It was my last day. Carlin, the door-rammer from the previous night’s riot in Dorm B, wanted to talk to me. This was a scary thought, to tell the truth. He was already sitting in my office-a big, handsome kid, soft-spoken.
“I just wanted to tell you I’m sorry for cussing at you. I’m sorry if I scared you last night.”
“Is saying this part of your discipline?” I asked.
“No, I asked if I could be transferred to this dorm, I think I could do better over here. But they said you wouldn’t approve it because I am so bad. I don’t blame you. Whatever… I’m sorry for last night. I just wanted to say that.”
I was not at all cool with death threats. His arm was in sling, I presume from ramming the steel door. But he had just apologized, and that required a response.
“Want a mint, Carlin?”
“I forgive you. Thanks for telling me, Carlin. Take care of that bruised shoulder.”
I wrote a note that I did not object to Carlin’s transfer, worked on paperwork and later that evening, called the last meeting with my guys.
“Tell me what you’re going to do to get out of here,” I said.
“Keep straight and follow the rules,” Tony said.
“What if someone tries to make you mad? Will you fight?” I asked.
“I ain’t gonna lie. It’s hard not to fight if somebody gets in your face,” Edmund said.
“That’s six months, man,” Alex told him.
“We’ll come find you,” Edmund said. That suggestion hit me like a stone in the gut. I would be gone tomorrow.
“What if I’m not here? Then what will you do?” I asked quietly.
Three of the older boys instantly knew what I was saying; I could tell by their faces.
“You know what?” Edmund said. “It’s about dang time we took control of our own lives. You’re not going to hold our hand all our life. We’re men, aren’t we?”
“Very good,” I said.
“You know what else?” Phillip said, “Even if you weren’t here, we could help EACH other.”
“Excellent,” I said. “Remember that. Now get to bed, guys.”
The three older guys who knew I was leaving, hung back. “Don’t worry, we’ll help those little idiots,” they said. “And thanks for everything, for the Superstars and the games…”
“You’re welcome. You guys just do something good with your lives and make me proud.”
I turned in my resignation and later turned in a report to the appropriate officials and I do not know if things ever got better at the privatized kid’s jail.
I do know there should be no such thing as a privatized kids jail.
And I pray my boys are doing something good with their lives.