Jeremy's Story

photography by Sarah Fleming for the Juvenile Project

photography by Sarah Fleming for the Juvenile Project

“The other kids were completely different from me. They were like wild animals. Literally like they would be banging on the doors for no reason at 3 in the morning. I'm just like, ‘Why are they doing all this?’”

Jeremy is a 16 year-old who lives with his grandmother and uncle in Jackson, MS. One evening, when he returned home late from school, Jeremy got into an argument with his family members that became physical. His friends heard what has happening and called the police, who came to the house and arrested Jeremy for domestic violence. Because it was his first arrest, he was unfamiliar with the system, and he had no parent or guardian with him when the intake counselor (who is a representative of youth court) questioned him. He appeared in court for two hearings, but he never spoke with a defense attorney. He was detained at the juvenile center for one week before he was released.

Interview with Jeremy, conducted by Joann Self Selvidge for The Juvenile Project (TJP) on Feb 03, 2017 at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Jackson, MS.

Joann: I'm Joann. Tell me your name and how old you are.

Jeremy: My name is Jeremy and I'm 16.

Joann: Tell me a little bit about your background. Obviously you're here because you've had involvement with the juvenile justice system.

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Tell me about your first contact with the system. Like how you became engaged with the system and why.

Jeremy: Let's see. I have kind of a slow memory, a little bit.

Joann: That's okay. We've got all day. (laughs) Well at least until like, the next one.

Jeremy: All right, it was in October, I think it was like the twelfth. Over a dispute with a few family members, about a ... I can't remember what it was exactly about but it was you know, regular family arguing things. Things got physical and my friends were there, so they called the police. They had arrested me because ... I'm not sure why they arrested me but, I got taken in.

Joann: This is just this past October?

Jeremy: Yes.

Joann: Is this the first time you've ever gotten arrested? Okay well tell me about it. So, if it was an argument at your house and things got physical, and things got physical and you had friends there, tell me, just so I can know a little bit more. Were these neighborhood friends friends from school? Tell me a little bit about your home life. Who lives at your house? Who was there? And stuff like that.

Jeremy: All right let's see. They're friends that I've known ... Some of them I've known since diaper days. Other ones I know from at least like 6th grade. So we've been friends for a really long time. Home life, it was me, my grandmother, my great-grandfather, 2 uncles, and a little dog. As of right now it's me, my grandma, my one uncle, and a dog, since my great-grandfather is currently in a nursing home because of something that happened to him. I wasn't there when it happened, so I don't know exactly what happened. They said that it wasn't a stroke, but that he'll need rehabilitation.

Joann: Do you have siblings?

Jeremy: I have siblings, I have 2 brothers but they live with my mom.

Joann: Is your father in the picture at all?

Jeremy: He used to be but, he moved out and he got a girlfriend. I don't really hear from him like that.

Joann: How long has it been that you've lived with your grandmother?

Jeremy: Most of my life.

Joann: Okay. So tell me a little bit about that particular incident, and what happened that led it to escalate, and get the cops called.

Jeremy: Let's see ... Okay, I remember, I had come home a little bit later than usual. That was because there was something going on at the school I was at. So the police wanted us to just stay in one spot and not move. Until the whole situation was cleared. I remember ... It was something like, I think someone got shot on the street and they ran inside the school gym where everyone was at. So they told us to evacuate and just stay in that area to make sure that we don't go anywhere. We were getting questioned and interviewed and things like that. So I had to stay there for a little bit. They thought that I was doing something, I'm not sure what they thought I was doing, but they thought I was doing something I shouldn't be doing. We kind of got into an argument over who was writing things like that.

Joann: You got into an argument at your house, or at the school?

Jeremy: At my house. When I came home, they were just going to the school but they pulled back into the driveway.

Joann: Right. The police officer?

Jeremy: No, my mom.

Joann: Oh. Okay so let's just start over. You're hanging out, tell me what school it is. There was some sort of thing, and then how did you get to your house?

Jeremy: I had ran to my house because I was trying to get home as quick as possible, because it was like 6:30. It wasn't dark yet but it was just getting there. So I was like "let me try to hurry home before they say anything and get mad". It was at Lanier High school. When I got across the street from my house, my mom was backing out of the driveway, then she saw me so she pulled back in. So I went in the house. My grandma was asking me "where've you been? Where've you been?". I was like "I was at school". She was like "No you couldn't have been at school" but I was like "I was at school, there was a thing going on, so I had to stay there" and she was like "I don't believe you, go outside and talk to your mom she's outside and she's worried about you". I was like "Okay", so I went to go talk to her.

It was a Wednesday and I usually go to bible study so I was trying to hurry there. They were talking about I had stuff to do. I was like "I'm really late so I'm trying to hurry up and go". They got mad at me because, they thought I was gonna ditch out on my chores. Which I was just holding off until an hour later. We got into a dispute over that.

Joann: And it became physical?

Jeremy: Yeah.

Joann: Okay. So they called ... Who called?

Jeremy: My friends had called.

Joann: Your friends got called?

Jeremy: No, my friends called the police because they were still there and they heard everything.

Joann: I see. So your friends called the police, and the police showed up and you got arrested.

Jeremy: Yes.

Joann: Okay, and then what happened?

Jeremy: When I went to the [inaudible 00:06:05] asked my "Hey, have you ever been here before?". They made me take some kind of test to see where I was mentally. When I was there I would talk to my councilor, I went outside. I was regular things I guess. I'm not really sure how to explain it.

Joann: Was anybody with you when you went down ... You got arrested and you got taken down to the ...

Jeremy: It was just me.

Joann: It was just you. Who was your councilor, or was that the person who had an interview with you at intake?

Jeremy: Ms. Fletcher?

Joann: Is she a youth court councilor?

Jeremy: Yes.

Joann: Okay. They did a kind of test, you told them what happened, and then what happened?

Jeremy: She got a [inaudible 00:07:01] councilor. They were wondering, "were you okay with life at home?". At the moment I was mad because I was like "I can't deal with that at the moment, no I don't want to go back home for a little bit". She was wondering how my home was. I was like "it's all right, but easily things get aggressive for no reason". A lady came in and was questioning everybody about how is things at home and things like that. I was like "okay". I didn't know her like that. She told me worst case scenario I would stay at a foster home but most likely I could stay with a relative, or something like that.

Joann: So did they charge you with anything, formally?

Jeremy: It wasn't my family that charged me, it was the police did. They charged me with domestic violence and simple assault.

Joann: Okay. Then you went to detention, did you ever speak to an attorney? Did you talk to somebody? Did they give you a public defender, or something?

Jeremy: I guess you could say my councilor was my lawyer. I guess that's how it works in the system. I don't really know. It was weird, I was like "who's this woman?". And then she came to talk to me afterwards. I was like "oh okay".

Joann: Afterwards, like did you have a hearing?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay. So how long was it that you were in detention before you had a hearing?

Jeremy: For about two days, because I was detained on Wednesday and I heard about it on Friday. So they were like "you might be released on Friday". It wasn't until like a week later when I got released. I was like "why was it so long?".

Joann: So, you got released, what happened at your hearing?

Jeremy: They said something about hold until councilor assessment. So she had to assess me and see how things were going.

Joann: Okay. But they let you go?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay. So did you have to go back to another court date?

Jeremy: Yes, for a release hearing. I didn't know they do that. I was like "wait, why am I going back to court?". They intimidate themselves, this is weird. So I was sitting back in court. I was just really confused. She was telling me like "What's your name? What's your address? Who you live with? What school you go to?". You know I guess like common stuff. So I answered it, but I was a little nervous because I didn't know what was going on. So she was like "well you're getting released". I was like "really?". She was like "yeah". So I was like "okay". I was kind of happy.

Joann: This is like a few days later or was it a while later?

Jeremy: I think it was the same day I got released.

Joann: So you had a detention hearing?

Jeremy: It was a detention hearing. One week later it was a, what is it called, a release hearing.

Joann: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Jeremy: Then like the same day I was out. It would have been the same morning, it was at like 9 in the morning.

Joann: Okay, so basically from the time you were arrested until you had your release hearing they just kind of shuffled you back and forth to the detention center?

Jeremy: Yeah.

Joann: Okay.

Jeremy: Well, the detention center has like youth corps on the other side of it. If you go through the school, it depends on the side you go, but I think it's like if you go from the right side it's something called the tank where everybody sits in for their hearing. A lot of people had hold, only a few people had release, they were mad about that. I was lucky to get released because I didn't know I was getting released.

Joann: Okay, what did your youth court councilor ... Did she explain anything of this process to you, or did she just say show up?

Jeremy: She didn't say nothing about it. They just told me to get up and go to court. I'm like "why am I going to court?". They said ... They didn't really tell me anything. I'm like "why didn't you tell me?".

Joann: SO have you had to do anything since you got back? Like that was it, you got released, you spent your 1 week in detention.

Jeremy: Oh well ...

Joann: What's happened since?

Jeremy: Nothing bad really happened so far, everything's like smooth sailing.

Joann: Okay, but you didn't ... They didn't have to do any sort of follow up or anything?

Jeremy: No.

Joann: Oh that's cool. So this is really recently.

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Did they ... When they came to arrest you, did they read you your rights, did they tell you what your rights were? Did you know what ...

Jeremy: They didn't say anything. What was the name ... I think it was, Officer Terry. He just told me to put my hands behind my back. He didn't say anything he just said that "you're going to D.C.". I was like "okay". I didn't know what to do so I kind of just went along with it. I' usually just a go with the flow kind of guy. That's kind of bad for a dude in my situation but I just didn't know what to do so I just did what I was told.

Joann: Mm-hmm (affirmative) Have you ever seen ... I mean do you have other friends that have been arrested? Had you ever been in a similar situation where you've seen other people that this has happened to?

Jeremy: I've seen other people get arrested, but not my friends. Maybe like, cousins.

Joann: Mm-hmm (affirmative) . So, when they were talking to you and the DHS councilor was talking to you did she ask you why you didn't stay with your mom, or if that was an option?

Jeremy: She did ask that ... She did say that, it's kind of a long story so I didn't go into much detail. Me and my mom we don't really see eye-to-eye pretty often.

Joann: Are your siblings older or younger?

Jeremy: They're younger, I'm the oldest.

Joann: Okay, oldest of three?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay. Would you like to share any of that relationship with me?

Jeremy: With my brothers?

Joann: About your mom, like why you decided to live with ... Was it your choice or was it her choice?

Jeremy: Let's see how do I explain it?

Joann: You said it was back from when you were little right?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay.

Jeremy: I remember I wanted to go over to my grandmother's house a lot because she was always like really nice. So eventually I kept on going to her more and more, and staying longer and longer. Eventually I just moved in once. I was there for a few years. Then the rent got too high for me and my grandmother so we moved in with my mom. And then after something between them happened we had to move back out.

Joann: So what's your take on that whole experience with the youth corps?

Jeremy: Honestly, I didn't know what to feel about it. It all happened so fast. I'll admit I was kind of irritated because I had to wake up really early in the morning. I'm really like a nocturnal person so that kind of messed with my sleeping schedule because I'm usually up from, well you know all day until 2 in the morning. But there I was up until ... Pretty much the whole night until about 5, we had to wake up at 6, no 5:30. I was like "no I can't do this". I was like "why are we waking up so early?". Then they wouldn't let us go back to sleep, and it was always cold in there. They always told me it kills the germs, and I was like "I thought it was hot water that kills the germs" and they were like "no". And I was like "I don't think that's right".

Joann: So, what grade are you in?

Jeremy: I'm currently in the 10th grade but I'm supposed to be in the 11th.

Joann: That's okay.

Jeremy: It was like math that held me back since like 4th grade.

Joann: So how do you know this guy that brought you today, Chad

Jeremy: I ... Let's see ... I used to be ... Not used to be ... You know [inaudible 00:15:55]?

Joann: Tell me about it.

Jeremy: I've been going there since elementary school. Basically it was a program that helped kids after school with their homework, with different activities, and they taught us different life lessons. Last year ... Let's see ... My friend ... One of my friends who was in the program before was asking me "hey do you want to join us?". I was like "what do you do?". He was like "oh we try to help other schools". I was like "sure I could try to do it". I went to the first meeting and I really like it, I was like "sure I'll try it some more". Then I met everybody. The first person I met was Jet, I think. Then it was like the rest of the adults. They treated us like adults as well which I really appreciated, they treated us like adults not like little kids, like how most people treat us. We were like 15, 16, 17, were not very young but we're old enough to know what goes on in the world.

Joann: Mm-hmm (affirmative). So ... that's really interesting ... do you have any sort of ... so you had this one experience. The one week that you had to do this. Did you have any conversations when you got home? What did you tell her it was all about.

Jeremy: She was asking a little bit. She was surprised I started to like sports, because, I used to play only soccer and track. She was like "you weren't interested in like football and basketball before you came. I was like "well the guards ... they say that the TV is for them, not for us. It's kind of weird ... It was always on sports, or old sitcom shows like, what was it called? Goodtimes? I think. I was like "I'm not used to watching this". But I had nothing left to do except sleep. So I just would sleep and read. I read all the books so I was like "I might as well just do something productive". But she was like "you're not gonna go back again right?". And I was like "no I'm not" And I made sure of it.

Joann: Okay. You mentioned that things kind of tend to escalate from the situation you had, it was domestic violence. I don't know what to ask really. Because I'm just kind of trying to get a little more details, but you've given me a lot of details so I'm not really sure. Was there any part of being ... Did you feel at any point that you were ... that the guards were treating you in a certain way? What were the other kids ... what was it like with the other kids in there.

Jeremy: The other kids were completely different from me. They were like wild animals. Literally like they would be banging on the doors for no reason at 3 in the morning. I'm just like "why are they doing all this?". They would always ... the guards would come in and get mad at everyone, because of say 1 person or 2 people who would be doing something that they're not supposed to be doing. But they punished everyone talking about 1 bad apple spoils the whole bunch. I was like "I don't think that's right". They were like "well I don't care". Some guards ... there was a late shift guards ... they were kind of rude to everybody, they always had an attitude. Something happened, so we didn't know what was going on so we didn't know what was wrong with them. So we just kind of stayed away from them.

Joann: What do you remember about when you were actually in the court proceeding. Did you ... Had you ever been ... Seen a ... Like what did it look like? Was there a judge?

Jeremy: There was a judge, there was some sort of clock or a timer, on this ... You know ...

Joann: A podium?

Jeremy: Podium. I couldn't get the word out. Then there was like a ... my councilor and ... whoever else was involved with the ... I can't remember the word ... With the charge on the other side. I think like a public lawyer and some other people I didn't know their names. And they'll just be sitting there ... just observing. So it was kind of weird, because they didn't say anything at all.

Joann: Did anybody ever actually come to you and say "I'm your attorney"?

Jeremy: No.

Joann: Okay.


The only person that came to me was my councilor.

Joann: Okay. So you were never told that you had a specific attorney other than your councilor?

Jeremy: No.

Joann: Okay. You haven't heard ... You got released and that was the end of the story. I'm trying to think of other questions, it's pretty much straight.

Speaker 3: I open and shut.

Joann: Yeah. Well is there anything that you ... you know it's part of the reason we're doing this ... just from your point of view, because you've experienced it. Is there anything that you would do to make it better, to make your experience better?

Jeremy: I'm not sure exactly. Maybe some nicer guards. I'm not sure what else.

Joann: Did you feel uncomfortable? Were you scared that you didn't have an adult with you?

Jeremy: Honestly, I was a little bit scared because it was my first time. I was kind of pretending to be leveled out so I wouldn't freak out anybody else. So I was just like "I don't know what to do". Because I'm just here like I don't know what exactly happened, like why I got here. So I was just like "I don't know".

Joann: Did the councilor ask if ... I mean if like ... Did you ever have an opportunity to call your grandmother? Or your uncles? To ask somebody to come be there with you?

Jeremy: We can have visitation on certain days and calls once a week.

Joann: I meant like before your hearing.

Jeremy: No.

Joann: You weren't allowed to have anybody ... Nobody's ever said we're gonna have the hearing on this day, do you want to call your parents or can we call your parents and ask your parents or guardian to come?

Jeremy: No.

Joann: Do you know if the actually contacted?

Jeremy: I guess they did because my mom was there.

Joann: Your mom was there? Okay. So they did call somebody and your mom did show up in court.

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay. Okay. Was she there for both hearings ... She was there for the first hearing and then the last one?

Jeremy: She wasn't there for the 2nd hearing but she came to the teen center later on afterwards. I think like an hour later.

Joann: She came there to pick you up when you were released?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay, so when they released you you got released to your mother?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Is your grandmother an official guardian or is it just your mom?

Jeremy: I'm not sure about that, I remember they used to argue a lot about who I was with, or who's my guardian, and who's watching me. Because from what I remember they said at first I was under the legal protection of my grandma. Then I got released to the state, then I got released back to my mom, now they're not sure where I stand.

Joann: So when you say you got released to the state that's like DHS?

Jeremy: Well, no I was still living with them, but they said that neither one of them was an official title. So I didn't understand it, I was about 10 I think.

Joann: Okay. Did you ever live in a foster home?

Jeremy: Mm-mm (negative) . But I do have friends that have.

Joann: So you've always either lived with your grandmother or your mom?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Speaker 3: Was there something ... And when you answer you can just answer to Joann ... Do you think there's something that could have been done differently ... other ... when the cops showed up ... other than arresting you?

Jeremy: They could have asked more questions about what happened.

Joann: When they arrived did they talk to the people that had called them?

Jeremy: I don't think so because ... after ... my mom, she had put up my friends outside, and they were knocking on the door trying to get back into the house, but they couldn't get back in the house. So the police didn't know they were outside so they didn't talk to them.

Joann: They just kind of showed up and talked to you and arrested you?

Jeremy: Mm-hmm (affirmative)

Joann: Okay. Is there anything else you want to add?

Jeremy: I don't think so.

Joann: I think it's really interesting you were trying to get to bible study, when they came and arrested you. Like "let me go I gotta go to my bible study!". Well I hope it never happens to you again.

Jeremy: Me too.

Joann: Good luck with everything.