Don’t call us, we’ll call you

June 2, 2009

“I have a kid out there”

Meet Michael, a 19-year-old African American from the South side of Chicago.  He never met his mother.  He barely knew his father.  He spent the first years of his life with his paternal grandmother, who would sometimes give him “whoopins.”  Starting at age nine, he moved in and out of group homes, with the occasional juvy stint beginning at age 10.  At 15, he got his own apartment through the state’s independent living program for foster kids.  And, in his own words, “from there on I’ve been in jail.”   [NOTE: My questions are italicized.]

So are there things that as you leave [jail] that you want to try to do differently than you’ve done in the past?

Ah yeah.  I mean, just basically I’ma keep on, keeping track of my goals, you know.  I have a kid out there.  Just thinking what’s the most important to me.

And what would you say is the most important thing to you?

Family.  Think about them, think about my family.  Keep going to school, keep working.  I shouldn’t have time to mess up.

Do you have a son or a daughter?

It’s a girl.

How old is she?

She will be born in January.

Do you have any particular resources or strategies you plan to use when you get out to help you get back into everything and transition?

I’m gonna to either go to the hospital, go to their parenting classes.  Or I know the Clinic, they got a lot of parenting things, I go to there. . . . I’m gonna try to get a couple jobs and not too much worry about what I’m wearing [the area he is most tempted to spend his money].

I kinda, just the first, like, she [his girlfriend] told me she was pregnant I kinda put away money.  The baby money and trying not to touch it.  I have touched it, but I try not to.

Michael is just one example of the people that surprise you, even astonish you.  Some of the men we met don’t pay much attention to the flesh-and-blood children they have living down the street from them.  And the ones that do are usually older, thirties and forties.  They’ve taken years to get their “craziness” out and decide that they want to leave a better legacy for their children than criminal behavior or drug addiction.  But here is a 19 year old, planning for his baby girl, not to be born for another five months [this was in August].  And not just any 19 year old, but one who has never experienced a loving, intact family.

So you tell me, how do you decide that family is the most important thing when you’ve barely even seen it?  How do you decide that jail is not for you anymore, when it’s about all you’ve experienced in your 19 years?



  1. Wow. What a life. I hope he continues with that same attitude.

    Comment by Kjell — June 3, 2009 @ 12:33 am

  2. …when you know how horrible it is without one.

    Love your pieces Linds. …but I say that every time so it’s nothing new. 🙂 Love ya.

    Comment by Audrey — June 3, 2009 @ 2:48 am

  3. I really enjoy reading these! I’m fascinated by their lives. I wish I could find out what happens to them.

    Comment by Jenn — June 4, 2009 @ 10:46 pm

  4. Interesting interview. Sometimes it amazes me that people aren’t worse with all the baggage they have had to carry.

    Comment by Rachel — June 5, 2009 @ 3:11 pm

  5. I’ll be thinking about that tonight…

    Comment by Nikki — June 7, 2009 @ 12:49 am

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