This essay, by a California juvenile inmate named Noel, was originally published by The Beat Within, a juvenile justice system writing workshop, which has generously allowed The Crime Report to share.
My name is Noel. I am currently 17 years old and yet I feel about 30. I am doing a few years for a robbery and am waiting to turn 18 so I can be shipped to county jail, then San Quentin (state prison), and who knows where after that. I will be out of the concrete caskets in a short while, but I will return to an imprisoned society, an environment with temptations and sin and more opportunities to fail than to succeed. I am trying to develop myself so I will be able to navigate through a seemingly crooked country. I've read letters from death row inmates–in particular, one by Ray L. Jasper inspired me to express my point of view. But perhaps he said it best when he said: “I'm just a hobo on the street, giving away pennies.”
The way I see it, somehow, like a game of chess, the government has thought an incredible number of moves ahead to corner our kings, take our rooks, capture our bishops and knights, lead our pawns astray and checkmate the minds of America's youth, leaving our queens vulnerable and alone on the battlefield of life. This is why there are more women than men in college. Our men are being taken, or brainwashed into believing a righteous path includes maiming our brothers and abandoning our women, while robbing themselves of their most valuable possession–trust in the human race. Media and advertisements give minorities permission to live this way. Popular TV shows and radio programs trumpet the words of lying artists who say that in order to enjoy life, we should take the easy path and live by what they rhyme. Shows and movies with a more positive message always seem to fall to the bottom of the charts in our “hoods.”
We are taught to maintain our mindsets, to be like the broke OGs and to blindly follow those decisions that we were too young and inexperienced to make in the first place. There is another point! It seems murderers and other criminals are rushing, or being rushed, into the game at much younger ages, without knowing what they signed up for. TV, music and peers laud the advantages of a fast and dishonorable lifestyle. The “bad and the ugly” sides are rarely mentioned–the prison time, the early deaths, the lack of true friendships and trust, the cost to–or the total separation from–our family. All this for the sake of “fame,” “rep,” and respect from the charlatans we consider our friends.
We are taught to take our own men and women from their families and give them to the moneymaking government with its consuming institutions. Even in this juvenile hall I currently find myself in, I see no attempt to rehabilitate and change the ways of our youth. For example, the music that they play in here is absurd and misleading. In addition, the programs that are in place to try to help seem to have little to no effect–more than likely due to the unbelievable amount of daily negativity that outweighs the good–even when there is the opportunity to acquire some truly helpful knowledge. The mis-education of our minorities has taught us to remain exactly as we are and reject advice from the wise. This institution literally gives young people false hope about their future and about how easy it will be at the next level in an adult facility. It's a hard reality to face–no one seems to notice or to care.
I am a proud graduate of high school and I recently graduated from a Rites of Passage class offered here. However, despite these accomplishments, it feels to me like this program is barely making an impact on the lives of my peers. Just today I was in the “graduate” Rites of Passage class when one brother honestly stated that he was proud of making it to 16 and only intends to live to see 25, that he has no interest in living to 40 years old. That statement said so much about the mindset of these young “criminals.” We see ourselves as warriors but the battle we wage is against ourselves. We war against society, police, and our fellow brothers and sisters, without even understanding the game. We walk, unknowingly, into impossible situations and expect to win. Some people don't want to see any other way. The alternate path might appear difficult, but people don't realize that it can lead to an easier existence. Instead, they do the opposite, take the easy route and live a harder future.
We are the state's cash cows, the reason why more prisons are being built than schools. Some people think that this is to help the country. They are wrong. The country is in debt and everyone knows it. (I believe our debt is in the trillions of dollars.) This is why the prisons are being built, why taxes are so messed up. There's big money in slavery, pimping, extortion–just ask the IRS. These taxes are used to pay the interest on our debts as well as brainwash our citizens to fight and terrorize other countries who refuse to go along with America's plans. Big-time politicians are too caught up in these big-money schemes to care about what happens to minorities. They only care that we end up in debt. The sooner we accept this reality, the sooner we can change it. After all, it is us who live under their control, us who kill each other, us who refuse to learn–but it's their traps into which we fall, it's their tools of death we're using.
The death penalty is one of these tools and I am completely against it. People kill and are killed enough in the streets. The death penalty is like trying to put out a fire with oil. I have a family member who was arrested before my eyes at a very young age for a crime he did not commit. He was threatened with “death by lethal injection” at first–my guess is to shake him up so he would confess to something he didn't do in the hopes of saving his life. But he took it to trial and beat the case. Then the state decided to re-file on him, obviously trying to make an example and “wash” him. He knew the system played their games, so he decided to take a plea and do over ten years–another brother railroaded by the system.
It's absolutely crazy how far from altruism, love, fairness and understanding humans have strayed. I know a Middle Eastern brother who was completely wronged by the judicial system. After his first offense–an unarmed robbery of an iPhone in which no one was hurt–he was sentenced to juvenile life in CYA (youth prison), even though he had a paid attorney at his side.
I was given eight months for my first offense–a robbery of a chain from a girl. When I was apprehended, I had a bulletproof vest, two revolvers with speed re-loaders, a lot of crystal meth already bagged for sale and $1,000 plus in cash. My sentence was a practical slap on the wrist. I thought, they must want me to go back out there and get myself killed. Either that or they want me to get caught for a more serious crime so they can lock me up for good. It occurred to me that I was being set up for failure.
I am proud of my understanding. I was once a very anti-social person–and still am to a certain extent. But, like Tupac, I am a rose breaking through the concrete. My daily routine consists of waking up, doing some yoga, stretching, meditating and working out on beast mode. I also read a lot–no urban fiction nonsense for me. I try not to waste time. I play chess and card games for recreation. I write, clean my room and practice good hygiene. I'm actually pretty busy in here; one would be surprised. I do all this and pray five to six times a day. I have found peace within, so I am usually content, no matter what the day brings. I don't feel the need to put paws on fellow inmates because I don't put myself in a position to be targeted. I don't start problems, I don't gossip and I control my emotions. I have plans for when I am released from captivity. I just hope my people think the same way.
Mine is an imprisoned generation. I thank everyone who takes time out of their day to stop and add a penny from a hobo to their bank account. I thank the Creator for giving me the resources to learn despite my circumstances. I thank the Queen for giving me life. I thank my family and anyone else who is standing by me in my time of need. I am grateful for every experience, no matter how trying, because it is my experiences that have made me who I am.
This piece is dedicated to my brothers who are no longer with us. Because of them, I will analyze every situation I find myself in, especially those in which my actions might affect others.