Who am I? To the naked eye I am just another young black male growing up in Baltimore City. To those who know me I am a musician, a father figure to my nieces and nephews, a brother and a great person. Few people know exactly who I am and why I am who I am. I am a walking example of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to the adult criminal justice system properly rehabilitating youth who fall victim to the laws that get them automatically prosecuted in adult court.
Like most youth who grew up where I did, I was a child who ended up getting into trouble with the law at a very young age. I was charged as an adult at 15 years old. At 16, I was convicted and thrown into prison as if there was no more hope left for me. My options for bettering myself in prison were limited. Nothing about the criminal justice system rehabilitated me. To be honest, it put me in a position where it was easier to get into trouble. I had to adapt to an environment that forced me to be alert, defensive and prepared at all times, not a frame of mind conducive to rehabilitation.
My mentor introduced me to Just Kids while I was incarcerated. When I came home, I was educated, trained and put in a position to be a part of the solution to stop charging kids as adults. This is what I dedicate my life to today. Prison did not fix me; it is not designed to fix children. My support system on the outside is what made sure I came through my situation with my sanity and came out of it a better person.
Many of the youth who were incarcerated with me are still in the same frame of mind. They had no support system and have returned to their community with additional barriers to their success. They did not have the opportunity that I had. They were simply thrown into a cage as punishment for their actions instead of being provided with the necessary help to get them on the right path. I will continue to walk in direction I am going because I love what I do. I don’t just speak about it because it sounds good, I do it because I want to help those who have also fallen victim to the system and show them there is a different way.
-Kevin R., Just Kids Youth Leader