Juvenile Detention Centers: For the Children by Jenean C Gilstrap

Juvenile Detention Centers: For the Children by Jenean C Gilstrap
Jenean C Gilstrap

Juvenile Detention Centers: For the Children. Today on Yareah magazine.

Photo by Dennis Mojado

Photo by Dennis Mojado

Juvenile Detention Centers: Who is inside? What is inside? Why? How do they feel? Read this article and poem by Jenean C Gilstrap

Not far from my home there is a large brick building compound of sorts. It sits on the main highway that goes through town. In my years of driving past at least several times a week, there has never been any sign of human occupancy there – no signs of “life”, except for an occasional plain vehicle going in or out the circular drive. There are no signs on the grounds to indicate what this facility is – whether it is a medical research center or a corporate headquarters or a professional office complex – nothing. There are no outward signs of what is contained within – very much unlike both the inward and the outward signs on the spirits and bodies of those individuals detained within. The building is a called a “juvenile detention center” – those detained within its walls are children.

Now, these are not “children” in the purest sense of the word. The word “children” in most minds denotes also a degree of innocence – of sweetness – of purity of soul and spirit of possibility and probility – and of promise – promise for today and for a better tomorrow. But for most of these “children” those are states of existence totally foreign to them. These are children who have, for the most part, lived/existed their short lives on the streets of darkness in the neighborhood of abuse and neglect and abandonment. Their bodies attacked and/or neglected by those who physically created them – their minds darkened by the heinous acts and/or omissions of their creators – their hearts void of light and love – their spirits broken and bent within the temples of their abused and abandoned bodies.

Animals who have been visciously mistreated by their owners become viscious animals – acting and behaving differently than those puppies and kittens who have been lovingly cared for. So, too, do children who have been visciously mistreated by their creators [and/or others] become different. They have survived the only way they know. The act in the only way they know – how they, themselves, have been treated. These are the children who, through no fault of their own, become the legal residents of cold, sterile brick walls such as those sitting on the main highway that goes through this town. It is for these children that this poem was written and is dedicated.*

little boys blue

little boys blue

sinners sittin’ in a jail house row

prayin’ to a god they don’t know

readin’ the book of all the rules

but none of them have all the tools

innocence lost in sandbox play

never had nothin’ to save their day

no mother’s kiss to seal their nights

no daddy’s love to show the light

little boys lost at what a cost

lives without love now trampled and tossed

so they sit in solemn quiet

all dressed alike in prison white

faces turned up lookin’ for grace

ain’t much time for this life’s race

arms held high for them pearly gates

searchin’ for salvation ‘fore it’s too late

heart’s singin’ sweet till kingdom come

ain’t gotta chance till servin’ is done

cross-ways art inked on pale canvas flesh

ain’t enough to git outta this mess

men still boys now at the end

worderin’ if their souls will ever mend

wantin’ to taste of the water sweet

wadin’ to heaven in their young bare feet

dreamin’ of love ‘n another life’s dance

lookin’ to god for a second chance

little boys blue

what to do





*The male gender used in this poem is used for poetic purposes and is not intended in any way to be all-inclusive of the children – boys and girls – for whom this piece is written and dedicated.


View Comments (4)
  • for a number of years i worked as a children’s advocate in a social services agency – my little clients had special needs of one kind or another and my job was to see to it that the school system accommodated those needs, whatever they might be – sadly, there were not only issues with the school’s lack of compliance, but tragically, issues with the punitive and oppressive measures instituted by the school system [via the teachers and administrators] in “helping” these children [a lot of whom had already been abused at the hands of a parent or other custodian] – as a result of many things, these children also had what was termed “behavioral” problems – behaving in the only way they knew – hence, that behavior being reinforced at the hands of the school – for example, one little boy whose mother constantly verbally abused him with remarks of how he was “satan’s child” would, in the mornings before school, “anoint” his head with cooking oil and then send him to school with his head soaked in oil – when the kids made fun of him and called him names, he responded by acting out – the school’s response? he was sent to an empty classroom and placed in a large cardboard box in which an audio machine had been packed and was made to stay there until he had “learned his lesson” – he was but one of many – and one of many for whom this piece was written – my heartfelt thanks for allowing the voices of these children to be heard through these humbly-written words of mine –

    • martincid

      Thanks for the article, Jenean. You have a very interesting life

    • Terribly sad!

  • Pingback: Poetry by Jenean C Gilstrap: Of Words and Magic and the Mojo Man of Glasgow | Yareah Magazine. Arts and writing()

Jenean C Gilstrap

Since childhood, Ms. Gilstrap has had a love of words-of writing and other arts. An individualist, she chooses not to follow any pre-conceived pattern for the outlay of these words – rather, she allows them the freedom to forge their own path as they make their way from her heart to pen to paper. Her art work involves both photography and mixed media on large canvasses. She is a weekly featured poet in Yareah Magazine where her works have appeared for more than a year. Her piece The Granite God was the winning poem in Painted Bride Quarterly Sidebar #12 [2012]. Her work has been featured in performance poetry theatrical productions in Louisiana and her short story, Retribution, published in the Helicon Literary Magazine there. She and her gypsywomanworld blog are included as character/story elements in Ghost Key, the fictional work of award-winning author Trish MacGregor. Her first volume of poetry [2013], words unspoken, is available in both paperback and on kindle at amazon. She currently divides her time between her home in Louisiana and the east coast as she completes her second volume of poetry to be published in 2013.

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