When I was 16 years old I was charged as an adult and held for 8 months in the Baltimore County Detention Center. It was my first time being locked up in an adult jail. I was scared and tried to stay out of people’s way, but in the Baltimore County jail there isn’t a wing just for juveniles. I was housed with adults and shared a cell with an adult man the entire time. The cell was a very small, a closed area with no privacy. To move by each other we had to move one at a time, saying ‘excuse me.’ To use the toilet we had to cover ourselves with a curtain. I spent 18 hours a day in my cell. The only time I was let out was for recreation and work. During my 8 months in jail, I was never given the option to go to school.
The public thinks charging youth as adults teaches them a lesson, but it doesn’t. Instead, it teaches them to be better criminals. Youth get smarter and wiser about crime because they learn from older guys who have been to prison. Some men in the adult system have nothing to lose because they know they are not going home. The adult inmates knew how to manipulate and break down a youths mind.
Youth housed in adult jail see a lot of violence and don’t know how to handle it. They had pad locks at the Towson Detention Center. I saw a man put a pad lock in a sock and beat another man over the head with it. I couldn’t even react. It is a terrible sight to see a man lying on the floor shaking with his head cracked open. In jail the rule is to mind your business. I had to learn to put it aside, even though it is always in my head.
My mind and body adapted to the jail environment in order to survive and make it out alive. I wanted the chance to go home. I felt caged in like an animal, and was fed like an animal through my cell door. Being locked in a cell most hours of the day made me feel like I was going crazy. I didn’t know when I would get out. I felt depressed, alone, and like there was no reason to live. I thought about suicide, this happens to a lot of kids especially to those who don’t get any visits or letters.
After 8 months in jail, my case was dropped. When I came out, the only support available was government benefits, but you have to be 18 to get them and I was only 16. I was put back on the street with nothing.
Kids aren’t just bad. There’s always a reason. When you throw a youth in adult jail you are not making them better, you are making them worse. In the adult system no one took the time to talk to me to see what was wrong. We need to know someone is there for us.
Adult jail is not an environment for juveniles. Youth should be held in the juvenile system where they can get the support they need to get better.
Heads up – The video below is NOT a Just Kids’ video. It is an ad.