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21 years, Chicago, Illinois

Storytelling Project

Daniel twenty-one years old, born and raised in Joaquin, Illinois. He described himself as a very outgoing person, who takes pride in what he has done in his life. He likes to motivate people, express his appreciation to them by smiling at them when interacting, and strives to give others good advice when asked. He also stated that he likes to experience new things. Daniel describes his race as Hispanic, and his ethnicity as Mexican. In this regard, he stated:

“Growing up everything was Mexican. I learned English wasn't my first language. It was Spanish but I was living out here learned and went to school out here, so that was when I learned that English was my second language. Sometimes people refer to me as a Hispanic, Mexican-American, Mexican, Latino or other words. I’m ok with it because that's what I am that's what I grew up, and that's what they told me I am, you know. But I’m Mexican.”

When asked about his incarceration, Daniel stated:

“ I kind of had like a head start ‘cause I had older brothers and sisters that already experienced the life and went through certain situations including incarceration. So I always was taught right from wrong all the time I knew right from wrong. It was hard until I started getting a little older like around eleven, twelve. I mean I can't complain really much my mom and dad were still in my life even though they're not together. They have been separated since I was eight but they do still try to help me out as much as they can. So, my parents support was always there. School wise, school was good certain times. But it is was kind of hard ‘cause certain teachers didn’t really give the effort in teaching or trying to get the other person to understand. They just explained it how they were taught. There were a lot of us that learned in different ways, like visual or hands-on and stuff like that. I failed two grades in middle school. I wasn't in the right state of mind always trying to impress others trying to have people remember me, like basic stuff to fit in. I thought it was a good way to do, to fit in. As I got older I realized that being you is the best thing you could do, but all around I wouldn't say I had a really bad life I mean yes I've been incarcerated. I finished high school. That was one thing that my parents wanted of me. So I finished high school and then just planning on going to college.

What motivated me and got my attention in this was I've been talking about this with my friends but I never really made it known. Like I never spoke on it, and then Denzel said like: “man I got this opportunity, this is just another step forward. I'm like man I'm willing to do it. I know both sides of the story. I know what its like being incarcerated and being out in the regular world. So I got motivated cause I wanted to reach out to other people cause I know everybody not getting treated fairly. So I wanted to like tell my story and try to motivate somebody else to speak up on their story and keep it moving from there.

When I was incarcerated, somebody told me, this is like what stood out to me like, don't lie about yourself. Just be you and either their going to love you or their going to hate you. But regardless you keep yourself proud and move forward. So at first I used to lie to people a lot about what I got locked for cause I was embarrassed. I'm like man I don't want people to look at me different. But after a while I matured and I realized that the truth is the only way. The truth is the only way. I got incarcerated for first degree murder when I was fourteen. The victim was my sister’s boyfriend at the time. At the time he was abusive to her. He was abusive to my niece. He put his hands on my niece a couple times. Tried it with me too. And I just couldn't hold it no more. I was just holding the anger for so many years and it's like a case. You know you can only stuff it so much before it opens and I mean that's what I got locked up for. I was fourteen I got locked up two months before my fifteenth birthday.”

When asked to share his intake process, Daniel shared the following:

“I was kind of like tossed around ‘cause they were mad. I was on the run for a couple weeks. So when they caught me like they started telling me like: “Oh you know why we're here. Yeah you know what you do, what you did.” And I didn't tell them nothing cause I was shocked. Man it was just a lot of stuff and there's a lot of cops in front of me. Then they tried to like make me confess to a lot of things. Started making up stories and trying to make me look more than what I did, you know like pin things on me. They weren't trying to make it easy on me, that's all I could say.”

When Daniel was specifically asked about how his race, ethnicity, and gender were honored by the intake officer, he shared:

“Honestly when I got to the station, the officer that brought me there he ain't do nothing. He ain't say nothing. They brought me there. Fingerprinted me, and then they handcuffed me to this rail. Man I'm telling you, they didn't care how tight they put it but I literally was losing circulation from my hand. That's how tight it was. And I tried to tell them, like I need it to get loosened up. He just ignored me. I wasn’t given no water. I was at the police station for like eight hours with no water and that was it. They basically ain't do their job how they were supposed to. They took advantage.

They did ask me about some basic stuff. I gave them my name, date of birth, my race Hispanic, gender male. They didn’t give me a hard time in those questions.”

When asked whether he felt he received different treatment because of his race/ethnicity, Daniel stated:

“Honestly I was treated different. Obviously you could tell. It was a Caucasian officer and I'm not sure the other one, but he might have been Hispanic. I just can't really tell. But yeah, definitely the Caucasian officer was more like rude. I wasn't disrespecting him. I ain't disrespected nobody since they got me. I applied to what they wanted me to do. And yeah, he was more like: “Aw this and that. Do this now or this.” He was also like trying to like bribe me into like confessing. So basically, yeah I was treated different for my race for my skin color. I could say that.”

How did that make you feel?

When asked how this made him feel, Daniel said:

“At the moment it was just a blur. I didn’t really think nothing about it. After time of just thinking and maturing mentally I realized, like, man there's still a lot of racism out here. Especially against Hispanics and also blacks too. Or they view us differently. Or got bad stories about us, which is not all the way true. So yeah I feel kind of offended. That's what also made me like be more proud of who I am. Like oh yeah I'm Mexican this is who I am.”

Daniel shared any ideas he might have bout changes to the intake process to better address race/ethnic gender issues.

“I be thinking, like man, like, a lot of officers bring in personal problems in there and try to take it out on us. It's kind of segregated too. Everybody sticks to they selves. The blacks got they group. The Mexicans have they group. So I feel like certain buildings you could tell like segregation is big and you don't feel like you could want to be around there so. I mean they use to move us a lot too. Like as soon as you get comfortable or if you get in the rhythm, like, they'll move you to a different location with other different people. Sometimes staff use to do that just move somebody to a different unit cause they don't like 'em or staff know like he not suppose to be on that side. But they'll still move 'em. So yeah I felt like the race definitely has a big role in it.

For the first year I could tell you that I was treated like just a random person. I wasn't really given the resources. I tried to get into churches. Some were too long to wait. Some they didn't have enough spots open. It was like everything that you needed was an excuse. Like I need to work on this school stuff and either they can't do it or I had no business asking questions.

If they had more Hispanic programs. In school they don't teach you a lot of the history of different races. They just teach you the basic’s of what America wants you to think and know about. So I feel like if they even it out, share Hispanic history, any type of history, European history. Anything just to keep somebody open minded and know everything.”

Daniel was asked if he lost privileges when he chose to not participate in programs.

“Oh yes, definitely. It was mandatory for us to get at least an hour. They would tell us “If you don't participate in this program you're not getting your time or you not getting in the shower.” They're not suppose to do that. They still did it. They'll use what they got against us. They got the upper hand so they take advantage of it. "

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