MMA Root

Teaching In A Boys’ Prison

“Cover !,” said the guard. Everyone fell to the ground and covered his head. I thought it was a drill of some sort and started doing the same but the probation officer who issued the order touched my hand and said, “not you, ma’am. So my first week in the tank went to the boys ’inmates of a prison in Southern California.

Walking through the gate after the gate surrounded by a razor wire, I wonder how the inhabitants were. Is this a full lock down facility or a registered version of a camp? Both places had young offenders whom educators call ‘youth at risk’.

The sheer size of some of my students was always scary. A 17-lb 17-year-old man can do a lot of damage. That’s what’s in this system here. Security is tight. Numerous officers are always on display. The smell of air of pepper spray and fragments of heroic energy left by the boys.

When a fight breaks out, lightning strikes quickly. Detainees know that guards will respond quickly but a few punks can be made. Shanks pose a danger – these are domestic spears. Another ‘weapon’ is a sock filled with rocks. That’s the atmosphere here: stay ready to fight.

I taught high school students in prison convicted of felonies. Some of them saw me as allies and tried to show me the ropes. Others tried to break me. I have never been around so many predators before. They could steal my eyelashes without me knowing. That’s how slippery they were.

There are usually 20 or so young men in uniform uniforms and shoes filed together, arms at the sides, arms apart. It is not a word spoken but the guard calling orders. Teachers were the only staff not in police uniform.

“GTA,” one of my students said. “I thought you would be curious why there is such a handsome man like me among all these gums.” As he was saying this, another student tried to crawl behind my desk to steal my lunch, again. Mr. Good Looking wanted to tell me that it was headed by Grand Theft Auto.

Some students fell for the use of drugs passing over the nearby US / Mexico border. The pay was five thousand dollars for drugs to be absorbed into your body and to avoid border patrols. I couldn’t find one boy who got the pay.

Their angry barriers were hard to penetrate. Staff reported that about 40% were psyche medications. A few people told me that they heard voices telling them what to do. I regret to think about what those voices said.

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