This entry is part of an upcoming book telling the story of Talib’s life behind bars and his eventual return to society. By sharing his personal story, he hopes to shed light on the issues faced by many youth today, and the problems faced by juveniles sentenced as adults as they make their way through the prison system, rehabilitation, and reentry. All blog posts which are exerts from this forthcoming book are categorized under “Talib’s Story“.
How things began…
Have you ever wonder what it is like in prison? I mean what is it really like. After having watched so many TV show and movies that depict prison as this very violent and gruesome place you many think that you have an idea but i can tell you that you that if you have never been to prison that is all that you have, an idea. yes there is a certain amount of crime and violence that happens in prison but no more than what happens in your neighborhood. In fact you stand a greater chance of being assaulted and victimized in your neighborhood than you do in any penal institution.
So if this is the case, why is prison shown in this light, as a violent place that contains the worst of the worst of society. could it be that it is depicted like this to make people feel good about the inhumane and abusive conditions that may exist behind the prison walls? if you show people acting like animals it makes all the sense to keep them caged as such. well what you are about to read is what prison is like for me and you may be surprised by what you read.
this is not another story of prison violence and conspiracy theories as to why the system is the way that it is. rather this is a story of a guy that came to prison at 17, as a teenager, and became a man in prison, or shall i say an adult. this is not meant to be a lengthy write-up with all the fancy grammar that you get when you read most books from current prisoners or ex offenders. if that is what you are looking for this is not the book for you.
even though i don’t intend to got into depth with my offense, and crime in general, it is important that i do give you a little insight into that part of my life so that you will have a clear picture and understanding of who i am, what i have endured and what i have become.
my first run in with the law was at 13, i was arrested for carrying a gun without a license and unregistered ammunition. how did that come about? i grew up in Washington, DC, at the time when DC was the murder capital of the US and it was a dangerous time for the young people of DC. i remember one day waiting at the bus stop waiting to get on the bus and a group of guys jumped out of a old and beat up station wagon and tried to hold me up at gun point with a 22 rifle. that was a turning point for me and i decided that i was never going to be caught like that again, without protection. so i got a gun and carried that gun with me everywhere i went.
one night on the way to a party some friends and i were pulled over by the police and the car was searched. when we got out the car i took off running to try and ditch the gun that i was carrying. i made it to the alley and was cut off by another police cruiser. the officer that was chasing me caught up to me and beat the the hell out of me for running, cuffed me up, threw me in the back of a patty wagon and took me to the station. i was a bloody mess so they didn’t process me right away, they just sat me in the holding cell, where i dozed off at. after about 2 hours i was booked and charged as a juvenile and transported to DC General hospital where i stayed over night for observation. the next morning i was sent to court and released to the custody of my father. that was my first run in with the law and what stands out the most is the ass whipping that i got that night.
about 2 months after that i was hanging out with some friends at the time and the police jumped out on us. they searched to area and found some crack bagged up and i happened to be the closest to the drugs and got the beef. i was cuffed up, sent to the precinct and charged with possession with intent to distribute cocaine, drugs that didn’t even belong to me. i have never been one to tell on others so i took that beef on the chin and dealt with it.
i think i stayed out of major trouble for the following year. i just spent that year going back and forth to court for the gun and cocaine charge. but during the end of that year something major happened and i left DC and went to stay with my mother in Compton Ca. that didn’t pan out good in the end and i was in deeper trouble as now i was a fugitive for those other cases. i decided to go back to DC and face the music and that is what i did. i went to court and a deal was presented to me to plead out to the gun and the drug case would be dismissed. so that is what i did. growing up i always did well in school, when i went, and even was skipped several grades so because of that the judge thought that i would be a waste to just send me to the youth facility so he sentenced me a group home but part of that meant that i had to go to the youth facility to be diagnosed for the right home. so i was stepped back and that night found myself going to cedar knoll youth center.
i will never forget that night. it was in the month of october and the weather was chilly and it got dark early at that time of the year. the bus left the court house around 6 that night and i remember riding on this dark bus listening to the quiet storm. in fact one of my favorite songs was playing when the bus pulled up to the joint, pretty brown eyes by mint condition. that was a favorite song of mine and still is.
on that bus was another guy that i had a fight with in school and he was being held there on a charge of murder. i remember the case and the event that took place clearly. he had this look on his face that spoke anger and i guess that is what he read on my face as well because ironically we were sitting across from each other and squashed that beef as a misunderstanding and later we ended up being real good friends and grew real tight in the youth center. i guess you can say that we both knew that the other packed a mean punch and would fight to the end if need be. he is no longer here with us on this side, he was killed a few years ago, they say you live by the gun you die by the gun and that is how he died, by the gun of someone else. although he is no longer here he is still regarded highly by many good men.
well we pull up and have to get of the bus and unshackled, yes they shackle and handcuff even juveniles, with the belly chain and all. so as we get off the bus and are going through process we here this loud ruckus and it is a big ass guy who was a juvenile fighting the counselors. i could not believe the size of this kid! he and another partner of his was fighting the counselors in a all out brawl. the crazy thing is that the big kid had a bad arm and the other kid had one leg but they were fighting like hell. being the skinny 130 lb kid that i was at the time made me think of ways that i needed to equalize things in the event i found myself in a altercation at some point.
well after being processed we were taken to what were called cottages, another name for units, and given our bedrolls and outfits and locked in single cells. the cell that i was in was dirty and there was all types of graffiti on the walls were guys would put their streets and neighborhoods on the walls and write all type of stuff about all types of things. since this was the case and seemed to be the trend it was only natural that i put my name and ‘hood’ on the wall.
that unit was a intake unit and a few days later i was taken to the unit that i was assigned to. those early days were rough and i had many fights. the juveniles can be a hard crowd and the new guy was always the one who had to prove that he wasn’t soft and could hang with the rest of the gang. the first fight that i had was the first night in that cottage, in the shower. see the shower was were ones manhood was tested. not sexually but in the sense that every crew had a shower and if you were not from that crew you could not get ‘wet’ as we called it, so the weaker guys had to wash up in the sinks. the intake unit was on a different schedule so we had taken our showers earlier in the day so when i got to bunche cottage i didn’t need a shower. i didn’t know the rules of the joint so when it was shower time and everybody went to the showers i stayed in my cell writing a letter.
i was in my cell when i overheard a guy saying something to the nature that i must be a chump and scared to get in the water. when i heard this i got naked and put on my boots and went straight to the shower that he was in and told him to get out. he looked at me like i was playing and smirked so i took a soapy rag and smacked him in the face and beat blood out of him. when he hit the floor i started kicking him with the boots while all of his partners looked on. it happened so fast that no one had the time to react to it. after i finished i got out the shower went back to my cell and changed into dry clothes and waited for what i thought was going to be a big fight, but nothing happened. the next day i came out of my cell and on the way to breakfast i got in the back of the line, we had to walk to the kitchen in a single file, and said nothing to nobody. after breakfast we walked to the school building where the buzz began about the night before. a few guys came up to me and were real respectful and as a result of that i fell in to the crowd of the respectable guys.
well i went through the diagnostic process and was waiting to leave when i was called early one morning to go to court. i had not idea what was in store when i was cuffed and shackled and put on that bus to go back to court. when i got to the court building i was escort to the homicide building and charged with the murder of a guy that was killed in my neighborhood. well that changed things drastically. the judge put a hold on me and would not allow me to go to the group home and subsequently i was sent to “oakhill” the youth center for violent offenders. oakhill was far worse and dangerous than cedar knoll but it was place that i could not avoid going to, those were the rules.
well i ended up over there for a year and the case was so cold and they had no real evidence that the judge in the gun case told the DA in the murder case that it was not acceptable for me to have to sit in jail on a case that they were guess at. so the DA asked that i be sent to a group home but out of state. that is how i ended up in the mountains of NY. after going to NY and being there for a couple of months the DA made a proposal to my lawyer that if i plead “involved” to that crime that i would not get more time and that the time that i did get would run with the time that i had for the gun and i would stay in NY and that would be that. to me that sounded like a deal. i was not pleading guilty but no contest and to me that was alright. plus i had about a year left on the gun case so i wasn’t worried about anything. in my mind i was going to do this one year in NY and go home.
well i did well in NY i was mainlined into the public school and since it was group home setting it is like being in a all boys school. they had a point system and rewards were given based on this system i am excelled so i had priviledges where i could go into the town unescorted and mix and mingle with the other teenagers that lived there, that were not in the group home. i made a lot of friends and did very well there, one could say that my future looked promising. despite all of this there was something missing and there was a longing for home, DC. so there were times when i would fall into the depressive state and when that happened i would just go off to myself and sulk. it was as if nobody understood me and to me the reality was that i didn’t need to get too comofortable because sooner than later i was going to have to go home and when i went i didn’t want my survival senses dulled by this peaceful mountain living that i was experiencing at the time.
this lasted for a year and during this year i experienced many new and exciting things but i always knew that it would soon be over. i look back and ask myself what went wrong. i think that what was never explained to me were the choices that i had to make and the options that were available to me. maybe they were pointed out but i never heard them. one thing that we got were home passes where we would go home to visit family and whenever i went home i felt distant but i was always welcomed so that feeling of not distance was replaced with the feeling of belonging, like hey you are home now enjoy it.
well one time i went home and things were not the same and very different. so when i went back after this pass i felt more disconnected with what was going on at school and the people there at the group home and started sneaking drinks. this progressed and as you can imagine my ability to make rational decisions were limited. one day i get this call from a family member and he is explaining to me things that are happening to him. so i make a drunken decision to go AWOL.