Photo by Milad B. Fakurian on Unsplash

The Miami Youth Academy houses up to 28 boys from 14 to 18 years old, who are sent there by the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. The students publish stories and poems for their student newspaper Titan Tribune, which they produce in a journalism class run by Exchange for Change, a local nonprofit group that teaches writing classes in youth commitment and adult correctional facilities. Retired newspaper reporter Henry Unger has taught the class for nearly two years in collaboration with the academy and Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

Hear My Cry

By A.S.

The name is A.S.
I’m a young black adolescent whose fallen victim to the system, but won’t fall victim to the games
People all around me showing love, but I see a lot is like plastic fake
Even the Garden of Eden had serpents, so in this world I’ve always gotta watch my back, so many snakes
Locked away in a program due to the consequences of my actions and I’m the only one to blame
Like a dog in the pound, I’m locked in a cage
Society looks at me and I feel like all they see is a delinquent when they look at my face
Constant battles between my heart and mind
Just trying to escape these invisible chains
Make it out of the program and show the world I’ve changed
Every day struggling, having to get it on my own because when I was starving — no one put food on my plate
The name is A.S.
I’m just a young man trying to feed his family, stuck in a repeated cycle every day
Just trying to escape the insanity and regain my sanity
But release date so far away, going home soon is nearly a fantasy

My Solar Eclipse 

By A.R.

All my life it’s been like a solar eclipse
I have good days and I have bad days
Like when the sun is out I have good days
But when the moon covers the sun I have bad days
My days go from good to bad
I try to hold it in
I try to keep calm
But when the solar eclipse happens I tend to fall
I tend to fall when the sun goes down
But when the sun comes out I tend to rise
Then I look up at God and I pray to him
Please let me survive the eclipse and bring back the sunshine

Locked Away 

By N.F.

Dark days, dark clouds
Lot of smiles, lot of frowns
Closed walls, cold ground
Cold food, cold salad
Level Zero, no sound
Level One, too loud
Back to Zero, closed mouths
Don’t comply, score down
Lost in thoughts, might drown
Repeated cycle, like a merry-go-round
Constant repetition, what now?
Bad situation, but in situations like this is where humbleness and qualities of greatness are found
Will you spread your wings and fly, or let the invisible chains hold you down?
Open the cage
I will not be the system’s slave
It took time to paint the picture you see portrayed
But now I spread my wings and fly away
I have a bigger vision than money or fame
And right around the corner is my release date
I am released from these invisible chains
And no longer will I be locked away

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Students at Miami Youth Academy

The students at the Miami Youth Academy wrote these stories for their newspaper Titan Tribune, a collaborative effort by the facility, Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Exchange for Change, a Miami-based non-profit group that supports writing programs in youth commitment and adult correctional facilities. The students work on the paper in a journalism class taught by retired journalism teacher Henry Unger. The writers are identified by their initials to protect their identities.