Oakland, CA — I was only locked up in juvenile hall for a short time. But honestly, it changed my whole perspective on life. When I walked in, they showed me to my cell. It was a small room — with the bed and toilet right next to each other.
I was let out for quick showers, rec time, and meals. The food wasn’t good at all. I didn’t want to eat. And the other kids in there were hard. I kept my head down to avoid any problems.
Before I was locked up, everything was going downhill. I was sleeping in a truck. I wasn’t in school.
So, behind bars, I had a lot of time to think. I told myself, "This is not the life you want to live.” I realized I needed to be my own person. And alone, in that cell, I found myself.
Juvenile hall let me hit the reset button on life. When I came out, they placed me in school. From the first day, when the teacher said, “This is Aaron, he’s the new student,” things felt right. I made friends. My personality changed. I became open and more positive. I realized all those years, when I didn’t have stable housing and was out of school, I was isolated from my peers.
Several months after I was let out of juvenile hall, I moved to a group home… I know a lot of people have bad experiences in group homes. But for me, it’s been great. This feels like my first real home in a long time. There are staff members I can talk to. Every night, I sit down for dinner with other residents. There are some guys in here I call my brothers.
I know I got back in school and into housing, in part, because I was incarcerated. But it shouldn’t take a stint in juvie for someone like me to get the services in place to thrive.
Now, I’m on track to graduate from high school. And I feel very hopeful about my future. I know I’m going to go far.