My name is Troy. I am 37 years old and I have spent the majority of my life in California corrections facilities.
I first went into a juvenile facility when I was 12 years old. I was sent to the reception center after an altercation I had with other kids in my neighborhood. Back then, I didn't know my sexual orientation, but I knew that I was different. When I went in, I met several other boys - one in particular was from a known gang. A couple of days after I first got to the facility, he forced me to have oral sex with him in the shower area. Soon after that, I was raped by another boy, who was older than me - he was 16.
After both rapes, I didn't know who to go to. I was scared to tell anyone because I didn't know if I would get killed or beaten up. I didn't know if staff members would take me seriously. No one informed me that this was how the facility ran.
I realized I needed to figure out what to do to protect myself and keep myself safe. Guards knew what was happening but looked the other way; I was too afraid to fight back. So I started telling staff members that I was suicidal. I would cut my wrists, anything to draw blood and to get out of that situation and get into isolation. I found myself in situations I could not handle. People would take advantage of me and I just didn't know how to get help.
Being attacked and not receiving support from the adults in charge turned my world upside down. It's a traumatizing experience for someone who is young. I take that with me wherever I go.
That trauma sent me into a cycle of imprisonment - I kept being sent to juvenile hall, and later to prisons, where I continued to be assaulted and abused. I have spent most of my life in prison - never for anything violent. When I was released, three years ago, I committed to staying out of prison. I started a community service organization, Hands On Advocacy Group. I am a Board Member for Bill's Helping Hands. I provide advocacy and crisis support to the homeless, disabled, and the disadvantaged, giving a voice to the voiceless. I talk with young people about my experience and what they can learn from it.
Vulnerable inmates, and inmates who are assaulted, should not be punished with isolation or blamed for the attacks. Officials should be careful in their decisions about housing and program assignments for vulnerable inmates - a slight, first time offender should not be placed with a larger, older inmate who is serving many years for violent crimes. Someone who is convicted of a crime has to serve time but they shouldn't serve time in a manner in which they're going to be abused or assaulted.
- Troy, California