My Life, No Joke


The following is the true life story of Mark, a young inmate,who wrote about the experiences that sent him to the juvenile justice system. The letter was originally published by The Beat Within, a juvenile justice system writing workshop, which has generously allowed The Crime Report to share his words.

Hi how are you doing today? My name is Mark. My interesting life started at Los Gatos Hospital on September 5, 1991.

I don't remember a lot of things from when I was really young, but I do remember a little. When I was three, almost four years old, my mom was taking care of me, she took me to a lake for the first time. The lake was really beautiful and it was a great day to be outside. That's why I think I've remembered it.

My mom was feeding the ducks and after a little while, she got me to start throwing the bread too. At the end, she took a picture of me. I had my Athletics' outfit on. Yeah, I have been an Oakland A's fan since I was three years old. That's right.

Now I'm going to skip to kindergarten. I turned five years old right after the school year started. I started at Casell Elementary School, on the eastside of San Jose, the school was right around the corner from my house.

Well back to school, so a few months into kindergarten, I was at my table next to this kid I didn't like. Let me tell you why I didn't before you know what happens. Two week into school, that kid was playing tag with us and I was it and tagged him and he said that I didn't. We got in a fight.

Then the week after that I was playing on the playground, he was behind me and pushed me on the bridge of the jungle gym and I cut my knee and hurt my elbow.

After I got back to class from the nurses office, my friend told me it was that same kid I got in a fight with the week earlier. So now back to that day in class. We had a group project to work on and my arch-enemy was sitting right next to me. We were twenty minutes into our project. Me and my friend were making fun of my enemy. After ten minutes of cracking jokes about how he was dressed and how ugly the kid was, he grabbed his pencil and stabbed me in the left knee with it. The led broke off in my skin. I screamed like a girl. My friend jumped over the table and beat that kid's butt. Well, that's what I was told from my classmates. I was on the ground holding my knee for dear life.

I hated that kid. How much of a punk do you got to be to stab somebody with a pencil when you ain't looking? I guess he was though. What can you do, but deal with the punks in the world?

Later that month, my mom disappeared. I asked my dad and he said she just left. At night, they would always be fighting. It was always hard to sleep. My momma always tried to keep it down, but my dad never gave a shhh at all.

So after a few months into school my dad switched my sister and me to a little school down the street from my grandparent's house. The first day of school I was nervous of going to a new school. It was scary. The school was called Earl Frost Elementary. It was really nice looking. It was ok though, 'cause my teacher really helped me settle in easily.

It was fun in kindergarten no worries, no homework, how great, but it didn't last that long though. Sooner than later I was in first grade.

Like five or six weeks into my second year of school, we went out to the big basketball court. It was my first time on a big rim. We all got in line and I was excited at the time. When it was my turn, I shot the ball, missed and then it was bouncing back to me. I stepped on the ball on accident and fell and scrapped my elbow really bad. I had to go to the nurse and I was crying a lot. The principal thought I got in a fight or something. It was really embarrassing when I got back to class, and everybody was looking at me. It hella sucked. I got through it though. It just made me stronger.

Another thing that was fun in first grade was Heads Up Seven Up. The game was really fun. We would always get to play it. When we finished our work early at the end of the day, I would always pick girls that I thought were cute.

Now I'm going to skip to third grade. My teacher was this black lady named Ms. Cooper. She was a really nice lady too. That year I started playing soccer on the field. I always liked to be goalie, and I was the best at it. Whenever my team wouldn't score, I would always get out of the goal to help my team score. Some days me and my boys would play basketball instead of soccer though.

In the middle of the year this new girl came, her name was Gina. She was a bad Asian girl with hella booty. Well, for third grade she had hella… I ended up getting with her a month after she got to our school. I had to get some of that for sure, but after a month or two I got bored of her so I dumped her.

Then there was fourth grade, even more fun. I had a hella cool teacher named Mrs. Barrett. She was a big white lady that was really funny. She made me too laid back though, so at the end of the year I got held back. That's when it started getting bad at home.

My second year of fourth grade, in the morning I just couldn't seem to do everything as fast as my dad wanted. He would be yelling all the time in the morning. That year me and my sister got a box full of Christmas presents from my momma. I cried myself to sleep that night 'cause I missed my momma so much. It meant a lot to me for real. I was really curious about her, but my dad said she didn't care about my sister and me. I believed him too I didn't doubt him at all. I was too scared to ever doubt him and why should I be doubting my father when I'm only ten. I shouldn't right? Well I never did when I was really young.

So that year, I met this kid named Derrick M. He is a Samoan kid that was good at basketball, football, and soccer just like me. Him and I clicked real quick like brothers. At lunch, we would play on the same team against everybody and still win.

We were the shhh. Girls would sit on a bench or the edge of the playground to watch us play. They be jockin' my boy and me tough.

When I was that young I wasn't really trippin' off girls that much. I was always about sports. My dad finally put me into football after begging him for two years. I played on a team called the Rams. When I started, I was having so much fun. I loved running around hitting people. That might sound bad, but it was the funnest thing for me.

It was two weeks before getting our positions and seeing if we're starting or not. So for those two weeks, I went to practice early and busted my butt. I wanted to be a linebacker 'cause they get to do most of the hitting on the field.

At the end of the two weeks, my hard running and hard hitting paid off. I became starting middle linebacker for my defense. That was one thing when I got home my dad was happy that I made the starting defense. It was the first time I seen my dad proud of me. That was one of my proudest moments with my dad. Too bad that season he only went to two games out of eleven. He would barely even come to practice. It was very disappointing being young like that and my own dad would rather play golf than watch how own son play football.

Yeah I know it's pretty sad, but my dad was too worried about my older sister. She was clearly the favorite out of us two. That was the year I started to notice it.

Anyways, now fifth grade year, my boy and me were still running shhh.

That year was hard emotionally. Once in a while my dad would get so mad in the morning that he would hit me to the point I was crying. He was always slapping and punching me to make me cry and would say, “Now you're not going to school today.” It made me really sad, but I didn't know what to do about it.

Well, that year I also met a girl named Michelle C. She was a really cute and light brown white girl. I was really into her, but I was too focused in my sports to care about girls.

At home things were getting worse. One day my sister and me were left home alone. My dad went to work and said before he left, “If I get a call from either of you two, it's not going to be good.” Well as I was saying, it was just us at the house. My sister got mad because I didn't do something she told me to do. She is only a year and a half older than me, but she acts like my mom. So she said, “I'm going to call dad and he's going to come and beat you're butt.”

I knew she was right. My dad would never believe me over his angel, she would always talk back to him even scream at him. He still wouldn't do anything to her, but threaten. The funny thing was both of us knew he wasn't going to do anything to her. But hey what can you do he's the parent?

So my sister called my dad when I was in my room. I was walking out of my room when my sister hung up the phone and she turned around, laughed and said, “Dad's coming home now.” with a grin on her face. I couldn't believe it. I didn't even do anything wrong.

I heard the keys in the door, so I walked in the hallway. When I seen my dad after he opened the door, and he looked at me with this glare that I couldn't explain all the way down the hall. Then in a dead sprint all the way up to me and tackled me so hard I hit my head on the floor boards. He started repeatedly punching me, I could have swore he hated me the way he was beating down on me.

After like fifteen to twenty punches, he stopped for a second and I crawled into his room. He said, “O where do you think you're going?” Then ran into the room and started punching me more. I thought it wasn't going to stop, but it did, after he got too tired and I stopped moving.

I remember waking up in my bed. At first, I thought it was a dream then my back, arms, cheek, and side hurt once I started moving. That year was hard physically on me and emotionally, but I had no clue what to do, so I could make things easier for me.

All right now we are at sixth grade. That year I started fighting in school. It was fun for me. It came easy to me also. The mornings got worse that year. I just couldn't seem to get things right though, well, for my dad's expectations. He would get so mad in the morning for the littlest things. My dad would get so mad to the point he was either slapping me or punching me. Once I would start crying he would say, “Now, you're not going to school today.” That happened about twenty times that year in the morning.

Even though my dad did that to me, I still graduated with a 3.3 (grade point average). I was so proud of myself. I thought my dad would be too, but he didn't show he was proud if he was. I couldn't understand it. He always got pissed about my grades and I got good grades and he still wasn't happy. It didn't make any sense at all. I was still so young. I let it bring me down.

Also that year I was constantly getting yelled at in the morning. He would always find some bullshhh little thing. That year was harder emotionally.

Now going into Jr. high, I went to Herman Intermediate. The teachers and advisors were ridiculous. They were always making new rules about clothing. Come on, what is more important dress code or learning?

It got really irritating during those two years. Around my neighborhood, some guys and me started fighting for money. I won three fights in a row. We would fight till one person gives up. This black kid wanted to fight me for eighty dollars. That would be the most I fought for. I said in my head, “screw it.” I ain't going to back away from a challenge, no way. We set it up for two weeks later on a Saturday. I worked out real hard for a little over a week so I won't be sore when the fight comes.

I felt really good when the day came. My boys were pumped once they got to my house. They got me more pumped too. We went down the street and around the corner. He was already waiting there with his shirt off. It was a little intimidating, now that I think about it. At the time, I didn't let myself get down.

Everybody circled around us. When I got up to him, I took my sweater and shirt off, turned to my boys all pumped up and said, “We gonna go smoke after this guys!” Then I turned around and said, “LETS GO!” The guy and me squared up. I always have let the other person swing first, even when I was that young. So he swung first and missed, then I swung and missed with a KO, right. But right after I missed, I jabbed him with my left to his right cheek, which sent him stumbling back. I ran and tackled him, gave an elbow to his face that split open his eyebrow. Then I started punching him in the face over and over again. I finally caught him clean on the chin with a right, he went limp and I stopped hitting him. I was really surprised how a quick it was. I caught him good. Well, I took him to the ground 'cause I didn't think it would be smart to go toes the whole time. I was hella juiced. My boys ran over and grabbed me and were pushing me around.

When I looked over at his boys, they were shocked, whispering to each other, and then they went to pick him up. His left eye was closed and he was bleeding out of the mouth on to his shirt. I got the eighty dollars and my boys and me went to go get an eighth (of weed). We got hella lit.

Also that year, I met this kid named Matt R. At first, I didn't like him just 'cause I felt he was trying to take some of my shine, but him and me clicked soon and then we started slangin' marijuana. We supplied our whole school, and I pushed (sold) by my pad too.

That year was the same at home. I was wondering if he (my dad) liked to yell or something but that was just him. I was hoping he would change though. I would pray at night that my dad would try and think to treat my sister and me the same.

Near the end of the school year, one day my dad slapped me in the face and didn't let me go to school. That night, I got a call from Matt. He said, “Ay bro' I got expelled.” I couldn't believe it my number one boy was gone for the rest of that year and the next. Well eighth grade year sucked, my dad was getting worse and we got this new kid named Mark that was annoying. He would always piss me off until one day during a basketball game we started fighting. He was bigger than me, but I beat his butt.

My dad gave it to me once he got home from work. He said, “You like getting in fights, lets go then,” and beat my butt. I was really scared of him. I ran away after he smashed me in the floor. My friend Jessica and her dad picked me up from down the street.

My friend and me were hanging out when my dad showed up. Jessica's dad loved me, but after he talked to my dad it was over. He thought I was a liar and treated me like shhh after that day.

I went home that next day 'cause he didn't want me there. He ended up dying a month later, and Jessica moved to (the state of) Georgia and my other boy Derrick moved to Las Vegas (Nevada). So, I lost my three best friends, I didn't get it.

Even though that year sucked socially. I was captain of the defense my last year for PAL (Police Activities League). I also played running back too. I ended the season with fourteen touchdowns. In our playoff game we lost. I was heartbroken. I ended the game with a touchdown and seventeen tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. We lost 'cause our quarterback sucked. He threw two interceptions. He threw away the game! Our head coach took me aside after talking to everybody and apologized to me. It was weird, but he told me I played my best game that season.

My defensive coach took me aside after (that same game) and told me he was proud of me and to not get down about it 'cause I have a future in high school football. It gave me a lot of pride to hear those things from them.

My dad still had screwed up things to say about my game. That brought me even more down. It took me a few days to get over it. I was ready for high school now.

That summer my boys and me started jacking rims, and cars once in a while. It was fun, now that I think about it, it was really stupid. Since I was doing stupid stuff during summer, I ended up getting into high school football late. I was over a month late for training camp, but it was all good I ended up getting a starting spot on defense anyways. I met a lot of new guys that were cool.

My boy that I clicked with was Jr. he was the other D-end on defense. Freshman orientation was cool Jr. got me a lot of people to buy trees. We were giving out my number like crazy. I was making good money for the first few months, but it wasn't enough for me. I started to jack some dealers from my hood with two of my boys. We came up on racks and half pounds of trees. I was making about a rack (1,000) a week, but after I hit those licks, I was making double. After a few months, I stopped. It was getting a little hot. I still kept slanging though.

In class, I was really disruptive and gave the teachers a hard time. I got into a lot of trouble at school, which made it worse at home.

My dad kicked me out for the third time in my life. This time was the longest for now. I stayed at my boy's pad for a month. He offered. So why not?

Sooner than later my dad let me back in the house. Also, I didn't make grades for the second half of the season in football and that was my motivation for school.

The next year my dad didn't let me play football 'cause I got an “F” in math. It really pissed me off, 'cause the varsity coach offered me a spot on his team.

One time in sophomore year my dad went to work some overtime, and left my sister and me at home. So I was on the computer when my dad left barely for five minutes and my sister said, “I need to get on the computer. You need to get off.”

I said, “You're going to have to wait.”

She got pissed off. A few minutes later, she told me to turn off the porch light off. She was the one who turned it on in the first place.

I said, “I'm doing something. You go do it. You turned them on.”

She flipped out and started hitting stuff and throwing things.

Then twenty minutes later, she came out of her room with a grin on her face and said, “Dad's coming home.”

I asked, “Why?”

She said, “You will see.”

When my dad got home fifteen minutes later, I was in the kitchen. He opened the door and asked my sister, “Where's Mark at?” She told him where I was. He stormed into the kitchen and said, “So you like to boss around and hit girls.”

I was looking at him puzzled. I had no clue what he was talking about. Before I knew it, I got a right hook to the face. The second shot to the face sent me spinning around hitting my forehead on the counter. I blacked out for a few minutes. When I woke up, I was on the cold kitchen floor. My dad didn't even put me on the couch or nothing.

It was a really sad time, thinking about it now. My dad would always get in my face and say, “I can't wait 'till the day you hit me, so I can mop you up on the floor.” I would always think he does it already though.

A few weeks later, I thought to myself I'm as big as him now. So one day he got in my face again and said, “I can't wait till the day you hit me.” So I cracked him in the jaw with a right, and he went down. I heard a crack when I hit him. I then had to drive him to the hospital. We found out that I gave him a hairline crack on his jaw.

I felt really bad after it happened. Good thing though my dad didn't hit me after that day, which was pretty much worth it, but it was wrong on my part. The thing about it is I could always admit that I was wrong and my dad never could. My dad and me didn't talk for a little over a few weeks. It was the most peaceful time in my dad's house.

Also, during that year, my sister was wilding out with my dad and got kicked out. She deserved it though, and she would always talk shhh to my dad and scream at him.

My dad bought her a car and hooked her up with two jobs before he gave her the boot, which was more than he has ever done for me. It's all good, 'cause that year I bought my own car.

It cost me six in a half rack. It was a little 5.0 Mustang with a super charger. I had a hella fast car, one of the fastest in San Jose when I got flow masters on it.

I started making more money too 'cause I was mobile. I was making racks every month, but at home it kept getting worse, and my dad knew I was doing something to get money. Once in a while he would smell the marijuana. It was really pissing him off. He would never get me shhh, so what was I supposed to do? How was I going to get the things I wanted and needed? So I did what I had to do.

At the end of that year, my dad woke me up one morning and told me he was going to work. I asked him for a few dollars to get to the other side of town to get my cell phone and to get back.

He said, “No.”

I said, “Ok.” I wasn't going to argue with him 'cause it was seven in the morning and I was way too tired to start with him.

Though he started bitching for almost ten minutes, and I finally got up.

I said, “What is your problem!?” Then I said, “ok I'm not arguing with you.” It was ridiculous, but that was him ever since elementary school and still the same to this day.

We kept arguing, and I eventually smashed a bowl with change on the kitchen floor.

My dad ran over and started laughing and said, “Oh you did it now.”

I had no idea what he meant.

In twenty minutes my grandma came through the door, she was on the phone with the cops. I didn't think they could do too much when they get here.

They came into my room with tazers, like I was robbing the house or something. They handcuffed me and sat me on my bed. I only had boxer shorts, and one sock on.

My grandma was in the hallway talking shhh about me. She was talking about holes in the walls that my sister made when she lived there.

My sister was bipolar and she would flip out and throw tantrums. Also she would kick and punch the walls, but the cop took pictures of everything and said, “Ok, I will file this, our work here is done, hey unhandcuff the kid lets go!”

My grandma said, “Wait you're not going to take him?”

The cop said, “No he isn't doing anything now.”

She said, “No I want you to take him.”

He said, “Are you serious?”

You probably already know what she said. I got taken downtown for the first time.

All the times my dad called the cops on me, they never did anything. This time was different though. So I got booked and put in one of the units of juvenile hall. My roommate had been in juvie for a few years straight. It really opened my eye to life and I told myself I wasn't going to let myself end up like that. My dad picked me up two days later at night. I was so pissed when I seen him. I was cursing at him and everything. He took me over to the southside (of San Jose) just to drop me off. He was talking so much shhh. When I got out, I kicked the side of the car. I forgot it was my grandma's that he was driving. He got out started laughing and said, “There's another charge now.”

At that point, when he was getting into the car he rolled down the window and said, “Don't come home, go sleep in a dumpster for all I care.”

I didn't care at the time and walked to my boy's house down the street. I told him what happened and he said, “Ay bro it's cool. You already know you can stay here.”

My boy Austin, I could always count on him whenever. We always were tight. I only stayed with him for a few weeks. I didn't like to push myself onto others. I would always feel like a burden when I stayed with them. So I left his house.

My other boy told me to go stay with him.

Oh yeah, I forgot, my other boy Steven got my car impounded. I let him go pick up a half-pound, but he got pulled over before he got there. My boy didn't have a license and he had a warrant for his arrest too. So it was over for him. He got arrested.

I told him to be cool on the road 'cause I knew he didn't have his license. So I moved in with my other boy and his family. All my boys' moms love me too.

One night I was coming home around midnight and five enemies surrounded me. I thought to myself, “Screw it and take it like a man.” So I started chunking with the first and grabbed him and threw him down. While I was throwing with the second, I got kicked in the back of the legs. I sunk to my knees and got kicked in the face. Next thing I know I was waking up on my back. I limped to my boy's pad.

When I got there, it was after two in the morning and the walk was only a twenty-minute one from where I got jumped.

When I went inside, my boy came out of nowhere and said, “Wow, what the hell happened to you?” I told him. He wanted to go find them, but I said, “No.”

I went to go look in the mirror and I had a lot of dried up blood on my face. It was crazy. When I took of the shirt to take a shower, there was blood all over my chest and down my arm. I guess one of them cut me too. The next day was whack. My body was so sore that it hurt to move.

The next school year was all right, until one week when I showed up and I got sent to the office, where the principal of the school told me I'm expelled.

My dad and grandma went and got me expelled. They said I was a runaway and I was doing illegal stuff. There was no way I ever knew they could get me expelled without me even knowing it happened. It sucked though and I was shocked and confused.

That's when everything got all bad. I started staying with my girls, and on the streets. Sometimes I stayed in parks, or on weekends in schools. I never knew how cold it gets 'till I started sleeping on the streets. I would even wear a few pairs of pants and a few jackets and still be freezing. It was really hard at times. I really just wanted to give up at times.

After all of the summer and almost half of the next school year of being on my own, my dad let me back in the house. A few weeks later, we got into a fight and he kicked me out again.

After that, I stayed on the streets again. One night when I was walking around late, seven or eight enemies ran up on me. I tried to run but they whistled and a few more came out ahead of me. I told them that I don't bang, but they didn't care.

Before I knew it, I got hit with a bat or something in the back. When I stumbled forward, I got kicked on the side of the head. I went down and got stomped out. I got taken to the hospital when somebody found me. They got an ambulance to come get me. I had two cracked ribs, a broken wrist, and a concussion.

A few days later, I was sitting on the grass next to the sidewalk when my boy I used to go to school with and played football with walked up to me. He sat down next to me and we chopped it up for like twenty minutes. He told me to go with him to his house and stay with him. I said, “Na it's all good bra, thanks though.”

He said, “Screw that bra' you' coming, Let's go get you something to eat.”

I gave into him and went. Him and me got really close the next few months. We would just drink.

One day he went to work and I called my sister. I asked her to take me out to eat and give me like ten dollars, but she turned me down. Then she told me, “mom died last week.” I made myself believe I didn't care, right then. But that night ended up being horrible.

I watched the Lakers' game that night. My boy was talking with his ex-girlfriend in her car. Once it got dark, I brought a Gin bottle out to the curb and only one cup of soda. I listened to my boy's iPod too. I was just giggin' (to the sounds).

Once I drank half of the bottle, this light skinned Mexican kid walked into my boy's court (street) checking car doors. He started going toward my boy's pad. I went up to him and told him, “Keep it moving man, I live here.”

He was all right, he said, “All right it's all good. I ain't trying to start shhh. It's cool.” So he left the court and I kept drinking.

About half-an-hour later the cops pulled up deep. I messed up 'cause the guy that was checking car doors didn't have his shirt on, and since I drank almost the whole bottle I had taken my shirt off.

The officers arrested me and threw me in the car. I threw up in the cop car.

A few weeks later, my dad picked me up finally (from juvenile). Then I got put on probation. When we went to my PO's office for the first time, my dad was talking shhh. I couldn't believe all the bullshhh and stuff he was making up.

When we were driving home, my dad was laughing at me the whole way. One thing he said was, “She will never believe you over me. I'm the parent.”

He told me when we got home “all right get out of here. I won't tell your PO, leave.”

So I left and stayed with my boy down the street.

After a few months past, I left his house too. I went over to Campbell to get away from all the bad shhh in San Jose. I would sleep in apartment laundry rooms, and my boy's house once in a while.

A few months later, I finally found a job. I worked really hard and my boss gave me a few days in a row of work. I got Thursday off.

Everything changed the next day. I woke up and went to my girl's house. We ended up arguing and she said, “You can leave then.” So I got up and bounced. She came after me and pulled me down by my backpack. I tried to grab my backpack, but she had a hold of it. I said, “Let go”. She wouldn't, so I said, “Screw it.”

I went down the street and got a water from Starbucks, then went back to her house to get my backpack. My backpack has my birth certificate, social security card, and license inside, so I needed to get it back.

She told me, “I'm not going to give you it.” I kept telling her to give me it. She wouldn't, and then I got into an argument with her neighbor. Her neighbor threw a ball from downstairs and it hit my girlfriend in the face. So she called the cops as I walked away.

The cops came hella fast and my girl ran up behind me. One of the cops pulled over and stopped us. He took down our information and I ended up having a bench warrant, so he slapped the cuffs on me and took me downtown. The cop took me to County, but my PO got me moved back to juvenile hall. I got put in another unit.

It was cool that I got roomed with a guy I did two years before. It made it a little easier for me. After a few weeks, I started to understand that I really did care about my mom dying. I realized it almost a year after she died. I know that's kind of sad though on my part.

When I get out I'm going to get her signature tattooed over my heart. My boss told my girl that when I get out that I'd still have my job, which made me happy.

I ended up getting detained my first court date and a week later got transferred to the max unit. It was cool 'cause all the staff was really chilled.

I tried to start my GED, but they kept postponing the date. So I'm not going to be able to start it. I'm going to try for my diploma when I get out.

I have never got a discipline and I'm getting out on Saturday in two days. I can do one hundred pushups in a row now. I'm more appreciative of my clothes and food now.

I have thought of a lot of ways to stay focused when I get out. I am proud to have met David (from The Beat) because he told me to write this story of my life. It has taken a lot of weight off my shoulders.

Read more of the Beat Within here.

Picture via Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

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