went through and you'll be proud that you chose the right path that leads you to a successful life.
A teenager talks to a friend
Robert - 15
Since I've been incarcerated I've decided that my gang life was never worth it and that I should have stayed in school instead of taking drugs and partying. I've been incarcerated for nine months and what I am in here for is a result of gang violence. I regret becoming involved in a gang and dropping out of school.
After two years of stealing, doing drugs and getting beat up, I wanted to get jumped out but kept it to myself. & I started thinking about where I was going with this gang life and tears started to fall down my face because I knew if I continue to gang-bang, I will never accomplish anything worthwhile in my life.
As a result of my gang life, I have missed out on a lot in my life, like my education and my childhood. I hope after you read this, it makes you think about hanging out with the right crowd, staying in school, getting an education and most of all go after your goals and always think twice. If I could start over I would but I can't, so the only thing that I can do is start where I am now (in jail) and make the best of it. Remember a good friend will keep you out of trouble and not in it.
Thomas - 16
I've been locked up for awhile and it's going to be a long time before I get out. I learned that being locked up is one place you don't want to be because you stay in your room most of the day and crying isn't going to help.
The thing I regret the most is not going to school, because I just realized that you need an education. Without it, you can't do anything in life. I have missed out on all the holidays. I'm not going to see my mom, not going to see the people I love the most grow up. I am going to miss my teenage years and my freedom.
Souriyo - 16
This is the first time being locked up and it's really affecting me. Being locked up really got me thinking about my family. Since I've been locked up, I realized how much my family cares for me and my family is here for me.
I regret disobeying my parents. They taught me to be good and not hang around the wrong crowd, but I didn't listen. The thing I really regret the most is joining a gang. That is the worst thing I have ever done in my life. Once you get locked up, they don't care about you. Only your family really cares about you (mom, dad, brother and sister). They are the ones who really care about you and are always going to be there for you no matter what.
Juvenile Hall is not a wonderful place to be. Stay away from gangs for they are a bad influence on you. Follow your heart because your heart knows what is good and what is not.
Brian - 17
I am writing this letter from a correctional facility. I am seventeen years old and this is my fourth time in jail, and let me tell you, it is not a joke. I sit in my one-man maximum security cell most of the day. I sometimes get to see one of my parents once a week through a glass window and speak through a phone. We get a five-minute shower each day.
Although it is hard being in jail, I have learned a lot and I am now working on my high school diploma. I've realized how important my family is, how good it feels to hug your mom and dad and be able to tell them you love them in person. I regret not listening to my family. Now when I think about it, what they were saying wasn't that stupid. But I do hope that you will take my advice about staying out of jail and listen to your parents. Freedom is precious, so don't abuse it!!!
Abel - 17
This is my first time being locked up. Getting incarcerated made me realize that getting into trouble is not cool. When you are locked up they tell you when to take a shower, when to eat, when you can call your family, what clothes to wear, and when you can go outside in the fresh air.
I've learned to get involved in programs so I can be good in here. The most important thing I miss in here is I can not hug my mom and dad. That really sucks! My best advice to everyone is to stay in school and set goals for yourself.
Victor - 17
Being locked up has changed my life in so many ways. It has brought me closer to God and it has opened my eyes. I'm not using drugs anymore. I have learned that I could become someone in my life instead of throwing my life away in here.
The things I regret the most in my life are joining a gang, dropping out of school, getting locked up and not using my life wisely. What I missed out on the most by being locked up are being with my family and doing things with my mom.
You might think it is cool being locked up but it is not. Why would you want someone to tell you when to take a shower, what time to go to bed, when you can talk and move around the unit. I hope when you young people read this story it keeps you from getting locked up.
Duong - 16
This goes out to all you guys who don't know how being lock up feels like. The reality hit me when one day I woke up and found myself being surrounded and trapped by four walls. It was the first time that I ever felt scared in my life. It was like locking a kid into a dark room, and what's worse I have to suffer through it day after day.
At night I lay on my bed thinking about mistakes that I have made when I was on the outs and I regret doing those things. I wish I could turn back time and do everything right again, but my wish will never come true. I am now living through many teardrops and sorrows. I sometimes have dreams of being free but they were only dreams. Don't make the same mistakes I have made because being locked up is filled with regrets, sorrow and pain.