Youth Behind Bars: Voices from Inside


10.28.09shoesOnce a week for the next two months, The Crime Report is publishing writing by young people incarcerated in Illinois. “Looking In, Looking Out: Reflections of Youth Changing Their Lives” was compiled by the John Howard Association of Illinois and features poetry, essays and artwork. This week a poem by A.K., 14 years old, entitled “Dirty Streets.”


It’s 5:30 in the evening, that’s the time some hustlers still on the block, with white hard stones in their socks, although it’s snowing out.

In the dirty south, if you ain’t in the right hood, don’t get anything misunderstood, you will get taxed, probably take your cash or beaten to death the same time.

My friend was beaten to death; I cried for a hundred night, he served a hundred bodies, a man with a red suit hopped out of the Mercedes Benz, he said “What’s up young stud,” looked like he sold drugs.

I told my brother he showed a young brother love, then I started to stay posted on the block, soon as we see red & blue lights the block got locked, some of them said they got my back, had the glock, cocked between my nose, so I froze. He said give me your money, then think, they ain’t my homies.

Every time my mom heard gun shots her heart skipped a beat, even as she sees the police car, she is still afraid to look, thinking it will be me in the back seat.

I was forced to shoot at somebody, and I decided not to; although I suffered the consequences,my face was swollen up, soon as I came home. I didn’t even want to look at my mom, I left my family for the streets, every where I went there was heat. I left my mom, her heart was broken. I realized my family is still there for me. When I hugged my mom her tears hit my shirt like bullets.

I am straight now, I get it now, now I take the time to think before I make mistakes, mistakes that might hurt my family. My family is part of me and my strength. Today I am much stronger, part of me is good. Today I am blessed to say the old me has gone away from the dirty streets.

–A.K., 14

Photo by tigerpac via Flickr.

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