It’s a prison for hard crime juveniles.

Being behind actual iron bars, watched 24 hours, and required to follow procedures is almost like the boarding school life I had. Food is repetitive and tasteless. Any show of weakness is an invitation to fight. A win leads to guilt, and loss leads to shame. Boys have a hierarchy of their own. Win or loss, silence is the best strategy. Bragging invites bullies to beat you up, bleeding invites everyone to beat you up. All the senses stand guard all the time. Boys learn to read the picture: eyes, movement, groups, actions, sounds, and silence all transmit a code.

The prison I am to serve is for youth who have committed serious crimes including murder. The responsibility I carry is to share how prison time is the best of times to gain knowledge, acquire skills, and learn to trust. For young people who are alive because they learned to fight on the streets of New York, Miami, or Denver. For many gangs were not a choice. They were a survival mechanism. Many broke laws because the laws did not protect them. Violence was their shield and sword.

My book has its work cut out. It has to be a bridge to hope, a ladder for growth, and a mirror for trust. My school and my life have hardened me to take this fight to knock out fear, anxiety, guilt, and shame in the youngsters unsure of their future.

I wasn’t in jail, but I know the drill. If I could rise from the darkness of no guidance, ignorance, errors, fights, and recovery to light the path from small stages and large, to share my mentors’ lessons to thread needles in the skies in the middle of firestorms, these youth can do anything they set their mind to do. Their jail is better than my boarding school. It holds people accountable for their progress.

It is indeed a grand blessing to shine a light on paths for youth so that they can forge a glorious destiny. If you have suggestions to empower such damaged youth who are on the mend or you have a job for them let me know.

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