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Lessons From Juvenile Hall

It’s cold, dark and lonely. Three phone calls a day, curfew at 9, and the thought of never getting out is haunting. So many things rush through your mind while trying to comprehend how you got there or why. The sorrowful look in your parents’ eyes, the rumors that spread about what happened, the turning heads when you walk through the hallway, and it’s all because of one thing. For sophomore Elijah Andrade that one thing was juvenile hall.

On the morning of Sept. 7, Andrade and friends were out just looking for a quick bite, but things didn’t go as planned. He could not escape the repercussions of the night before when Andrade and his friends were out shooting BB guns at homeless people in the early morning.His plans to go out and eat were interrupted by him being cuffed and thrown into the back of a police car.

“I kept thinking to myself, ‘what did I do?’ ‘how could this happen?’” Andrade said.

Andrade said he was charged with explosives in the car that he wasn’t aware were there. He said the explosives belonged to his friends’ father who is in the military, and that’s why they would be in there.

“They (the police) called the bomb squad and that’s when I realized like ‘this is real,’” Andrade said.

Andrade got sentenced six months to a year for committing the crime he did. He says he wasn’t looking at the time, but he was just scared he was never going to get out. According to the Juvenile Justice Program nearly 1 million people under the age of 18 in the United States get arrested. Andrade said juvenile hall wasn’t as bad as he expected, but it was more stressful due to the certain rules he had to follow. Only being given a couple phone calls a day, two blankets, one toilet bowl, and a cell the size of six squares Andrade says, “being in there was like a wakeup call.”  

Being released after three weeks, things weren’t the same for Andrade. Having to be on probation, while dealing with failing grades, and relationship problems, not only in school but at home he thinks about what would’ve happened if things went differently. Andrade says he had scholarships on the line for soccer, but all that got taken away when he got arrested. Andrade will have to return to finish his sentence.

“I messed up,” Andrade said. “I lost the job I was working at to support my mom, and I’m failing all my classes.”

Andrade is working on bringing his grades up, but that doesn’t stop students and teachers around campus from turning their heads and referring to him as “the kid who got arrested.” He says his friends are supportive and don’t really bother him as much about it, and teachers are just happy he’s out.

Although Andrade found a light at the end of the darkness that came with going to juvie, for sophomore Monterrias Gooch, things afterward were not so simple. Gooch went into juvenile hall for an armed robbery, and he says it wasn’t something he was proud of.

“When I got out I tried finding a job and stuff,” Gooch said. “But, because of my felony no one really wanted me.”

Gooch says he lost a lot of opportunities when he went in to juvie, things like sports and similar to Andrade his grades slowly started to drop. He says his friends and teachers don’t look at him differently, yet he looks at himself differently. Gooch says not only did he let himself down but he felt he let his team and teachers down as well.

“I look at myself differently now,” Gooch said. “I could be out here playing sports but my mistakes took that away from me.”

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Lessons From Juvenile Hall