Words can’t explain what I went through in the adult system. Tears hardly express the pain and discomfort of being judged as a criminal. At the age of sixteen I was charged as an adult with second degree murder of my grandmother. My grandmother had a heart attack after an argument between us. I was charged with her death and sent to the Baltimore City Detention Center where I was held for 11 months. As a juvenile charged as an adult, I lacked the rehabilitation I needed. I was allowed to attend school but only if the correctional officer felt it was necessary. This setting was beginning to take its toll on me. I saw violent acts committed inside the jail. I was held in solitary confinement for 36 days without contact with anyone besides the adult inmates who delivered my tray.
If they are eligible a juvenile charged as an adult can petition the court to be transferred to the juvenile system. If accepted, the juvenile gets transferred to juvenile court. I had my chance twice but I was denied both times. I accepted a plea bargain and plead guilty to a lesser charge so I would be able to be treated in the juvenile system. For me this meant one day closer to home. I pled to involuntary manslaughter and I was sent to Thomas J. S. Waxter Children’s Center where I spent 4 ½ months. Then I was sent to Mid-Atlantic Youth Services in Emlenton, PA where I spent 6 ½ months. During this time rehabilitation was key. Because I had an endured such a tragic time in my life, I needed rigorous rehabilitation. I was dealing with the trauma of being thrown in adult jail and of losing my grandmother. I needed someone to talk to, like a mentor, which was not provided in the adult system. My grandmother was my mom and my grandfather was my dad. It was very hurtful for society to think that I was a threat or would harm my parent.
Being charged as an adult had a big impact on my future. I had a felony and was not able to apply for school, jobs, or government benefits. Later I had all my charges disputed. The juvenile system gave me what I need to be successful and be a leader in my community. Now I work for Community law and in Action as Assistant Youth Organizer, working to stop the automatic prosecution of youth charged as adults in Maryland.
-Jabriera H., Assistant Youth Organizer, Just Kids Partnership
*Jabriera has been nominated for the “We Have a Dream Award” by the Baltimore City Youth Commission. If you would like to vote for her visit their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/TheBaltimoreCityYouthCommission and “like” Jabriera’s photo under “posts by others.”
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