Jails / Prisons : A Prison without Bars: A Ranch where Hope Grows

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    A Prison without Bars: A Ranch where Hope Grows
    Produced by Noelle Hanrahan of Prison Radio
    for Free Speech Radio News
    Monday May 26, 2003.
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    Sure we all are anti-incarceration. And would you vote to put kids in prison? Just the same, what do you do with kids that at 16 are dropping out, failing probation, jacking people and carrying Mach 10's?

    And for poor kids — budget cuts mean the loss of housing, welfare, and access to school. It also means that any community alternatives to state prison are seriously threatened.

    FSRN and Prison Radio brings you the voices of ten young men — African American, Latino, Asian American, Samoan, Iraqi, and a Ukraininan teenager, all doing time, or who have done time at Log Cabin Ranch San Francisco's juvenile detention facility. These are boys trying to becoming men, boys who are fathers. They told us that ignoring the crisis has had deadly consequences and that they want to live. Their raps and poems document their journey — admist the pain of poverty and profiling.

    [0:00 Street sounds and sirens form Crazy Bonz cross fade with Music by Mystic, "our fallen angels"]

    [LCR resident] This is called Hopeless

    [Music Mystic "when your body hit the concrete I coulnd't help but scream, blood flowing fluid. life is but a dream, till we take the last breath…..Music fades under."]

    I live your worst day multiplied by a lifetime
    So I'm just trying to survive an eternity
    Separated from sunshine
    Now I'm only seventeen
    But it seems my shoulders weigh a ton
    And I'm reminiscent of being a kid
    When I'm still supposed to be one
    Now, I know it sounds twisted
    But that's just the existence
    Of a young gifted statistic
    So I might cry behind these
    Ice cold windows to my soul
    But you never see me shed a tear
    Because this pain is all I know
    It seems I've been marked for death
    Since my first breath
    So there's nothing left
    But, money, drugs and sex
    And living' life with no regrets
    Remorse or sorrows
    So we live it up today
    Because we might not see tomorrow
    But sometimes I sit and wonder
    Will I ever see the sun rise?

    [Music by Mystic faded up: "fallen angels in the sky why must all of our soldiers die oh no. I got to know"]

    [Young man's voice Nyjil Williams] I love him, I loved him actually. I miss him.

    [Teresa Coleman] Why is it okay to kill a child and bury a child and there's no uproar? Are we that afraid? Has the slavery chain just, you know, revised itself and they have silenced us that we won't fight back?

    [Narrator]: Mother & Community Activist Teresa Coleman, just after Maurice Matthew's funeral at True Hope Baptist Church.

    Young man's voice Nyjil Williams: I think that he is one of the tightest young cats rapping. Mo was killed on Bertha Lane. He got shot, several times.


    [Teresa Coleman] You're being set up to kill each other so the society doesn't have to deal with you because it can't deal with you. So guns, drugs, all that stuff is sent here intentionally to destroy us and we need to be more aware you know ask questions like well how did cocaine get here since it comes from so far abroad? How does a Mach ten get assimilated in the ghetto, when we have no idea how to put together guns?

    [Narrator] How do we survive our brothers, our mothers, our husbands, our fathers, our sisters, and our cousins being killed? How do we heal as our friends are being locked up and down?

    [CLIP Nyjil Williams]

    I had a lot of robbery cases that was violent robbery cases, so, and before that I was, like, like basically I was disrespectful, ruthless, wasn't levelheaded, violent, angry. My dad left when I was five years old and I was raised by my mom in Hunters Point. And my mom got cancer, and it's always been hectic. Seeing people get shot, robbed, selling dope, you know. The fast life, fast cars, females, gold teeth, money, drugs, it's all around you. You walk out the door, you go outside to the streets, that's all you see. That's all you live and that's all you know. So, you're gonna participate in something, somehow, someway.

    I went up there thought a lot, wrote a lot. Basically changed. I am a cool mellow cat really in side, so if you willing to change it is gonna happen and I was willing to change like you know so.

    [Narrator] This kid, Marcus Oliver was recently featured in the New York Times for his work with NFTY National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

    [CLIP Marcus Oliver]

    Ah, My thing was to jack and you know eventually I got caught up, but everytime I got caught, you know eventually they send me to a group home, let me out and I do it again. You know, the Ranch was just a turning point. Well, my mom was shot and killed when I was eight and from then on I just didn't care for authority. Cause, you know, your mom, you feel me, everybody love their mama. Once she gone, especially at a young age, who's there to listen to? I just have to grow out of that though and know that she is watching over me knowing; telling me you got to do better.

    Thousands of poor kids deal with hunger, homelessness, and unemployment, every day — They also face the very real prospect of getting locked up. For over 2300 San Francisco kids, each year, the first stop after you are handcuffed is the Hall, Juvenile Hall — 375 Wood Side Ave. It's a jail where kids are locked up and wait for the court to decide their fate.

    For 40 young men facing serious time, who fail informal probation, formal probation, and who run away from group homes, and just keep getting arrested — there aren't many options. The end of the line is the notoriously violent, "baby pen" the California Youth Authority. But there is one last chance. .

    Log Cabin Ranch is a 6oo-acre facility located in the Santa Cruz Mountain community of La Honda, 40 miles south of San Francisco. Owned by the San Francisco Juvenile Probation Department, it is a long-term treatment facility for at risk youth. For six to 18 months they are required to attend extensive therapy, earn their diplomas or GEDs, and go to classes.

    I mean there is no benefit whatsoever in selling the land, that's absurd.
    Well the benefit is in a few power brokers' hands when they go to the bank

    [Narrator] Jack Jacqua Co-founder of the Omega Boys Club, in the Ranch's community garden.

    [CLIP Jack Jacqua:] Well, first of all, this is not a prison, this is not a jail, this is six hundred acres that can be developed into and incredible healing recovery center. There are no bars, there are no locks, it's healthy, there's fresh air. There's this beautiful garden. I mean, there's 600 acres of animals and trees and, the sky is present. They can count the stars. They can reflect on who they are and take maybe a look at themselves for the first time in their life. And I think one of the things is the people that run these places seem to think this is just an outdoor warehouse. So we'll get them off the street for a few months and then they'll come back but in the meantime we don't have too many bad guys on the street at one time. But you see that is something that needs to be broken down because getting away from the inner-city, coming out here in this beautiful country area gives them new energy to live life, new spiritual awakenings just that they are somebody and that they have a culture and that they have a story of their own and they have a future that's real.

    [Narrator] Powerful forces are threatening the ranch's very existence. San Francisco's $348 million-dollar deficit, and the states record multi Billion dollars shortfall, are fueling plans to privatize these correctional services or sell part or all of this valuable 600-acre property located in the heart of SiliconValley. The ranch's $2.3 million dollar budget is slated to absorb the largest cuts in the Juvenile Probation Department; As of July 1st, the number of kids served will be reduced by 50% and the time they spend there cut in half. Clearly the Ranch is in danger of being closed.

    Jessie Williams is the Chief Juvenile Probation officer for the City and County of San Francisco he responds to the budget cuts:

    [Jessie Williams]

    This is not about balancing the budget on anybody's backs. This is about making difficult decisions that nobody wants to make. There are only so many places where there is money and we have taken money from all of those places including places where children are and including service areas that hurt. We have tried to do it in a responsible way and in a rational and methodical way and think we have accomplished that, but anything you do in this department ultimately hurts young people, ultimately hurts kids because there's no part of this department that doesn't serve kids. It is impossible to make cuts in this department's budget without ultimately impacting kids. It can't happen.

    [Narrator] On July 1st Jessie Williams will take a job as senior vice president with Correctional Services Corporation in Sarasota Florida.

    [Jack Jacqua}

    Truthfully, I don't think they care. I mean it's a system that's making money, get them prepared for the California Department of Corrections, the penitentiary.

    [Narrator] Jack Jacqua

    Because no matter what the spin is in San Francisco, 2/3 of the young men that, you know, roam the halls, live in the halls of juvenile hall and reside currently at this ranch are of African American cultural heritage. That's just a fact, you know, and I don't like to use words maybe that don't make too much sense, but I think the word genocide makes a lot of sense.

    [Narrator] Jane Segal teaches courses on how to start small business for Nfty- the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship.

    [Jane Segal]

    This is a therapeutic community here and it is a very healing place and as we're walking around the garden area I'm feeling that even more and it makes me even sadder that they're talking about closing Log Cabin Ranch. I think it will be a real disservice to those youth in San Francisco who come here and in the future need to come here.

    Narrator: Nicole Salagado is coordinator of the Ranch's garden program and works for San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners

    [Nicole Salgado] Of the course of the last four years that I have been here I have seen staff at substandard levels, I always hear that there are vacant positions that haven't been filled. I see Log cabin ranch being kind of defiled within the system as a place where kids are just kind of forgotten about or maybe the administration has forgotten about Log Cabin and hasn't made it what should be the crown jewel of the juvenile probation department.

    Imagine these Log Cabin Residents, there just kids, one is kicking out a beat on a table, the other pulling out of his pocket from his prison blues, a notebook stuffed with well-worn pages of hand written dreams.

    [Music: "Yeah, it is getting wild out here. It makes me wonder how a Black Man can ever raise a child out here].

    [LCR resident's poem]

    (I'm A Father)
    I got a son so I got to stand taller now
    Hey, I was hustlin' but I gottta ball harder now
    Gotta to plan my **** life way smarter now
    'Cause I'm a father now
    Hey, they say I'm a kid raising a kid
    But yo, I think I'm grown
    And I did what I did
    I'm not a bad dad
    'cause I committed some sins
    yo, I'm gonna fight through
    this is the way I can win
    Lil Rich, I love you man
    You my heart
    I'm your father
    And I'm gonna shed light
    When times get dark
    My bad I wasn't there
    To see your precious life start
    But I want to be there to see the first time you walk
    Times get hard
    But don't worry, son
    We gonna make it through
    Just know you got a father, boy
    That would die for you
    When you was young
    And I was locked up
    Boy, I cried for you
    Hey, yo, it was hard to be a father
    But, son I'm trying to
    Me and your mama
    We ain't perfect
    We both make mistakes
    Life full of bad luck, headaches and heartbreaks
    I'm trying to see this bad stuff behind
    So it erase
    So we can keep our relationship good
    And keep faith
    Hey, I'm a father now
    I got a son, so I gotta stand taller now
    Hey, I was hustling but I got to ball harder now
    Got to plan my **** life way smarter now
    Cause I'm a father now

    The title of this poem is called, As the World Turns.

    As the world turns, people are dying, mamas are crying, people are lying
    Lying on their backs
    Attacked and battered by the wickedness of the chrome
    One shot, pow, and you gone

    As the world turns, education is yearned
    In Africa, things fell apart
    The world turned and decided to stop
    But trains kept going
    Robbers kept robbing
    Gunshots kept robbing
    Robbing mothers of sons and sisters of brothers

    As the world turns, people mature
    As people mature, guess what?
    The world turns
    And hearts throb
    Torn apart by trust

    As the world turns, money becomes power
    And technology overpowers
    The system sours
    And the youth devour
    However, during the hours the world turns
    And education is yearned
    In Africa, things fell apart

    As the world turns, history is forgotten
    And people judge
    Not by the content of their character
    But by the progress the world makes and the color of their skin
    As the world turns

    I don't really got no reason why I wrote that. I was just laying in bed and I was just thinking, I was just thinking as the world turns a lot of stuff just goes on, a lot of scandalous stuff, a lot of scandals, you know and a lot of good stuff goes on and a lot of, it's a lot of people out there poor like people in Africa and stuff and I was just thinking about it and I just formulated the poem, I don't know, it just came it just flowed out.

    [Touisaint Haki Stewart] We have one exercise called What's the Weather Like Inside?

    [Nyjill Williams] So like say you feeling like mad, you are going to be like. Today the weather is very stormy, it is like a thunder coming, you know how like newscasters do it, I mean the weather reporters do it, like.

    [Narrator] Tousaint Haki Stewart, teacher with Writers Core

    "They can get very very vulnerable when you create the space for them to get vulnerable."

    [LCR resident] Back in Iraq, like I said, I have thousands of family. And that's what made me want to change my life around. You know, I came here to America to be free. Not to be locked up behind a cell, not to be cared about. I'm an important person, that's what I think.

    Narrator: This Iraqi kid came to San Francisco in 92 after the 1st gulf war; he got caught up in gang activity. He spent 10 months at the ranch.

    I have a lot to lose. Back then I thought I had nothing to lose, but now I do have something to lose. That's my life, my family and my son. You know? Because ain't nobody going to save your life, you only got one life to live and that's what made me want to do it. Cause I got one life to live, just like everybody got one life to live. So I'm gonna try and keep my life. If you want to get burnt get closer to it and you will get burnt. And you know if you see a couple of your friends that you used to hang with, just be up to them. You know what I am saying. Be like you know what. I am a different man now.

    [LCR resident Ukrainian kid] Like you were saying about the gang, like if they were going to come after you. I don't owe nobody nothing, you know what I am saying, like. Even if I was in a gang. I don't owe nobody nothing, you know they are not nobody to me. You know, yeah, nobody can pressure you to do nothing. Well better thing not to get involved in it of course most definitely.

    [LCR resident] This is called A Lost Souls Prayer by my brother, who was here before me.

    Heavenly Father
    You tell me why do you bother
    To protect my life through the dark nights
    And awake me to see the bright mornings
    When you already know where I'm going
    And that when my mind's zoning
    I'm showing no love, 'cause I'm a thug
    Who is so quick to start some stuff.

    I was raised on these streets packin' heat
    And you know I'll leave a cat sleep so I can eat
    But yet and still you keep me on my feet.

    So I wish you would answer my questions, 'cause I'm guessin'
    And I got the misconception that I need to pack a weapon
    Plus I'm headed the wrong direction because I've never known
    But if you can't show me yet Lord
    Then please forgive me for being lost
    'cause I will survive at all cost.

    Lord my mind has been hauled off and locked in chains
    So many nights, so many days, Lord please stop the pain.
    I wish I had some smoke to clog my brain
    because I'm going crazy, you hear me holler "Lord, take me"
    Because these demons chase me.

    I never knew the hardest thing I'd ever do was face me,
    'cause there's nothing worse than reminiscing'
    on all the family you're hurtin', Mom stressin'
    and ain't getting no sleep because her baby's been gone for a week.

    So give her peace
    And protect her 'til we meet again.
    So until then,
    In your name I pray,

    Narrator: Born in America Samoa, this young man grew up in Oakdale Projects of Hunters Point.

    Got my certificate of carpentry and my high school diploma at the same night. And what was so cool about it is the lady, the main person from SFUSD or whatever, Unified District, gave me my diploma. You know, when I got out I started working in my construction; I had two jobs when I got out. Yeah they hooked me up with YCD and Yo SF (?) and they took care of me. They got me on my way. I'm not saying I hope a lot of cats get locked up, but I hope they keep it open and give a lot of cats a second chance. Peace.

    [LCR resident] Every one in our position up here basically got high profile cases and if it wasn't for the ranch we would all be in YA, Youth Authority. Cause they supply you with a lot of things to learn about. Anger management, violence reduction programs, there's just a lot of things up here. Like photography. That's what I'm in right now they got writer's Corps poetry classes and holy culture, that's landscaping. They got this new great program, Opnet. Where it teach you how be a websites and stuff, html, I got skills, Microsoft word, Excel, I know how to do PowerPoints, html, Flash 5. I know how to work the computers now.

    I mean it gives you a time to just sit down and think about what you been doing. Analyze yourself and really have your mind clear. See basically look into the future because, like me myself, I did improved on my reading 3 grade levels, improved in math 4 grade levels, and man, I just got my diploma I'm on my way to college, Skyline College. As soon as I get out of here, they give you jobs and stuff.

    Up here it's rarely fights and everything. People just doing they're program. I mean, people may get mad and be stressing every now and then and maybe go off on a staff because they're emotional but it ain't like no fighting or physical contact really up here. Since I've been here only been like 3 or 4 fights and it's consequences for that, you get more time. But in YA, people get killed and stuff, I mean I ain't never heard nobody get killed up here. Never. Just to my point of view, I've been up here eleven months this is an excellent ranch to educate yourself with.

    [young man Nyjill Williams]

    We locked up, I mean, we ain't really locked up but we not home. It's out in the boonies, in the cuts. Big yard across the way, birds and deers. It's kind of trippy, like, I ain't never saw that where I'm from. Deers and stuff just walking hecka close by you. I think it's a good program because they give you a lot of time to think and they, they get you to think about what you doing out there. Like, this your last step. The next step is like, YA or something. So, it's like a time out, it's like a big time out for you to just think about what you doing and what you do that affects not only you, but like, your peers, your family, you know, your community.

    The old way I was thinking, I probably would have just did it. Probably would have got wrapped back up.

    This one here is called Hard Times. I wrote this cause there was a lot of stuff going on on the street. That's what it has to deal with. And it has to deal with me being locked up and I got friends that I never hear from so

    Hey yo, it's hard times
    Young brothers committing crimes
    When it's wartime
    Do your homies be hard to find?
    Yo, it's hard times
    Got to stay on top of sh..
    And anything that you do
    Make sure you get your profit quick
    Yo, it's hard times
    Young brothers committing crimes
    When it's war time
    Do your homies be hard to find
    Yo, it's hard times
    Got to stay on top of sh..
    And anything that you do
    Make sure you get your profit quick
    Hey yo, it's hard times
    It's too easy to lose your life
    Life's a **** gamble
    So homie roll the dice
    Before you do anything
    You better think twice
    Focus on your life
    There's always time for strifes
    I know the streets is calling
    You better not answer
    Cause these streets kill more brothers than AIDS and cancer
    It's a struggle out here
    Granps burying grandsons
    Children getting raped
    Disappearing like phantoms
    Bullets ain't got no name
    Hittin' innocent bystanders
    And we fighting over nothing
    But colors and bandanas
    This block sh, I don't think it's never gonna stop
    Cause everybody in the game
    They want to be on the top
    It ain't gonna happen
    Cause the police they got it on lock
    And as soon as you reach the top
    They be raiding your spot
    Now you back to square one
    At the drop of a dime
    I bet you realize now
    That it's hard **** times
    Hey yo, it's hard times
    Young brothers committing crimes
    When it's war time
    Do your homies be hard to find?
    Yo, it's hard times
    Got to stay on top of sh..
    And anything that you do
    Make sure you get your profit quick
    Yo, it's hard times
    Young brothers committing crimes
    When it's war time
    Do your homies be hard to find
    Yo, it's hard times
    Got to stay on top of sh..
    And anything that you do
    Make sure you get your profit quick
    When you get locked up
    Do you get letters from your homies?
    Or how about a visit
    Or do they leave you in there lonely
    You act like it's nothing
    But you perpin and you know they phony
    Plus you stressed out
    The judge riding you like a pony
    That's why you keep your distance
    From some so-called friends
    You only suppose to trust the one's that's gonna ride till the end
    It's hard times
    I know you done committed some sins
    It's in the past now
    You should be collecting your ends
    I know it's a struggle
    It's like we trapped in a maze
    Either we getting locked up
    Or we touching our grave
    Why can't we be like the others
    Go to the schools and get paid
    And instead we do this shhh illegal
    And now we stuck in the cage
    Yo, it's hard times
    Young brothers committing crimes
    When it's war time
    Do your homies be hard to find
    Yo, it's hard times
    Got to stay on top of sh..
    And anything that you do
    Make sure you get your profit quick
    Yo it's hard times
    You wind up in this new era
    Ossama Ben Ladin blowing shh up and causing terror
    That ain't gonna never change
    People here get rearranged
    Got to stay free
    In the life of this cold game
    It's a **** shame
    We ain't' listening to our parents
    women and Omega is the only people that's caring
    gotta think before you act
    don't slip up and make no mistakes
    life full of bad luck, headaches and heartbreaks
    when will this cycle break?
    Probably never
    This shhh is hectic
    so listen to jack and omega and homey respected
    Find out about the system
    It's a way you can flex it
    It's hard times, man, if you ready find the exit

    [LCR resident] I'm gonna do one called Dear Mama, it's to my mother:

    Dear Mama,

    I know I put you through a lot by messing up at home and ducking, dodging the cops
    I mean no disrespect I was thugging up on the block
    Doing lots of dirt, holding weapons, and jukin rocks
    Dear Mama
    I know I put you through a lot by messing up at home and ducking, dodging the cops
    I mean no disrespect I was posted up on the block
    Doing lots of dirt, holding weapons and jukin rocks
    Dear Mama
    I let you let god be my witness, this song's for you and I'm begging for your forgiveness
    I know I did this, it was me, I got in trouble, now it's time to come together our family we need to huddle
    While remember bringing tears straight into your eyes and for that, Ma, I really apologize
    I hear your cries, telling me what's right and what's wrong, telling me you want punishment, don't talk on the phone
    And now I know you were teaching me responsibility, I didn't listen, now we drew apart and it's killing me
    You feeling me?
    You always catch me doing dirt, telling me to stay in and stay the what up off the turf
    Yo, it's hard work.
    Being a Mama these days, cause your kids don't listen, it's like your trapped in a cage
    Dear Mama
    I know I put you through a lot by messing at home and ducking, dodging the cops
    I mean no disrespect I was posted up on the block
    Doing lots of dirt, holding weapons and jukin rocks
    Dear Mama
    I know it's a struggle raising a son
    Especially a knucklehead that's going on the run
    I remember you trying to get me on the right track
    But I thought I was grown, and grown is how I act
    I was selling crack
    Doing it all behind your back
    Thinking I can't get caught
    Sometimes it's like that
    I know I ain't perfect to live with the situation slowly
    It's hard as what, I want to kick it with my homies
    Some homies ain't cool, they quick,to turn they're back on me
    My Mama always did when the situation thick, telling me to strap up, and don't think with my
    Give Moms a kiss cause she's there through thick and thin trying to keep me on the outs and not in the state pen
    Dear Mama
    I know I put you on a lot by messing up at home and ducking and dodging the cops
    I mean no disrespect I was posted up on the block
    Doing lots of dirt, holding weapons and jukin rocks
    Dear Mama

    [LCR former resident] They need to send more cats to the ranch. I know it sounds bad, but some of them cats really need it because without it they'll die. They'll get killed though; they'll go to worse prisons.

    [LCR former resident] At times I can be really focused, at times I can just fall apart and, you know, and the ranch was basically my structure, my backbone. It helped me get focused a little.

    Narrator: This Chinese American teenager wanted his neighborhood to remain anonymous.

    They just make you interested in things you was never interested into before. Even thought of it. A lot of people they just stay in their own box like. And when I went to the ranch, I kind of stepped out that. I tried out new things. I got a lot of wisdom from up there cause, you know, there's some counselors up there. Really good counselors. That you can learn a lot from.

    I went in there when I was 16 years old. Trying to be a top gangster got me there.

    This piece is called Compassion

    Where have you been?
    I done cussed out staff
    Been threatened with the pen

    Arguing relentlessly
    Can't shut up
    When I fall down
    They make sure
    I can get up

    Showing no remorse
    Hurting people's feelings
    If anger was length
    I'd be tall as the ceiling

    They say love
    Is everlasting
    Where have you been?
    I'm searching for compassion

    Narrator: Jane Segal, teaches courses on how to start small businesses for Nfty.

    You know, you need more environments, places where young people can take the card that they've been dealt, that they didn't deal themselves when they were born and it's about race and class and, you know, gender and then turn it around.

    Narrator: Tousaint Haki Stewart, writers core instructor

    You know, your humanity has not been taken away from you. This is an environment where the youth can actually reflect, to vent and to grow.

    [FSRN host Deepa] A Prison Without Bars: A Ranch Where Hope Grows, features the voices of current residents and recent graduates of San Francisco's juvenile detention facility, Log Cabin Ranch. Produced by Noelle Hanrahan for Prison Radio, engineered by Anita Johnson and Jade Paget-Seekins, with production assistance from Nyjil Williams, Hannah Roth and Jesse Markim. Narrated by Rashida Clendening. Special thanks to Jane Segal, Kim Nelson, Touisant Akai Stewart, Freedom Archives, Cassie Coleman and Hard Knock Radio. This program is dedicated to Maurice Matthews, aka Mo Dosia. who the producers were trying to meet with when he was shot to death on the streets of San Francisco. It is also dedicated to all of the youth killed or locked down around the country.