This is my third post about working at the privatized kid jail and I find I have a lot of raw emotions still. Maybe I always will, as MLK said, quoting from the Bible,
“Until justice rolls down like a river
And righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
This is the story of Alphonse. He wasn’t one of my guys, he was from Dorm B, where anger seemed to be constantly spilling over into violence. I had a theory about this: You reap what you sow. Two women guards at Dorm B treated the boys like the scum of the earth; never missing a chance to humiliate them. My theory was: If you sow disrespect, you reap disrespect.
I arrived at work one morning at sunrise and heard screams and curses from Dorm B. Was it my any of my business? As I tried to answer that question, my feet carried me toward the mayhem. A boy was on the cement, his arm twisted behind his back and a guard’s knee on his spine. I said nothing, I just stood watching. The guards quickly got up and left me alone with this furious six-foot boy!
Oh great. Why did they leave? Did they have a guilty conscience? I didn’t know this boy. He scrambled to his feet and stood ten feet away on the lawn. He was shaking, his nose was running and he was bleeding from a scrape on his chin.
“What is your name?” No answer, clenched fists. I waited. I waited quite a while.
“I just would like to know your name.”
“That’s an unusual name.”
He stared hard at the ground, trying not to smile at my lame joke.
“Alphonse. I like that.”
“So what are you going to do?,” he asked, glancing at me sideways.
“I don’t know,” I answered truthfully. ” Talk a bit. Whatever you want.”
“I ain’t going back in there.”
“O.K. What is the plan, then?”
“I don’t know.”
Alphonse eventually walked back to his dorm with me, to face who knows what sort of “discipline” besides the inevitable addition of months to his sentence.
I walked on to my dorm, where my guys were goofing around like regular naughty teenage boys, lining up to march to breakfast. “You guys are angels,” I told them. “We are angels!” they agreed and they made up a marching song to that effect and shouted it out in cadence as they marched, hands clasped behind their backs, to breakfast.
“We are the angels…from Dorm A…Hey! Hey!..What’d I say?…Angels, from Dorm A-hey!”
The boys from Dorm B were sullenly lining up as we entered the cafeteria. I gave a tiny nod to Alphonse and he…he gave a tiny nod back to me.
After more than twenty years in social services I learned (the hard way) that you can’t fix everything. But maybe you can fix one little thing and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to do that once a day. Imagine if we all did that?
“Then justice will roll down like a river, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
What can one person do? One little thing…every day.
Continued Chapter 4/7