Excerpt from Driftwood Chapter 7
Context: Age 13. 10 minutes into my stay in foster care, I was told that the only way I would be leaving is Jail, a mental Hospital, or a group home if I was lucky. My first stop was Jail. My charge: Battery. The Reason: A bat flew out of my hand while I was playing baseball and hit a special needs kid. A staff member who didn’t like me convinced the kid I did it on purpose.
I can’t go too much into what everything was like in Fulton County at this point because I wouldn’t end up there for another 3 years. But I have to say that as bad as everything I experienced in DeKalb County, in just about every aspect, the DeKalb County system was better than Fulton’s overall. There is one area where DeKalb fell short, the jail. While Fulton county jail was more of a juvenile hall with cable TV and single bed “cells” that had windows and doors that stayed open for us to go around in the day area etc. DeKalb was built and ran like a maximum-security prison.
Remember I mentioned that when I was like in 2nd grade, they built this huge jail in the middle of a black suburb in Decatur and the whole area went to shit, well they made sure to include a prison complex for the kiddos. We were “super-criminals” you know. The good thing is, I was only there for a day or two, so I didn’t really have any “experiences” there. I’ll walk you through what I do remember from it.
Intake— Typical intake minus the facility tour. I sat in a holding area for like ever before being taken to be strip-searched, including a squat and cough which was particularly humiliating. Then I was handed the burning shampoo and the Bob Barker special then hosed down, like literally hosed down. The shower was an open area the size of a closet with a drain on the floor that I was warned not to poop in. It had a little metal showerhead that poked out of the wall and it sprayed with a force that was so strong, it hurt.
I was asked if I was a danger to my self or others. I was like “what,” the intake cop rephrased and asked if I was suicidal. I told him no, to which he replied, “good cause if you were, we’d have to throw you in a cell naked with no sheets.” That threat, by the way, is because most kids knew that if you find yourself in a bind, all you have to do is say you’re suicidal and you’ll get sent to the Georgia Regional Mental Hospital. Not ideal, but better than jail.
Sleeping Arrangements— The cells were tiny, like about the size of the cubicles at the shelter. Each had a bed and one of those toilet-water fountain-sink combos. They were clearly made for one person each cell. When I was there, they had 2 kids per cell. I was “lucky” that they weren’t overcrowded to the point where I would have to sleep in the day room. No, instead I got to sleep on a matt on the floor somewhere between under my cell-mates bed and toilet. I awoke the first night to a giant cockroach crawling across my face and my roommate taking a massive dump.
Daily Rundown— Wake up, go for chow in the mess hall. Prison food, disgusting. No talking. To and from the mess hall girls would hide and pick up notes hidden in random places which were the primary method of communicating with the boys. They somehow managed to hold whole ass relationships just in the brief glimpses the groups got of each other through when entering or exiting the cafeteria and school. Like they fell in love, cheated on each other, broke up all through tiny little notes they hid in schoolbooks, and in the corners of windows.
After breakfast, back to cells, then school typical here are some books “teach yourself” scenario. They didn’t even bother with the pretense of organizing class time. Then back to the unit area for an hour or so out of our cages. This is where the magic happened. This is where girls who had been “turned out” (i.e. child sex trafficking victims) would recruit other girls for their pimps. Like giving each other their pimps phone numbers, especially for girls who were about to get out. It was a pretty solid recruitment strategy. Everyone talked about the horrors of foster care (the vast majority of the kids there were in foster care) and how their “daddies” were nice and took care of them.
Their daddies would take care of you too. I mean hell, half of those girls had already been raped or molested by foster parents and/or facility staff members at least they would now have a choice in their sexual exploitation and… you know…the promise that someone was going to take care of them. As fucked up as this sounds, in Fulton County, the pimps walked right on the shelter campus to “recruit” girls. You’ve heard of the issue of girls being sex trafficked in foster care, right? Well, direct recruitment was just one of the ways. Not even the most effective. I’ll get into some others later. Anyway, after the prostitution speed networking it was back to school, then lunch, then back to your cells then an hour again outside of your cells (that’s 2 hours total by the way. 5 if you count “school” and meals). Then back to your cells for the remainder of the evening.