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By Samuel Hawkins
I had run away from the group home where I was living at. I had been gone for a few days. I was having fun, running around the streets, missing school, going to arcades, stealing what I wanted to, riding the public transit buses and exploring the city. I spent the nights alone, sleeping in emergency rooms of hospitals, or at the airport. To me, at 10 years old, these were safe, well-lit places in which no one would bother to question my presence.
Being alone meant loneliness, sadness. Sometimes this was expressed in tears. To be so young and unable to go home, not wanting to go back to the group home, yet wishing I had a warm place to go; a normal home, people that loved me, made me envious of children and families I saw around me. But even still, the streets were better than the group home. I hated that place. I ran away as often as I could.
I was in the Terrace and it was late and dark and the community center had closed. Other kids had gone home, and this was the worst time for me; the time when my thoughts forced me to face my reality. I had a few dollars in my pocket. Maybe 10-15, which was a lot back then, especially to most kids my age. went to the mini-mart on the corner, right outside the projects. I bought a hot link sandwich, and some jojo potatoes. I ate these as I stepped out and looked around. Where was I going to go?
I knew behind me was Juvenile Hall, nearby, but they wouldn't be looking for me. They would only keep you after you got caught. I knew there were a few hospitals in that direction. But just to be safe, I went across the bridge, to the V.A. Hospital. It was around 10pm when I got there. I walked through the parking lot, looking for the Emergency Room. It was unusually dark. The hospital looked like a castle, sitting on the side of the hill. I had never stayed here before, but I figured that all big hospitals were the same.
When I found the entrance sign I was looking for, I entered and was shocked to see an almost empty waiting room. It wasn't as bright, or crowded as the other Emergency rooms that I had stayed in. Nevertheless, I was exhausted, physically and emotionally. So I asked the nurse at the desk where the bathroom was. I did this because in my mind, once she had seen me she would think I was there with someone, since I had walked up to the desk. She pointed me in the direction of the bathroom, but didn't even smile at me. I went to the bathroom, but was a little nervous about the nurse. When I came out I sat down in the waiting area, and watched TV for a little while, before drifting off to sleep. I woke up to someone shaking me. It was a security guard and the nurse was standing next to him. They were both looking down at me.
"Who are you waiting for?"
I was still half asleep. I just looked at the guard. I was going to get up and leave, but he told me to sit back down. I was too tired to argue or run. He spoke into his walkie-talkie, and in less than five minutes the police werethere. They escorted me to the police car, and put me in the back seat. I sat there looking out of the window, as the police talked to the security guard, and the nurse.
When they were done, the police came back to the car and got in. They questioned me about who I was. I was tired, and just wanted to go to sleep. I told them my name, and they called it in and determined that I was a runaway. I thought that they would take me back to the group home. I knew that meant I would have to go through the process of 'shadow' and 'sight' sanctions. Shadow meant I would have to follow the staff around, being a shadow for a period of time: usually a week, followed by another week of being on sight. Shadow was the worst, because I couldn't talk or sit down, so my feet hurt a lot. Oh well, I knew the routine.
I sat back in the police car and looked out the window as we pulled out of the hospital parking lot, into the dark streets. I watched as we passed the streets I had just been on. We passed the Terrace projects, and the corner store where I had bought my last meal. I was still full, that was a blessing. The police car began to slow down, and I paid close attention, as we stopped and the turn signal came on. We were at the juvenile detention center.
I was caught between two emotions. I was happy, and scared. I had heard about this place from other kids that had been here. But they were older than I was. And I had never been here. But I was also happy that I wasn't going back to the group home. Maybe they wouldn't want me back. Then my moms could come and get me. I thought of everything. What if I got beat up here? Or worse? I knew what they said about little kids in juvie. I would call my moms and tell her where I was at. She would come and get me. This was jail, for kids, so I would get a free phone call.
The car had turned into the driveway, and we were stopped at an electronic fence, waiting for it to open. I was sitting up, alert, watching as that electronic fence opened. I didn't know it then, but that gate had swallowed up many children, and didn't spit them out until they were old enough to be kept, behind the bigger and stronger gates of prison. Everything you needed there... you would learn here.
The police car rolled through, and stopped while the gate closed behind us. Then we pulled up along side a door that had writing on it and windows that were tinted. The officers got out, and walked up to some mailbox-like compartments in the wall. They took their guns off and put them in them, and locked them. They returned to the car, and opened the door. I got out, small, scared, and began having regrets about running away. I had no idea what was on the other side of that door.
The police escorted me to the door and we stood there waiting for someone to open it. I looked up at a camera watching us. I was startled by the loud cracking sound of the door as it popped open. One of the police reached forward and opened it. He stepped to the side holding the door and I knew that was a sign for me to go inside. I stepped through the door. It was bright, and I looked around, taking in my surroundings.
A short older woman walked towards us and asked the police if I was Samuel Hawkins. They said, "That's him, all ten years of him. Kinda quiet." I just watched as I was being discussed as though I couldn't speak for myself.
The lady told me, "Come with me Samuel." I followed her, and we turned down a hallway. There were doors on both sides, and they had little squares with fences in the middle. She told me to take my shoes off. I didn't know why, but I did. I saw other shoes by the doors, and then I saw faces looking out. The lady opened the door, and there was a number 6 on it. I stepped inside, and it closed behind me.
I heard the door lock behind me. I was in Juvie. This was jail for kids. I looked around the room, still too young to call it a cell. There was a bench with carpet on it. Names scratched on the walls. But before I could investigate further, I heard voices. They were talking, calling me.
"Hey, you, that just came in."
What's your name?"
"Sam. Who are you?"
"Will. What you here for?"
I wasn't sure what he meant, but I thought he wanted to know what I was in the juvenile for. "What you mean?"
"Aww man, what did they get you for?"
"I got caught for breaking in a house."
"Aww man, you gonna be here til you go to court."
I asked Will, "What are you in here for?"
"Aww man, they got me for car theft and joyriding."
It was funny. Will always said “Aww man.”
I asked him, "If I have to stay here, will I stay in this room?"
"Naw man, this is “admissions,” like intake. You will go upstairs, to one of the other units. Jr. Boys, Alder North, Alder South. Or down to Spruce East or Spruce West." Then he asked me, "How old are you?"
Before I thought about what I said, I replied "Ten."
"Aww man, you just a baby, they gonna put you in Jr. Boys."
"How old are you?" I asked.
Then Will said to me, "You might get out, if you got somebody to come pick you up."
I didn't know what he meant. But he said I might get out. "What do you mean if I got somebody to come pick me up?"
"Aww man, you know, your moms or dads, whoever your guardian is."
Again I didn't know what he meant by “guardian,” but that didn't matter. I Knew my moms would come pick me up; at least I thought she would. My feet hurt from standing up, but I liked talking to Will. I was learning about this place, and it was better than sitting here by myself. I wanted to know more about this place. I asked Will, "What's it like upstairs?"
"Aww man, it's awright. In Jr. Boys, that's where they gonna put you, they let you go to the gym in the morning and at night. And in the afternoon you go to school. At night they give you a snack."
I didn't believe him about the snack, but I didn't say nothing. He was still talking, but I called his name. "Will, how many other kids are up there?"
"Aww man, usually like twenty or thirty."
"Do you know anybody up there?" I asked.
"Aww man, my little brother is up there right now. My other brother is here somewhere too."
I wondered if they always said 'aww man' before they said something too. Then I thought that it was sure messed up that all of them were in here. But instead of saying any of that I asked, "What's your little brother name?"
"Aww man my little brother's name is C.C., and my other brothers name is Cris. If you see C.C., tell him I just got here today and I am probably gonna get 'sent up' this time. Tell him I said to get out and stay out of trouble too."
I didn't know what sent up meant. "What do you mean you probably gonna get sent up?"
"My probation officer told me if I get in any more trouble I'm gonna get sent up to the institution. That's like prison for kids. I was already at a 'camp', but got out last year. I'm still on probation for that. So this time I'm goin big time, probably to the 'Lane' or the 'Hill'."
Camp sounded like fun, but I didn't want to go to the hill. Prison for kids. I would go to prison if I could go where my pops was. But if I couldn't go be with him, I didn't want to go any place like that. Will, told me he would talk to me later. He was going to go lay down.
I looked around the room. There were names and dates written on the walls. I read them all. Some I had seen on the buses, written on the windows. They had special writing. Symbols like crowns, and faces with bandannas tied across them, and hand holding spray paint cans. I didn't know what it all meant but the same things were on the walls here. I finally went over to the bench and lay down. It didn't take long and I was asleep. I didn't know how long I had been asleep when I woke up. Someone was knocking on the door. "Are you ready to go upstairs?" a voice said. I jumped up, and heard the door unlocked, it opened, and the staff, a really tall dark skinned man told me to grab my shoes. I picked them up. There were two other kids waiting along the wall. I didn't think either of them was Will. Then I heard Will say my name.
"Sam, man, don't forget to tell my little brother what I said."
"Put your shoes on, you can't carry your shoes around," said the staff. I looked at him, squatted down and slipped my shoes on. He turned and pushed a button by the door. It popped open, and he began walking through the door. The last thing I heard was "Aww man". Will must have been talking to somebody else. I followed the other two kids, who were whispering to each other, as we all followed the staff down a hallway. I was looking around noticing everything. There were a lot of doors, and hallways. We passed a room. The lights were out but I could tell it was a library, because of all the books on shelves. Finally we made it to the end of the hallway. We stopped at another door.
Another button was pushed, and it popped open. We were in a stairwell. As we went up the first flight of steps I saw a camera, with a red light watching us. Then another flight and we were at another door. This one popped open without anyone pushing the button. They were definitely watching us. We exited the stairwell, and were in another hallway. A short distance away were two doors and we stopped there. I could see down the hall there were more doors. A lady and a big man, like a football player, came out and took us in the door. This must have been Jr. Boys, I thought. They made us sit down on another bench with carpet on it. They went in a little booth, and sat down. The other two boys were talking to each other again. "Have you been here before?" I asked them.
One of them said "Yeah."
The other one said "Nah."
I looked at the one that said he had been here before and asked, "Is this Junior Boys?"
The lady called out the door, "Yarborough."
The boy who said he hadn't been here before got up and went to the office. I didn't know what they said to him, but he went down a hallway, and the lady was right behind him.
"Where are they going?" I asked the other boy who was left sitting on the bench with me.
"To get his clothes, and take a shower. Then he will get his blankets, and go to his cell."
This was the first time that I thought about being in a “cell.” I was too young to understand the implications of what this meant. What it would do to me and how it would change me. All I thought about was being able to tell my friends that I had been to juvie. They would all want to know what it was like. None of the kids at the group home had been to juvie, and they were mostly older than I was by at least a year or two. I thought about Tyrone and Jerome. They had beat up a staff at the group home and I knew they’d come to juvie. I wondered if they were still here, or maybe they had got 'sent up' like Will said.
"Andrews,” said the other staff who came out of the office closing the door behind him. “Back again huh?"
"Yeah, for a probation violation. I was out past my curfew. I'll probably get ten or fifteen days."
He was still talking, but I couldn't hear what he said. He turned down the other hallway with the big staff. I sat there looking around the room that I was in. I could see a door with a window in it, then I looked the other way. There was a little room, like a phone booth with a phone; it didn't have a door though. We had walked past it when we came in. Then there was the booth where the staff had been. I was still looking around when I saw the lady staff come back out of the hallway. She looked at me, and said, "You must be ready to go.” I just looked at her. I didn't say anything. She looked over at me and smiled at me as she asked me if I wanted to sleep out here.
I said "No."
"Then let's go. You get to take a shower and then change clothes."
I got up and walked towards the first hallway. She had stepped inside the office and wrote something down, then came back out. I was standing at the entrance to the hallway. She walked past me. "Come on." We walked halfway down the hallway and stopped at a door. I was looking up and down the hall and there were doors like in 'admissions' with small square windows but instead of glass they had metal grates in them. The lady had opened the door and said, “You look like you need a small. What size shoes do you wear?"
"Four." I answered.
She handed me a rolled up towel and a pair of thongs. Then a black bag. "Put your clothes in here, they will wash them for you. Put your shoes in the pocket on the outside."
"Go take your shower now."
When I turned around, the boy that was with me when we’d come down this hallway was standing there holding another big black bag like the one I held. He had on a jumpsuit that was dark blue, and looked like the ones the people at the gas station wore sometimes. There was a zipper in the front, and a pocket on the chest. On the pocket was written in ink marker a big "S". I looked at him and then walked past him to take a shower.
I stepped in one of the showers, the second one, because it was dry. I began undressing and putting my clothes in the black bag. When I was standing there naked I looked at the shower, and there were no handles, no 'hot' or 'cold'. Just a button, so I pushed it. The water came on. It was warm and I was standing under the water, happy that I wasn't at the group home, thinking that it wasn't so bad here. When the water shut off, I picked up the towel roll and unrolled it. When I did, a pair of underwear, t-shirt and socks fell out. I hurried to pick them up so they wouldn't get wet. I put them on and then put the jumpsuit on. It was too long. My thongs didn't fit well with my socks on. I reached back into the shower and picked up the towel that I had stood on to get dressed. I carried the bag back to the little room where the lady gave my clothes. The door was closed. I walked down the hallway and saw someone in the window of a door.
"You just get in?"
I stopped at the end of the hallway. The lady was in the booth, writing something. "Hawkins, come here." I walked to the booth door. I was still carrying my bag. My jumpsuit pant legs were under my thongs. "I'm going to put you in cell 10, tonight. That has two other boys in it. Okay. If you want a cell by yourself they can move you tomorrow."
"Okay." I said.
The lady asked me if I had my clothes. The bag with my clothes in it was still in my hand. I handed it to her. She put it in the office, next to the other two bags. Then she handed me a blanket that was rolled up. We were in the hallway and at the first door we stopped. She looked inside, and then she went back to the booth. The door popped open. I stepped inside and shut the door. I looked around the room. There were two people in the beds; both of them had been asleep. "I just got here,” I told them. “They told me I'll only be here for tonight." I didn't know why I was compelled to say this. Probably for waking them up.
One of the boys sat up. "Where you from?"
"What do you mean?" I answered.
"Like where do you live?"
"I stay in a group home right now, but my moms lives in Renton."
"How long have you been here?" I asked.
"A couple of weeks now. But I was only out for a few days. I just did thirty days."
"Do you know C.C.?"
"Yeah, I know him. He is down the hall, in six house."
"I just saw his brother in admissions. He told me to tell him he was probably going to get 'sent up'."
"We'll see him when we come out for breakfast."
"What time is that?" I asked.
"We get up at six forty five, and go to breakfast at seven thirty. What time was it when you came in?"
"I got arrested at ten thirty. But I don't know how long I was downstairs.”
He got out of bed and went to the window. He looked out and said, "It's almost one o'clock." I put my blanket roll on the bed when I came in. Now I unrolled it. I still had trouble making my bed, so I just rolled up in my blanket. I lay there for a little while thinking before I fell asleep. This place wasn't so bad. But I had just got here. It was better than the group home. But I really wanted to be at home with my moms. I missed her. I wanted to cry, but I didn't want anyone to hear me. I rolled over and covered my head. The tears were there. Even though I tried to control them they still found the freedom that I didn't have. That was how I went to sleep, that first night in juvie. I didn't even know my roommates names.
|Samuel Hawkins 706212|
Washington State Penitentiary
1313 N. 13th Avenue
Walla Walla, WA 99362
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