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My 14th year was a wild ride and that is where I will start to break down into stories. I eventually was arrested for shoplifting while, again, a runaway. I was taken to Hillbrook Detention for 2 weeks, then some detention in Rochester for 2 weeks where I turned 15. Then back to Hillbrook for a week before landing in Tryon.
Tryon is broken into a secure side and a non secure side. Mike Tyson was in the secure side when he was a youth! By the time I ended there, the secure side was for girls and I did 10 months there. One of only 2 maximum security facilities for juvenile girls. The only one with a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. I only drank and did pot. And the “program” was just AA once a week, lol.
I spent almost a year not seeing anything but the sky that I didn’t see through an electric fence with razor wire across the top. You weren’t allowed to have hair products with alcohol in them because some people would try to drink it. You couldn’t shave your legs without having staff watching you. You showered in a room with all the other girls, although you were behind your own curtain. You were locked into your room for shift changes and at night. Having your own comforter was a privilege they were happy to use to punish you with by taking away.
I have always been a slightly angry, confrontational, generally unafraid person. But the first night in Tryon I was taking a shower and some girl just walked right into my shower! I yelled out and backed out of the shower, I was like what the fuck is this?? The staff just took her by the arm and told her to knock it off. Ok, in suburban Rome, NY I was the cooky, crazy teenager that did what everyone wished they had the balls to do. I had been in a few fights and wasn’t even hesitant to get even in a boy’s face to yell and threaten. But this place I felt nervous.
I can’t remember if someone said it to me or I just figured, but I knew you had to establish yourself. The second night Chablis walked into my shower. I shoved her back out. She wasn’t aggressive, she was just pushing her boundaries. She never did it again.
I was never an aggressive person inside. Exact opposite. I avoided people as much as I could. This is where I started lifting weights because I didn’t have to play kickball with everyone. We had to go to school and it was self paced so I went through 2 grades (don’t be impressed. There were no tests they just gave you a certificate: congrats, you passed xxth grade) My first tax paying job was in Tryon. I worked as many hours as I was allowed. I talked to people here and there, most of the girls were very nice. I later found that people were afraid of me because I was so quiet, haha. But it kept me out of the middle of drama. Like the girl who snuck a razor blade into a classroom in her cheek so that she could cut up the girl that was “with” her girlfriend.
Many of those girls were there until they were 18 where they were then being shipped out to Rikers … most were from NYC. One girl, such a sweet, sweet girl, was in for helping her boyfriend to kill her mother, chop her into pieces, roll her up in a carpet and try to burn it in a fireplace. Another girl was there for beating her father to death with a lead pipe. Then there were people like me. I was only sentenced to a year. It was a third strike type thing. I had just run away from home and stole some clothes, cigarettes, and a couple of cassette tapes from Ames. Ozzy Osbourne Bark at the Moon and Iron Maiden Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. I managed to keep those 😉
I did my time, they made me stay past Christmas. I got to go home but had to come back. They said releasing me at that time would make it more likely I would return to old habits. They also didn’t even want me to go home. They wanted me to go to group home to transition from incarceration to free life. I managed to maneuver my way through that. You see, I was a model inmate. I was that person that read everything they gave me. I knew my rights, I knew what I could or couldn’t actually do, I knew how to do what I had to do to make my life as easy as possible till I could get out.
I was home for a couple of weeks before I ran away from home. It was a violation of parole and as soon as I was picked up, I went back to Hillbrook. This time they sent me to a group home in Albany. It wasn’t home but it wasn’t lock up. You could come and go but you had to say where you were going and be back at an agreed time. You went to public school, you had chores, I can’t remember if you got an allowance. We could sit outside the house, play in the hose, sleep in a comfortable bed.
The director did not like me from the day I showed up. He knew my kind and didn’t trust me a second. He crushed my cigarettes on the desk in front of me before throwing them out. He used to tell me he didn’t like me and that he should have me shipped to Lansing (the second max security facility for girls at the time) that they were dying to have me …. Just mental bullying chatter. It didn’t bother me.
I read everything they gave me … my rights and all that. Found myself a little loophole. I didn’t want to bother with school anymore. The way I had been allowed to skip ahead in Tryon messed with how I fit into a regular public school and it bored me anyway. I had turned 16 in this group home but you had to be 17 to take your GED. So I informed them I was quitting school and getting a job. The paperwork said I needed to be enrolled in school OR employment. Of course the director said the hell I was!! I enlisted my ombundsman who admitted the wording made it legal for me to take that action. So I became the first juvenile in the system to actually be allowed to quit school. And if that director hated me before, he despised me beyond belief after that.
I worked at Burger King. I was a model employee, made employee of the month. I quietly and patiently started taking extra clothes to work and leaving them there. I finally had what I felt was enough to just leave. I ran away. I wasn’t gone long. I went to my boyfriends and his mother called authorities. I was on some kind of house arrest for a month then allowed to go out to get another job. This time I was a maid at a hotel down the street. I didn’t try to run away again.
I did get in trouble! Went out with friends and got drunk and high as a fucking kite!!! I was out with another girl from the home. We got back and I managed to just get to bed but she got sick so then they woke me up and that made me sick …. It was a mess.
That director was ready to nail me to a cross. He was ready to send me off. I was coming up on my year and they had to decide what to do with me, they couldn’t keep me longer than a year. I begged, BEGGED. Just let me go! I’m almost 17, if I mess up, I go to jail. What do you care?? I don’t know how, but they agreed to probation until I was 17. I think it was maybe 3 months away.
I was home for a week or two and decided to run away from home. This time, I got ahold of myself!! I had already violated probation though. I called my mom and begged her to just let me come home. There was a discussion with my probation officer and I was given another chance.
I was sent to stay with my Aunt in Texas to just get me through the last of my probation for the love of god. While I was out there I tried to organize a line on drugs for my boyfriend back home using someone else’s phone line that I had stolen access to. My aunt shipped me back home.
By some sort of miracle, I made it to my 17th birthday. A month later, I broke my neck. Being drunk and falling off the side of a bridge. Oh! But that’s a whole other story 😉
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