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General News    H2'ed 7/17/20

AL Prisoners on Childhood Trauma, Childhood Poverty

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(First Published in The Hard Times Review)

(Author's note: Incarcerated sources are kept confidential to protect their safety and privacy. Each prisoner is identified by a randomly chosen letter.)

(Part 1) - "Z" - "Quadruple Bad Luck"

"Z" has been incarcerated in Ventress Prison on nonviolent charges for around two years. In June, he interviews about mass incarceration, his background, and other subjects for several articles.

"I wouldn't really say we was poor" growing up, says Z, "because I was an only child." He was raised by his mother and grandmother, who "always made sure" he was taken care of, had what he needed and wanted.

"When my grandma died," Z recalls, "my momma got on drugs and stuff like that"I was around 15 or something like that, and then I had to start selling drugs, because my momma couldn't pay the bills, so I had to start paying bills. And then I said I wasn't going to stop until she had her own house, because we had - our house had ended up burning down, also, around that time."

Z pauses, then explains, "Man, look, man, my dog died, my grandma died, my house burned down, then my momma got on drugs," all "in a few months."

Asked how their house burned down, Z elaborates, "My momma - this guy she was talking to at the time, he got mad because she left him, and he set the house on fire. I was in the house sleeping at the time, wasn't nobody there but me. And I lost " clothes, trophies.I had all kinds of stuff in there, for years."

Z reflects: "Like, I was real good at sports - track, basketball, football. So, I always felt like that [trophy collection] had sentimental value to me."

After that man burned down Z and his mother's house, "So, my momma's stuff got burned up. So, she started gettin credit, gettin stretched, hangin around the wrong crowds, gettin on drugs. And I had a few cats and a lil puppy at that time, new puppy, and um " actually, I had to put all the kittens and the puppy in my car, runnin around in the car for a while till we got a house, and sometimes we stayed with a friend of mine. Yeah, so, I was like, 'Man, bad luck outta nowhere.' I'm talkin bout, like, quadruple bad luck. It was, like, in just a few months, everything went down hill. We were homeless."

Z remembers the early stages of being suddenly homeless as a young teen.

"I was like, 'Man, I ain't ever been homeless. I ain't ever live like that before, man.' And I was smellin, because all my clothes that I did save smelled like smoke. So, like I said, I wasn't old enough to work. So, I found a dealer and started sellin dope. So, eventually, came up, got my momma on her feet, got her a house. I started paying bills, learnin how to grow up early."

Z pauses, and remembers, "I had some plans, man. I was gonna leave Alabama, period. I was planning on [leaving] with sports anyway. But, like I said, all that backfired when all that happened."

Once Z made enough money to get his mother, himself, the kittens, and new puppy all a place to live, and continue paying the bills, "Then, I ended up getting the house or whatever," still in his mid to late teens, at which point his mother "ended up coming back for real out of the hole she was in," says Z.

Shortly his mother's recovery, Z "caught a Federal [nonviolent drug] charge. A dude set me up " And I did, like, 20 somethin months on that" in his late teens.

Z is around middle age now.

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Matthew Vernon Whalan is a writer and contributing editor for Hard Times Review. His work has appeared in The Alabama Political Reporter, New York Journal of Books, The Brattleboro Reformer, Scheer Post, The Manchester Journal, The Commons, The (more...)

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