The Twins' Story

photography by Sarah Fleming for the Juvenile Project

photography by Sarah Fleming for the Juvenile Project

“We ain't get our rights read to us, none of that. They ain't ask us not one question. Only thing they did was just read our paper. Then it was a man come up in the courtroom. He was like, ‘Just to let you know, they're staying in Tennessee.’ [The judge] was just gonna put us on probation. One of the lawyers stood up and said, ‘No, they going to training school. Make them go to training school. 'Cause they not finna come here in Mississippi, in Panola County, like they running something.’"

Jessica and Jalissa are twins who grew up in Crenshaw, Mississippi. When they were 12 years old, their mother moved them from their small town up to Memphis, where they would be able to attend better schools and have more opportunities. The following year, while they were staying with their grandmother in Mississippi during spring break, Jessica ran away to a friend’s house and spent the night there, without telling her family. The police found Jessica and arrested her. They wanted to question Jalissa, whose uncle brought her down to the station against her will. When an argument broke out between them in the station, the police arrested Jalissa on a domestic violence charge. Both girls ended up in training school for a period of months on various charges. In this interview, they talk about how they were treated in school growing up, and what it was like being in custody at Oakley Youth Development Center in Hinds County, Mississippi.  

Interview with twins Jessica and Jalissa, conducted by Joann Self Selvidge for The Juvenile Project (TJP) on April 26, 2017 in Memphis, TN.

Joann: So, tell me your names and how old you are and a little something about yourself.

Jalissa: My name's Jalissa. I'm a [inaudible 00:00:12]. I have a twin, I'm the youngest, and my favorite color's blue and I like to play basketball.

Jessica:  My name Jessica. I'm the oldest twin. I'm 14 years old. My favorite color is pink and blue and I like to play basketball.

Joann: So tell me a little bit about where you grew up.

Jessica:  We grew up in Crenshaw, Mississippi.

Joann: Tell me, what's Crenshaw like?

Jessica:  Crenshaw is like a whole bunch of kids, a whole bunch of grown people. It's just like a small town. It just like a community where everybody be getting together every single day after school and all that and go to the court to play basketball and go walking and stuff like that. Just chilling with each other. 

Joann: So, Jalissa, tell me about the first time y'all got in trouble at school. Or tell me about school, did you ever get in trouble at school?

Jalissa: Yes, ma'am.

Joann: For doing what?

Jalissa: Fighting. Playing too much. Talking back in class and stuff.

Joann: What were the consequences of?

Jalissa: Suspension or ISS. In school suspension.

Joann: Tell me about your suspension. Like the longest time you had to be out.

Jalissa: Like five, ten days. Ten days was the most. 

Joann: Did that happen over and over again?

Jalissa: Ten days?

Joann: Nah, I mean, just, like, how many times were you suspended out of school?

Jalissa: I don't remember, It's a lot. 

Joann: Yeah. Y'all remember how old you were?

Jessica:  Yeah ma'am.

Jalissa: Yeah ma'am.

Joann: When was it?

Jalissa: Eleven.

Joann: Okay. What grade is that?

Jessica:  We started at -

Jalissa: Ten, no, we were ten in the fifth grade. Ten. 

Joann: Did you have anybody at your school that you felt like you could trust? That you could talk to? When you were growing up, during that time period into fifth grade when you were getting suspended. 

Jessica:  Yeah ma'am.

Joann: Who was that?

Jessica:  The counselor. Nicky Buck. I think that's her first name. 

Michelle (Mom): Andrea.

Jessica:  Yeah, Andrea. 

Jalissa: Andrea Buck. 

Joann: What was different about your relationship with her, versus your relationship with the teachers and other people? 

Jessica:  'Cause She knew us outside of school, and it ... didn't nobody else want to hear what we got to say, because they system messed up. But she asked us, asking us questions. She would actually sit down and take time and talk to us. Give us advice and stuff like that. Because she knew us outside of school and she knew us personally. 

Joann: When y'all would get suspended, who was it that was making that decision? 

Jessica:  The principal. 

Jalissa: The principal.

Joann: Did your ... Was it because your teacher said y'all needed to get suspended? What was it? Who was it that was sending?

Jalissa: She wrote it on the write-up.

Joann: I'm sorry?

Jalissa: She wrote it on the write-up.

Jessica:  She wrote it on the write-up.

Joann: The same teacher you had all year, right? In the fifth grade did you have the same teacher?

Jessica:  Same teacher all year, fifth grade, yes ma'am.

Joann: How did the police get contacted to begin with?

Jalissa: 'Cause she was running away. She was at her friend's house and didn't even want to ... She ain't tell nobody where she was going. But when the police came that's when I was coming from my auntie house. Me and my little cousin. We were walking over my grandma house. We didn't know the police was there. Then they were asking me questions. Like I knew where she was; but, I didn't at the time.

Then when she text me and told me where she was, that's when me and the police was finna go get her. Then that's when we went and got her. The other police was cussing my twin out and stuff. Talking 'bout she dumb and all that. For running away and all that and just talking crazy to her. 

So my sister was talking crazy back to her. I mean to him. That's when ... And I we're pass figuring ... Go back to my grandma house. The police dropped me off. She was like, she just finna take my sister, go ask her some questions while she doing all that. That's when I had got the police called walking towards my grandma house. My uncle told me get up in the truck.

When I got up in the truck, we went to a police station. We were there for hours. That's when I wanted to ... I was irritated and ready to take a shower. That's when I just started going off on them.

Joann: You started going off on who?

Jalissa: My uncle. 

Joann: What happened?

Jalissa: 'Cause they were trying to make me stay at the police station when the police told me I ain't have to be there. 

Joann: So, you said you were going off on him and at certain point it got physically violent. What happened?

Jalissa: I don't remember. All that I know we just all started fighting each other. Then when I got up in handcuffs they finally put me ... Well when the police put me in handcuffs, that's when my uncle started slapping me. I wanted to fight him.

I told them to let me out the handcuffs and all that. And, he was trying to ... He took off all his stuff like he was gonna fight me. So, that's the reason why I had ... I was mad. When they left the police was talking crazy to me. He told me he "can't wait until I turn 18." That's when ... Then my sister said, "you ain't gonna touch my sister at all." That's when me and the police got into it. 

We stayed there for a couple more hours. That's when they told us we finna go to Greenwood. 

Joann: What's Greenwood mean?

Jalissa: It's a juvenile down there.

Joann: Okay. 

Jalissa: And then when they made my uncle and them leave the police station ... When they left the police station, that's when we found out we finna be able to go to Greenwood; and, we stayed there for three days. Out of them three days we had to go to court. I think that Monday and ... Nah ... Yeah, that Monday; and, then when we had went to court they told us we was going to Oakley.

Joann: For having a argument in the police station.

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Joann: You said at one point the police officers got involved and you said she slammed you on a desk?

Jalissa: He slammed me on the-

Joann: He.

Jalissa: He tried to slam me on the desk, but I fell on the floor. 

Joann: What position were you in when they put the handcuffs on you?

Jalissa: Laying across the desk, but I wasn't all the way on the desk. I was just a little bit over the desk. Him and my uncle were trying to get my other hand up in the handcuff.

Joann: Do you remember how old you were?

Jalissa: 13. No, we were 14.

Jessica:  13.

Michelle (Mom): 13.

Jalissa: Oh. 

Joann: So how long was it before you got to Crenshaw, I mean ... Where's the juvenile group?

Jalissa: Greenwood.

Joann: Greenwood.

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. I don't remember.

Joann: Was it that day?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am it was the same day. 

Joann: Tell me what the ... I'm going to ask this to you Jessica. Tell me what y'all both ... Did y'all both go at the same time?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Joann: Did they keep y'all together or did they separate y'all?

Jalissa: In rooms. We stayed in the same room.

Joann: Jessica, tell me what it was like ... Tell me what all the experience was like for you. Did you see any of this? Or were you in a different part?

Jessica:  I ain't see they slammed her on the desk, but I would try and get up in the room where they was. But, my mom and my uncle they were trying to get me to sit down so I wouldn't go up in there where they was. 

Joann: Where were you at this point?

Jessica:  Police station. We was just in different rooms. I was out there in the hallway. She was in the room. 

Joann: Had they done any sort of an intake interview with you at this point?

Jessica:  No ma'am. 

Joann: Because Jalissa was saying that they were going to ask you why you ran away and stuff. Did you ever have an interview?

Jessica:  No ma'am.

Joann: So did you get brought in because you ran away from home?

Jessica:  No ma'am.

Joann: Who was it that called the cops to say that you ran away from home?

Jessica:  I don't know to be honest. I think my grandma.

Joann: Okay. Do you remember why you were gone that day? You just wanna...

Jessica:  I just wanted to leave.

Joann: Had you had any sort of arguments or anything to set it off?

Jessica:  No ma'am. I didn't want to stay at my grandma house that night. So I left. She wasn't gonna let me out. So I left. 

Joann: How long were you gone before the cops came and got you?

Jessica:  All night. I wasn't outside. I was just at my friend house. I was down the street. 

Joann: Just the night. So tell me what happened when they took y'all over to Greenwood. What was that trip like? They take you in like a van or something. Tell me, they have to keep you in handcuffs? What was that experience like going from Crenshaw over to Greenwood.

Jessica:  They took the handcuffs off us and we went down there. 

Joann: You mean like a regular police car?

Jessica:  Yes ma'am. 

Joann: How long was it to get over there, 20 minutes, 30 minutes something like that?

Jessica:  I think about an hour or two, an hour and a half. 

Joann: Okay, it is in the same county?

Jessica:  No ma'am.

Joann: The next county over?

Jessica:  Yes ma'am.

Joann: What county is Crenshaw in? 

Jessica:  Panola county.

Joann: Where's Greenwood? Next county over?

Jessica:  I think so it's a long way from Crenshaw.

Joann: Okay. So tell me about ... What was that facility like? The juvenile facility. How would you describe it?

Jalissa: Which one?

Jessica:  Bad.

Jalissa: Greenwood?

Joann: Greenwood.

Jalissa: It was all right.

Joann: You said bad. Why did you say bad, Jessica?

Jessica:  They ain't wash my underwear. They gave me same clothes over and over. They had gave us that little old soap.

Joann: You had your own cell there? Y'all were sharing a cell?

Jessica:  We were sharing a cell. 

Jalissa: It was two beds up in there. 

Joann: How big was it?

Jalissa: It was-

Jessica:  It wasn't that big.

Jalissa: 'Bout the size of this hallway. 

Joann: Is it that narrow? About six by nine, something like that?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Jessica:  Yes ma'am.

Joann: Yeah. So what do you remember the most about your experience when you were at the juvenile court?

Jessica:  They got some nasty food.

Jalissa: No she said court, twin.

Jessica:  Oh.

Joann: Well, yeah. Tell me about the detention center. 

Jessica:  They got some nasty food.

Joann: What was your strongest memory?

Jalissa: Nasty food and we had to be up in our rooms all day.

Joann: Did they let y'all go out for any sort of recreation or any of that?

Jalissa: Not outside, but we had good-

Jessica:  When they took us to the computer lab, they call us watch TV.

Joann: How much time do you think you got to do that during day?

Jessica:  No, it was at night time around 'bout seven to eight o'clock.

Jalissa: To nine. 

Jessica:  Yeah to nine. 

Joann: Did y'all do any kind of programs or school or anything like that?

Jessica:  We had school. That was in the morning time round 'bout six o'clock.

Joann: So y'all were 13 when this happened what kind of school did they give you?

Jessica:  Everybody was in one little classroom.

Jalissa: Everybody was in school with everybody.

Joann: How old were the people that you were with?

Jessica:  Grown.

Jalissa: Different ages and some of them were grown. 

Joann: When you say grown, how old is that?

Jessica:  'Bout.

Jalissa: 19.

Jessica:  It was some like 20, 21, 19, 18. Some were 14, 13.

Joann: So it's kinda all mixed ages, but ... At what age do you get transferred over to the adult criminal system in Mississippi? Do y'all know?

Jalissa: No ma'am.

Jessica:  21 I think.

Jalissa: 18.

Jessica:  Some were 21. 'Cause Greenwood they will hold you 'til you 21.

Joann: Okay. So, it was all the way up to 21, where y'all were. How many days were y'all there? Where'd y'all go next?

Jalissa: Three days.

Jessica:  And we came home.

Joann: Okay. Tell me about that court experience. 

Jessica:  They ain't give us nothing to say.

Jalissa: No, they ain't give us nothing to say. Then the police was like, I was trying to hit him with a stapler. But I don't remember picking up no stapler. 

Jessica:  They didn't read us our rights. 

Jalissa: I remember everything but the stapler. He said that I had tried to hit him with a stapler; but I don't remember seeing no stapler. 

Joann: Was this something where the police officer was up on the stand explaining what happened?

Jessica:  Nobody said nothing.

Jalissa: Nobody said nothing to us. We got up in the court and they was like-

Jessica:  They just read our paper.

Jalissa: Read our paper what we did and all that. Then that's when the judge was trying to say ... Tell us that we was gonna be on probation. Then that's when some man from the court area down below he was like, send us to juvenile. 

Joann: To-

Jessica:  He said send us to training school.

Jalissa: Over to training school. He said 'cause ... I guess he thought we- 

Jessica:  He said 'cause we ain't fin come up in no county thinking we run stuff.

Joann: He said 'cause of what?

Jessica:  We ain't finna come to Panola country thinking we running stuff. 

Joann: So, did you have an attorney?

Jalissa: No ma'am. We ain't have no lawyer, no nothing. 

Joann: Did anybody ever ask you if you wanted one?

Jalissa: No ma'am.

Jessica:  No ma'am. They ain't even read us our rights. Don't they supposed to read your ... Anything taking me ... They didn't ever do that. What's that stuff called? A miranda, mirandize ... Yes ma'am.

Joann: So nobody ever said that to you?

Jessica:  No ma'am. Not one of them and it was about three polices at the police station. 

Joann: So did they ever ask you questions and get a statement?

Jessica:  No ma'am.

Jalissa: No ma'am. They ain't ask her for no statement, no summary or nothing. They just were like ... And then when we got to the courthouse it was two people. I don't know the name of them. It was two people. One got her and got me and they were just telling us we probably end up on probation or something like that; but they ain't never say we were going to juvenile 'til that man who was up in court ... It was some man that holler to say we gonna do that.

Michelle (Mom): Them were lawyers. State prosecutors. 

Joann: Did y'all talk to anybody that called themselves a counselor?

Jalissa: No ma'am.

Jessica:  No ma'am. 

Jalissa: 'Til we got to the juvenile center. She asked why we was up in there for. They was all-

Joann: Did she call herself a social worker?

Jalissa: She was supposed to be a counselor. 

Joann: Okay. How was it that y'all were able to leave and not go to Oakley that day? What happened in the courtroom?

Jalissa: They just told us they had to see is there enough room down there 'fore they send us down there. Then we went home for a couple weeks. Then of of them Mondays, my mom had to take us to a Batesville jail. I mean court-

Michelle (Mom): You right, jail.

Jalissa: -Jailhouse and then they were going transport us from that.

Joann: To Oakley?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. Jacks-

Joann: So y'all did go to Oakley?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. 

Joann: Okay, so tell me about that.

Jalissa: Oakley?

Joann: Yes.

Jalissa: It was okay.

Joann: You're shaking your head, Jessica, why? It's okay you can tell me.

Jessica:  Talking 'bout how it was down there? They food good, but I had got burned down there, like 'round here with that hot water. I got burned. I had got an allergic reaction with they soap. They ain't give me no shampoo for my hair; but, they gave everybody else some. 

I barely had soap. They gave me razors once a month. When they supposed to been gave me, like the rest of the other girls. 

Jalissa: And then they-

Jessica:  They be treating us different. 

Jalissa: They were judging a girl. I can't say her name. A girl named Alyssa. 'Cause she was y'all skin color. No offense. They were judging her of the things she had done in the past to get there. 

Joann: What do you mean they was judging her?

Jessica:  'Cause she took the charge-

Jalissa: For somebody else.

Jessica:  -For somebody else.

Jalissa: The other girls they was just judging her cause of her skin color and were bullying her and stuff. 

Joann: Were there many white girls, at all?

Jalissa: No ma'am. She was the only one.

Jessica:  She was the only white girl. It was just three of us black kids.

Joann: So when y'all were at the training school you said ... About how many other girls were in there with you at the same time?

Jalissa: When we got transported to the Oakley?

Joann: Well let's back it up. You can tell me what you were saying.

Jalissa: When she was there, it was just only four of us. When she left it was three of us. Then another girl had came, and made if four of us again. 

Joann: Okay, when was that? The whole time you were at Oakley or going from-

Jalissa: The whole time. She only had a month in there. She left May 4th, didn't-

Jessica:  No.

Michelle (Mom): Yes.

Jalissa: She left May 4th, I left June 22nd. I was supposed to been had ... The police officer was trying to write ... He was trying ... We had five charges in one day. He put my name on her charge. I was supposed to have the charge she had. 

She had simple assault and I had aggressive assault on police. But, I didn't really to much say anything to the police it was her. So, I supposed to been had the simple assault. So when we got down there ... But, when we was in Greenwood we had the same charge. But when we got to Oakley we had different charges. 

So she had to do a month in there. I had to do four months and one week; but, they cut it down short 'cause of good behavior. So, I was only in there two months and a half. 

Joann: Okay. So, did they give you charges at courtroom and that's why they sent you to Oakley? What were your charges? You said they changed the charges. What were they at first?

Jalissa: We both had simple assault; but, then when we go to Oakley we had two different charges. And then I tried to tell them that they gave her the wrong charge; but, they was like, they gotta go by what's on the paper. 

Joann: Do you think they mixed you 'cause you're twins, or just-

Jalissa: They did because all the stuff that was on that paper-

Jessica:  The police knew us apart.

Jalissa: -saying that I did, it was her and she told them it was her. 

Joann: So, tell me a little bit about ... You're talking about how they treated you differently. 

Jessica:  They barely gave me soap. I had a rash down there. I got burned in the shower. All they did was tell me to put Vaseline on it. And they had a clinic. They could have took me to the clinic, but they didn't.

Joann: So why do you think they treated you differently?

Jessica:  'Cause I was having trouble sleeping. I would be up all night even though I still had to get up 'round about five something in the morning. So, everybody else, even the boys too, they gave them ... It was just certain boys. They gave them sleeping pills, so they could go to sleep at night. 

I ain't get it. I kept asking them for it. They ain't give it to me. 

Jalissa: Then the staff was trying to fight the juvenile kids. They system messed up down there. They staff they be cussing us out and stuff down there. It was four girls. Then one of the four girls into it with the staff; 'cause she was talking about her Momma. Her Momma had just had surgery, 'cause she got cancer.

Jessica:  My hair come out down there. That's why I had to get cut on the side, 'cause half of my hair come out down there. 

Jalissa: I ain't do it 'cause my hair don't come out when I wash. I don't know what they had in that stuff. They made me put it up in there. 

Joann: They made you put-

Jessica:  Made me put some lice stuff up in there. Turns out I had bugs in my head from sleeping. I had bug in my hair.

Jalissa: And ants was on the beds. 

Joann: Did any of the staff people working there ever-

Jessica:  They didn't care.

Jalissa: Some of them cared. It would be like-

Jessica:  Some of them cared. But that's only one that work on the second shift but the first and third shift, they don't care. 

Joann: So, what was it like? You said there was only for four girls and all the rest were boys.

Jessica:  Yes ma'am.

Jalissa: We were separated all the girls from the boys.

Jessica:  It was like a pod. You know when they call them pods. Yeah. It was just four of us in our little thing right there. On down it's a boys room, a thing for the boys right there. Then on the other side it was basically a whole, big old school; but, it ain't like no school. It's just made up like school, but it's just part of a school.

The rest are just rooms for us. 

Joann: You said there were ... Out of the four girls, did y'all at this training school, the kids prison ... Where y'all were, did you have roommates there? Were y'all roommates there? Or did y'all have separate rooms?

Jessica:  We had separate rooms. 

Jalissa: Separate. It was one to a room.

Joann: Tell me a little bit about the routine during the day, like-

Jalissa: How we gotta get up 'round about five-thirty or five-forty. We gotta get up and go brush our teeth, wash our face. But when we get up we gotta put our clothes on. We got a uniform to wear. We had to put our clothes on, go up in there, brush our teeth, wash our face, come back, lay down 'til six o'clock, get up, we gotta fix our bed, mop our room out. Whoever on duty ... Like the whole pod in the bathroom and gotta clean the bathroom. Clean the tables and all that. 

Whoever on for that day, that what they gotta do. Then they gotta clean up they room too. We go to school. On weekends we don't go to school, though. But, during the weekdays we go to school and we get out of school 'round 'bout 12. I think it's 'bout that time.

Jessica:  Three.

Jalissa: No that's time for lunch.

Jessica:  Oh.

Jalissa: So we get out ... Well we go eat breakfast before we go to school. Then we come back. Then we go to school then 'round 'bout 12 we go eat lunch. Then everybody eat lunch together; but, we had different tables. The girls at one table then the boys they spread out. So, we went there and then were like, "we gotta go back to school." Well we go back to the pod and we sit there for a few minutes, 'til they call us back to school. 

Then they call us to school. Then 'round 'bout three o'clock we leave from school and go to the pod. Then we chill there. Then we'll go to the gym. If it's our tun to go the gym that day. We go to the gym everyday. It's like two gyms. Gym one, it's just goals up in there. In gym two they got pool table, all that, swimming pool, all that in gym two. 

That's why I said they treated us different; 'cause the girls they stayed making the girls go to gym one and the boys get to go to gym two everyday. We only went to gym two, unless we were with the boys. 

Joann: Were there any kind of special programs, like treatment programs other than-

Jessica:  We had groups everyday. We had groups about our behavior, drugs, stuff like that. Groups on talking to you about respect and all that, and how to treat others, and how to treat yourself. We had different every single day.

Joann: Did any of them help you in anyway?

Jessica:  Yes ma'am.

Joann: Can you tell me about that?

Jessica:  It helped me with my attitude; 'cause my attitude different now. It helped me deal with certain situations. Then it helped me ... Normally I'd snap out on you. Like you disrespect me, if I feel disrespected in any way; but, I don't do that no more. 

Joann: How do you-

Jessica:  I don't say nothing at all. Sometimes I cry, but just to keep from not going off. 

Joann: How 'bout you Jalissa? Did any of that stuff help you?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. It cooled my temper down some. When I found out I had ADHD, they put me on some medicine and it helped.

Joann: Yeah?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. 

Joann: How did it help? How did you feel differently?

Jalissa: I would calm down a lot and then when I get angry I stop throwing things, throwing tantrums and stuff. 

Joann: So, of all the time that y'all were out of school. This was during the school year right?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Jessica:  Yes ma'am.

Joann: What was it like when y'all got out?

Jalissa: It happened during spring break.

Jessica:  When she got out, 'cause she was only in there for a month, that was just four weeks. When she got out she went back to school up here. She went back to school. 

I ain't get a chance to go back to school, 'cause I was still down there. I got out during the summertime. I had already passed to the 8th grade, because they had school down there. And you could pass down there if you there for a good amount of time. So you gotta be there more than a month, in order to graduate to your next class. 

Joann: Jalissa, were you able ... You finished school in the same time you were finishing up regular 7th grade?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. 

Joann: Since you got out of Oakley and went straight back to school, I mean after spring break. Where you down in Mississippi or y'all had moved up here?

Jalissa: We had been moved up here. 

Joann: So you had to spend-

Jalissa: Spring break we was down my grandma house.

Joann: Okay.

Jalissa: For spring break. That's what happened.

Jessica:  We got locked up on spring break. During spring break.

Jalissa: When all this happened. 

Joann: So y'all been living in Memphis and you just went down to Mississippi and all this happened in Mississippi. 

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Joann: On spring break. Gotcha. So when you went back to school, when you got out of Oakley, where did you go back to school?

Jalissa: Going where I been going to school at. 

Joann: [inaudible 00:27:44] school.

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Joann: Here in Memphis?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. 

Joann: What kind of reactions did people get? Did you feel like anybody talked to you or treated you differently because you'd been gone for so long? Did they know? Did anybody know?

Jalissa: They knew what happened 'cause I told them. Well I told my teacher. Some of the people that I hang with I told them too. 

Joann: Yeah. Did any of your teachers reach out to you and try to help you after you got back to school?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Joann: Tell me about that.

Jalissa: Trying to catch me up on my work and stuff. Helping me with extra credit and stuff. 

Joann: So how would y'all describe yourselves in terms of how you do in school. 

Jalissa: Good. 

Jessica:  Good. I got good grades. 

Jalissa: Better than I had before. 

Jessica:  But, I don't know. This our 4th semester and we got our progress reports. You wanna know about it? So our progress report ... The 3rd semester, that was just our last semester. I had good grades. But now all my grades dropped. I do my work 'cause if I don't my work they gonna call my Momma. Call her and tell my Momma. So, my grades dropped. I got a grade in this class and I don't even take that class, at all. I'm in a whole 'nother different class. 

So, I tried to go to the office today but my teacher she wouldn't let me, 'cause she was already frustrated 'cause it's a whole bunch of noise. She trying to do this, trying to do that, trying to get everybody in the classroom and stuff like that. 

So I ain't get a chance to got to the office, but I'm gonna go to the office in the morning and try to see about my grades. 

Joann: So, I'm gonna back up a little bit, 'cause y'all were ... Tell me a little bit about why y'all moved to Memphis. I mean obviously your mom can tell me more about it, but what was that like for y'all? The move?

Jessica:  Bad.

Jalissa: Bad. We ain't wanna move.

Joann: How long did it take you to get adjusted?

Jalissa: It took us to get adjusted ... It took a long time. I don't know. It took a very long time for us to get adjusted up here. When we start making friends up here, stuff like that.

Joann: What's your relationship like with your uncle and your grandmother now?

Jalissa: Good. We all good now.

Joann: Okay. It's just that one incident over spring break?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. But, when we had got out we started to creep back right and all that. 

Jessica:  When we was in Oakley they ain't even let us see our grandad. Well they didn't let me see my grandad. The ain't let me see my grandma or my ... Well I seen my grandma a couple times then they took her name off the list. Then they took my auntie name off the list. I ain't never get a chance to see my grandad, period. 

So when he came up there with my Momma and them, he had to wait outside the car, outside the gate in the car. Him and my little baby cousin. But, I ain't get it because when were having visitation everybody else little sister and all them, they came. But, then when I try to see could my little cousin come, they said she was to young. 

But, them little babies were newborn and all that. My little cousin I think she was about two or one. She was 'bout two or one. 

Joann: Why'd they take your grandmother and auntie's name off the list?

Jessica:  I don't even know. They ain't never tell me. I kept asking. They ain't never tell me. 

Joann: How often did you get a chance to visit with family?

Jessica:  I got to visit my family every time my Momma off. Like on the weekend. The weekend she off. We have visitation every weekend. 

Joann: Okay. Were you able to call or was a-

Jessica:  We call once a week.

Joann: Yeah.

Jessica:  It's like a little program ... Okay, you start off 'B.' This 'B' like you move on up like with your good behavior in school and stuff. It's like a behavior sheet. If you get good ... They'll grade you. If you get a good report throughout the whole week, like for a couple weeks. You can get on honors. That's two phone calls a week. It's like these little snack sheet. It depends on how many bucks you get. 

You get seven bucks, then you got seven dollars. Every week your bucks add up. You could save them if you want to, to add them up and all. You could do that. But when you on honors, you get ten dollars every week.

Joann: Do you have to-

Jessica:  They don't give us real money. You just have to check on the sheet. We'll do one and they'll go to the store and get it for you. It's a little store where we was. We ain't have nothing outside that, out of there. 

Joann: Did you have to use those credits to make phone calls?

Jessica:  No ma'am. When you ain't on honors you got five minute phone calls. When you on honors you got ten minute phone calls. You can make your phone call any day of the week. When you're on honors you got two phone calls a week. 

Joann: So, Jalissa you were telling me that at some certain point you got on ADHD medicine?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. 

Joann: Tell me how did they ... How did y'all figure out about a diagnosis?

Jalissa: A doctor had came to see me when I was at Oakley.

Joann: How long had you been there before the doctor came?

Jalissa: A couple weeks.

Joann: Yeah.

Jalissa: I think it was about a week-

Jessica:  It was about two weeks.

Jalissa: A week and a half.

Jessica:  A week and a half. 

Joann: Jessica, do you have ADHD too or is it just Jalissa?

Jessica:  No ma'am. 

Joann: So tell me, Jalissa what was it that ... What did the doctor ask you? How did that whole thing go?

Jalissa: Days where anger ... Can't focus in class and then always going off over little things. Just snapping out. 

Joann: So you were able to start taking that while you were still in custody there?

Jalissa: Yeah.

Joann: Okay. Let me think. How did you get to know the people at the Southern Poverty Law Center?

Jalissa: The who?

Joann: Elissa. Elissa Johnson, the woman that recommended us.

Jessica:  She a lawyer?

Joann: Mm-hmm (affirmative). She's one of the people that, I think, they come into Oakley.

Jessica:  I don't know how she knew me, but all of a sudden one of the workers there they took me over here to this place. When you first come up inside of Oakley, it's like this little station right here that check your cards and all that. 

They took me in there. They was like, do you know her? They wanna speak to you. But, when I got in there she said she wasn't a lawyer. She said she was something like a lawyer, but ain't really no lawyer. She was just asking me how I get there and she was like, how has it been since I was there. I was just telling her how it's been. I was telling her how I get there. 

She said something about did we go to trial. It wasn't basically no trial, because if it was a trial we would have never went, because we ain't get out rights read to us, none of that. They ain't ask her not one question. Only thing they did was just read our paper. Then it was a man come up in the courtroom. He was like, "just to let you know they're staying in Tennessee."

Then he was taking us. He was just gonna put us on probation. That's what the judge said. One of the lawyers stood up and said, "no they going to training school. Make them go to training school. 'Cause they not finna come here in Mississippi, in Panola county like they running something." 

Joann: What was the judge like? You said that it was the jud-

Jessica:  The judge he was like, "we just gonna put them on probation." That's what he was like. But then the lawyer stood up, he was like, "no we gonna send them to Oakley training school." That's what he was telling the judge. So that what changed the judge mind. 'Cause the man kept on persuading him to take us to training school. 

And then he made a comment. The lawyer made a loud comment. Everybody in the court heard him. He said, "'cause y'all not finna come in Panola county thinking y'all running something."

Joann: Did anybody other than judge argue for probation.

Jessica:  No didn't nobody argue. Everybody was just sitting there. Like we just [inaudible 00:37:04]. Then they told my Momma to get out our report cards and all that. Get all our information and stuff ready, because in 'bout two weeks they were gonna call my Momma so that she take us to Batesville police station. So we could get shipped off up there to Jackson. 

Joann: Do you think that they treated you differently? Was it 'cause you were ... When you say that you were treated differently, is that because you're a girl? Or did they treat you differently from the other girls?

Jessica:  The treated all us differently. This girl she was there long before me and the other girl Alyssa. She was there before me and her. She thought she was running stuff, so they gave her more privileges than men an Alyssa had. 

Joann: Who is the white girl?

Jessica:  Alyssa.

Joann: So after Jalissa left-

Jessica:  It was just me, Alyssa, and Jeniah. 

Joann: Okay.

Jessica:  When Jeniah left ... Jeniah left May 18th. When she left, it was this 'nother girl came. Her name Diamond. When she came everything was still the same, but they ... Everything was still the same, but all of us was treated differently. 

We had to walk and the boys got a ride over there to the cafeteria. We had to walk some days we had ... One time ... It just depends on who's working on the shift, because it was this worker there named Ms. Pope. She gave us a ride every single day because it was hot out there. Like sweating hot. 

Joann: Where'd you have to get a ride to?

Jessica:  The cafeteria. It's a store down here, so the cafeteria that store the cafeteria. All this right here where we sleep at and the gym and all that. It's another gym down the hill. Far down the hill. We had to walk all the way to the gym. Then we had to walk to the cafeteria from over here in this little department. We had to walk over here to the cafeteria.

It was a long walk. 

Joann: When y'all were doing programs and stuff did they ever do anything specific 'cause y'all were girls? Specific to being a girl?

Jessica:  We had some 'bout sex, but I think the boys had the same thing. All us had the same group, 'cause the same people that went to the boys, the same people that came to us. But we had different people come teaching us bible study. We had that, I think, every Thursday. It was like every Thursday. We had bible study. 

Joann: Those were outside volunteers or was that-

Jessica:  Volunteers. 

Joann: Mm-hmm (affirmative). It is the end of April, so it's been a year since Jalissa you been out? You got out last April?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am. 

Jessica:  No we got in there April 18th. No April the 8th. 

Joann: You went in April the 8th. And you got out in May.

Jessica:  May, yeah.

Joann: And you got out June 22nd. 

Jalissa: June 22nd. 

Joann: Now that it's been some time, what are your thoughts about all that? About that experience?

Jalissa: I don't have any. 

Jessica:  I don't have any.

Joann: Is that because you don't wanna have any?

Jessica:  I don't know. I just that I was missing my friends and family. It's all that it means to me, but then I had got used to it so it really didn't phase me, no more. After I got used to it. 'Cause I would have stayed, 'cause I like to play basketball. I was playing basketball everyday. So it was just like taking my mind off the bad things. 

Joann: So if y'all had any advice for the people that were running Oakley, what would y'all say? I'm gonna ask you Jalissa. If you had had to give somebody advice about what they should do differently at Oakley?

Jalissa: Make sure the kids safe. Make sure they have things up like they should. 

Joann: When you say make sure the kids safe-

Jalissa: Treat us like we they kids and have us, you know ... Make us feel safe ... Well we feel safe, but I mean, it just the hygiene part about they soap and all that. 

Joann: What would you say?

Jessica:  Same thing.

Joann: Is there anything that they're doing now that you would encourage them to continue doing? 

Jessica:  I don't know what they doing now. I don't talk to them.

Joann: Well you know. Anything that helped you, that you would tell them to keep doing that.

Jessica:  The groups everyday.

Joann: Yeah. 

Jalissa: Yeah the groups. 

Joann: What was the group that made the most of an impact on y'all?

Jalissa: In the group about the police. 

Joann: Tell me about that.

Jalissa: It was this man he had came to our ... She wasn't there, but it was this man he had came talked about the police. He was like whatever we do when the police stop us, even if it for no reason, just still put your hands up and don't disrespect them in no type of way. 

And if they talk to us, then just give them a good response, like "no sir, yes ma'am." All that. Don't make them feel like they disrespecting you no type of way. 

Joann: Have you had an opportunity to use that in real life?

Jalissa: No ma'am 'cause I don't talk to no police. 

Joann: Well that's good. What am I missing? What do you think, considering everything that happened over spring break ... That spring break when all this trouble happened. What do you think would have been the most appropriate response?

If you feel like you did something wrong and you had to deal with the consequences of your actions, what do you think would have been fair?

Jalissa: If they had of asked us ... Talking about at the police station or at the court?

Joann: In any circum-

Jalissa: If they had asked for our side of the story instead of just giving us our consequences without trying to hear statement or nothing like that or something like that. 

Jessica:  Next time when they come pick me up, wherever I'm at, treat me with respect. 'Cause they didn't. All they did was say, "get your 'a' out of here." And they said, "come on you wanna play games" and he was yanking on me. 

You wanna know his name? Adrian Wright. That's his name AK. He was yanking on me.

Michelle (Mom): Kerwood.

Jalissa: Yeah Kerwood. 

Jessica:  Kerwood.

Jalissa: Adrian Kerwood. 

Joann: Was this the officer's name?

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.

Jessica:  Yes ma'am. I don't know the woman name, but she wasn't too much doing nothing. Only thing she told AK, well Adrian ... The only thing she told Adrian was when him and my twin was into it and all that, asked my Momma all in front of the police station and we was still there. He told my twin he can't wait 'til she hit 18 so he could fight her. 

The woman police told him to "be quiet," because she could tell the judge that. But we ain't have no chance to tell the judge that, 'cause when we got up in there they didn't let us talk or not of that. Only thing they did was just read the paper 'bout our charges and they just went from there.

I should've told the judge that we ain't get our rights reading. They ain't read us our rights. I ain't seen none of them all they did was just threw the handcuffs on us. And were talking stuff to us. 

Joann: Did the judge ever look at y'all during the proceedings and talk to you or ask you anything? 

Jessica:  He just looked at us when we got up in the courtroom. That was it. Then he read the paper. Then he went from the paper, and he was going to give us probation. He was finna tell my mother go to the department in the front to get how many days that we were gonna be on probation; but, he didn't even have the chance to because this other man he stood up and he was like, "no they going to Oakley training" ... He ain't say Oakley. But he was like, "we gonna send them to training school, 'cause they not finna come to Mississippi thinking they running something. 

Joann: Gotcha.

Jessica:  But I don't get that, because we been living in Mississippi our whole life. All we did was just move over here over the summer. 

Joann: So what do you think should happen when somebody runs away from home?

Jessica:  They should inform the parent where they at, or whoever, where they at. 

Joann: I mean if you were to get in trouble, how would you ... Say you were the parent and your child ran away from home. How would you want them to be ... If it ever happened again, how would you want to be treated?

Jessica:  Ask questions, and why did I do it an all that. Not just call the police. 'Cause I wasn't nowhere but down the street. Literally down the street. Crenshaw so little so I couldn't go nowhere. I wasn't even finna leave up out of Crenshaw. 'Cause it really wasn't like I'm just finna be gone the whole spring break and all that. 

All I did was just wanna go outside. That was it. My grandma she strict. She don't like us going outside. So even though she the only house we stay in ... She was like the only house ... Our family that stay down there, we cool and everything. We got a bond and stuff like that; but we not necessarily ... We picky who house we want to sleep over and all that. 

Well yeah. 

So we choose to spend the night at my grandma house, but every time we go out, she give us like an hour to be outside and stuff like that. She real strict, 'cause she don't want nothing to happen to us and stuff like that. 

But Crenshaw isn't like Memphis. See Memphis worser than Crenshaw; 'cause it's just like a little old small town. Everybody know everybody. 

Joann: Did you know those police officers before they showed up that day? 

Jessica:  He was my cousin. He was. But the other woman police, I knew her. I knew her when she first joined ... Started working in Crenshaw for the police. I knew her when she started working there. Everybody know everybody. We know every police that work in Crenshaw. We know who get hired. Who get fired. All that. 

Joann: Is there anything that we didn't talk about that y'all wanna say?

Jessica:  I said everything.

Jalissa: No ma'am.

Joann: What are y'alls plans? Y'all are 14 what you wanna do?

Jessica:  What do I wanna be? I wanna go to the WNBA be a basketball player and if that don't work out I wanna be a lawyer. 

Joann: Awesome. Why do you want to be a lawyer?

Jessica:  I wanna be a lawyer because I like arguing with folks. 

Michelle (Mom): Yes lord. 

Joann: How bout you Jalissa? What do you wanna do?

Jalissa: A basketball player. 

Joann: Yeah. 

Jalissa: That's my one dream; but I gotta find me a backup. Just in case that don't work. 

Joann: Okay. You gotta heal your leg first. 

Jalissa: Yes ma'am.