top of page

By Mauro C. Souza


Sitting on the cold, dirty floor of the city jail was a teenage girl. Her blonde hair was messy, her face between her hands as if she wanted to hide it from everyone. She was 16 years old. Her name, Susan. Was she crying? Was she confused and depressed?

In the jail cell beside her, another girl, she likes to be called, Mary Jo. She stood resting against the wall of that dirty place. A strand of her pretty and purple hair was wrapped loosely around her finger, and her face shone with boredom.

'I'm sorry,' Susan said. 'I got you involved in my problems. I shouldn't have done that.'

'Susan!' the girl breathed as if she'd already said dozens of times, 'You did nothing wrong.'

Susan raised her head and looked straight at Mary Jo. 'You went with me to the store and helped me to steal, and now this thing will go on your record as well.'

So what?' Mary Jo asked. The strand of her hair fell back into place as she moved her head towards Susan. 'One petty arrest won't hurt. We are here for one reason only; we were hungry, and we haven't eaten a decent meal for days.'

What about your plans? Your dreams? This arrest could cost you your future. I don't want to be the one who ruined your future.' Susan's voice trailed off. She was sad.

Suddenly, a silence fell over them as Mary Jo tried to say something more cheerful. 'Well, you're important to me.' She slid her back on the wall and sat down on the floor. 'There is a handful of many possibilities for you and for me. Besides, we still have a couple of years before it really matters. The problem is now, we are away from our families, we have no money, and your problems are also my problems.'

Susan listened quietly. She wanted to cry. Her bottom lip trapped between her teeth while a single tear rolled over her face. 'Promise?'

Promise what?' asked Mary Jo.

'Promise me that when you say it's not my fault and everything will be okay, you mean it.' Susan looked at Mary Jo with her eyes, clouded by tears.

Mary Jo smiled. She got up, walked towards Susan and gave her a tight hug. They crossed the two little fingers and then she said, 'I promise.'

'On any given day, over 48,000 youth in the United States are confined in facilities away from home as a result of juvenile justice or criminal justice involvement. Most are held in restrictive, correctional-style facilities, and thousands are held without even having had a trial.' (Prison Policy Initiative)

bottom of page