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This poem was first published in “Unaware,” an anthology in 2021 that came out of collaboration between students in English classes at Oklahoma Christian University (OC) and students placed at Southwest Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School (SOYACS) by the Oklahoma Office of Juvenile Affairs. Students from both schools engaged with each other through literature and writing and written and video conferencing exchanges that culminated in the publication of their work.

It ain’t nothin’, this place is just daycare — for babies, 
I’m hard; I hurt people, I raped someone, I shot people, I killed people, This ain’t
treatment, this is a joke,

Self-control — whatever…
I got cut many times, I got shot before, more than once,

You came into this place by yourself and you are going to leave it by yourself. I could do hard time, prison ain’t nothin’, 
I got attitude, my opinion — yeah, yours don’t matter,

I may die on the outs, gotta’ keep that mindset, 
Kill or be killed, it wasn’t me dying, I watched my friend die, 
Got to protect, no one will take care of me but me, 
Gotta’ survive, sellin’ drugs paid the bills, 
Getting’ high just to chill or not to feel, 
My family hurt me, my family left me out in the streets, 
My gang is my family, I got to survive, 
I raised myself, my gang takes care of me, 
No guidance, no care, no one there, 
No one to stop me — momma high and strung out, 
Grandma old and feeble, told to “get out,”
They said they wish I had never been born, 
Said “I’m more trouble than I’m worth,” 
Don’t want to know my dad — he don’t care anyways, 
They deal with me only when they beat me or just forget me, 

I didn’t think about sex, ‘till I got here,  
Didn’t fear going to sleep — ‘till I got here, 
Didn’t have to deal with life — ‘till I got here, 

Didn’t want to face the truth, ‘till I got here, 
Didn’t know the truth, ‘till I got here, 
My gang got me locked up — where they now?
Why did God let me be done like that?,

Why didn’t they stop it, why didn’t God step in?
I didn’t mean it, prison is where I need to be, 
Punish myself — cause this place ain’t nothin’,  

Can’t forgive, won’t forgive, need to forgive, 
Can they forgive me, can I forgive myself, 
Will God forgive me? Will my family? 
I ain’t nothin’…

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.

Marva Hoover is a student at Southwest Oklahoma Youth Academy Charter School.