Monthly Archives: April 2011

How I am

Today we share a poem written by a young women who has been in the detention center for a very short time. She wrote it on a Saturday morning while resting on a blanket on the grass and making paper flowers.

How I Am

I’m painting a self-portrait.
I choose the colors that I like the most,
red, white, green and light blue.

Red because it’s the color of the blood that we carry in our bodies.
I like white because it represents sanctity and pureness for God.
Green represents blessings, because God, just like nature, is green.
Light blue because it’s the color of the sky.

In the background is nature because it is God’s creation.
In my hands is a paintbrush to be able to draw.

In my face you will see an immense joy,
you will see the face of God in my reflection.
A smile so that all my family will see that in me there is a joy
and through me lives God.

They will see that I am happy,
a joyful, caring and understanding person.

I will give the self-portrait to my family because I won’t see them this year.
I want them to see that I’m not the same person that they left years ago,
neither am I the person who a year ago decided to hang out on the street
I’m not the same because God has changed my heart.

The title will be “How I Am’.


You have never felt desperate

You have never felt desperate
Young woman, 20

You have never felt desperate
until you come to a place like this.
For a screw-up that was so insignificant
I lost many things.
My hands started to sweat.
I felt like when someone hits you
and you want to take it out by punching something,
but you know if you do
you’re going to lose more.
I turned red,
I felt my skin stand on end from my rage.
I felt the words that I wanted to say to her.
My mind was racing
like when a clock is broken
then you put in batteries
and it starts to run really fast.
You try to control yourself
but I just start crying
because of my powerlessness,
not being able to do anything,
knowing that I lost
what was right in front of me.

You’ve never felt desperate
until coming to a place like this.
I felt that everyone was staring at me,
I felt rejected.
I wanted to put up a wall
around my world.
Put it in a box
so no one could see or touch me.
In the box I would put my bitterness,
my pain and my love,
to not feel love for anyone.
I wish I were a rock
that didn’t have emotions.

You’ve never felt desperate
before coming to a place like this.
To vent I just cry.
I cry until no more tears come out.
I sleep all day,
I don’t even feel like eating.
Thinking of not making the same mistake again.

Love letter

Someday you’ll know

How are you?
I just want to say hi,
hoping that you’re not doing badly.
I know that you don’t know who I am
but I have seen you around.
I would just like to chat
and know what you’re up to.
If someday we talk
I would tell you how much i like you
and then I’d be able to kiss you
and never let you go,
and be able to dream about being together
For all of eternity.

When the time comes
someday you’ll know,
and maybe you’ll understand.
But for now you will be
on my mind and that’s all.


Today we go on a journey. Girl gets arrested, girl is incarcerated in a youth detention center, girl is given permission to go home for the weekend, girl thinks about the future when she gets out… This is a familiar cycle, but what is she thinking? What is she feeling? How does she see the world around her changing? The feeling of desperation is a very common theme among the girls’ writing, and something that they express in very different ways. Today, the desperation is frustration, it is the willingness to sacrifice security for freedom, and the yearning for the life she lost.

I was arrested when I was 12, on October 21.
It was horrible.
I cried because I thought
damn, I was outside and now I’m inside!
I was living a crazy life outside and now what…
After being used to that,
you remember where you are
and are filled with this desperation
to get out.

I’m bored with the workshops and school.
The same routine.
Every now and then
you get really desperate here.
On the outside you think,
‘they can kill me or do something to me’.
You know that here nothing can happen to you.
I still get so desperate sometimes
And I just want to get out!

One time I had permission from the judge
to go to my house.
Everything there has changed.
The kids aren’t the same as before.
The little ones are big,
with a different mentality.
Some are already smoking weed on the street.

When I get out, what are they going to say to me?
All the kids that I knew before,
I don’t know what they’re going to say to me.

When I get out,
I plan on taking care of my grandmother,
wait a while, then look for a boyfriend.
I want to study systems engineering,
take care of my sister.
I want to see my best friend,
who knows where she is now.
I’m going to chill with the neighborhood kids
And I’m going to tell them what it’s like here.

Obviously no one is going to take care of me
all of my life,
so I’m going to have to move out on my own.

My poem for God

My poem for God
Teen, 15

If my hands could touch you,
my arms hold you,
my ears hear you,
my life would change in an instant.

If my eyes could see that beautiful angel
and my heart feel that pure love,
my feet would run a thousand miles an hour
to catch up with you and thank you
for the immense love you have for me.

Something bad, something good

Posted by: María

Here is a reflection on every day life and struggles by a teenage girl that has been in detention since September. I asked her to reflect on the last year, and she said, ‘this year? But only bad things have happened!’ She began to talk about struggling in school and the disappointment of not being allowed to go on a special excursion to a tourist center and pool that the majority of the girls went on. Her struggles, disappointments and anxieties are not so different from any other teenage girl living a different situation; the ups and downs, the need to distract herself from sadness, the tendency to pretend that everything is fine.

This is a great moment to reflect on survival mechanisms, on how we survive the day-to-day when the world seems to be collapsing on top of us. It is interesting to notice that the first thing she talked about was math! It is too exhausting to constantly think about the bigger picture, for example, to think about the amount of time she will be incarcerated. She focuses on the present, and her present struggle is not failing one of her classes. We can all relate to the feeling of desperation, frustration and distraction that she shares in the following poem. How do we cope when we are living a difficult moment in our lives? How do we distract ourselves? Where do we find strength?

Something bad, something good

Something bad that has happened
are tests!
I’m doing bad in math.
I have a zero
because I don’t understand.
It makes me so angry,
because I couldn’t do it.
So I just gave the test back to the teacher
and told him that I couldn’t do it.

Something bad that has happened
is that I didn’t go on the trip to the pool.
I felt like crying.
I knew that there had to be a reason,
God knows,
maybe something bad was going to happen.
I had been so excited about the trip,
but the judge didn’t give me permission,
I don’t know why.
I just saw when they were leaving.
We went up to the room,
listened to music
and started to dance.
I didn’t want to be with this other girl
who was going to cry,
because I would have cried too.

Something good that has happened
is that my family comes to see me,
to be with me.
I’m not doing that bad here
But sometimes
I want to get out of here!
I feel so desperate to get out.
So I just sit and think and
ask God for patience.
I run around
so that the desperation passes.

Something good that has happened
is that I’m alive,
that I’ve behaved well.
I did well in the first revision with the judge.
hopefully the second one goes well too.


Posted by: María

Today, we want to share a poem written by a twenty-two year old woman who has been incarcerated for more than two years. We begin with her poem, ‘Justice’, because it touches, in a very thoughtful manner, on issues of opportunity, social exclusion, and the idea that violence only creates more violence. It gives a necessary introduction to the situation in which many young people are living, before we dive deeper into more emotionally difficult topics such as abuse, abandonment, and death. There is a beauty in the way she asks us questions that are simple but deep. It’s difficult for us to answer them because it forces us to question the responsibility we have in relation to the situation of violence and marginalization of youth.

She invites us to rethink the idea of justice, to go further than just seeing crime and punishment, and talk about opportunity and the contradictions of society in how it treats young people. How can we ‘reinsert’ youth who have never been included nor paid attention to? What would a process of justice look like that took into account the healing of the victim, offender and the community?

This is a space to analyze how society constructs the stereotype of the ‘youth offender’ and ‘violent teen’. It’s so we accept our own role in social exclusion, in maintaining the status quo, and supporting the structures of power that keep everyone in their rightful place. It’s so we assume our responsibility of being agents of change.


Justice. What justice?
If we lose our youth as they close doors on us
and leave us like guitars without strings.
How do you expect a rose, when you sow thorns?
How do you expect to hear if you have demanded silence?
You have closed the doors on us,
you have robbed us of freedom,
and we only asked for an opportunity.
Why do you turn your back on us when we ask for a hand?
How can you ask for love when you have pulled out our heart
and you have it in a cage
that it can’t escape from?
Perhaps you were never young.
Perhaps you never made mistakes.
We are left, forgotten,
to lose our youth.
You sow hate and want to harvest love.
Why don’t you extend your hand and give freedom to my heart?

She asks us, how do you expect a rose when you planted thorns? So, what do we have to sow in order to harvest a culture of peace?