On August 16, 2001, at about 11:00 at night, I committed a crime that cause many people a lot of pain, hurt, and anger. At 16 years old, I committed murder. I was later charged as an adult, due to the circumstances, but I was not allowed to be housed with the adults, because in Alameda County jail, you had to be 18 years or older. I was only permitted to go to court, chained up around my waist and ankles and kept separated from adults. When court was finished, I was transported back to the Alameda County Juvenile Hall.
My name is Andrew Wadsworth, and this is my story as a Juvenile. I grew up in East Oakland, California, from a neighborhood called Brookfield. I was raised in a two-parent household that battled a drug addiction that began 3 or 4 years after I was born. I would later move in with my grandparents, and that saved me in many ways. That I am still thankful for to this day. My grandparents’ home gave me comfort, stability, and a peace of mind.
Living with my parents, although I know they loved me dearly, I still suffered from loneliness, neglect and feelings of abandonment because my parents were controlled by their focus on their addiction. This led me to act out in school, seeking attention in unhealthy ways. I lacked coping skills dealing with stress, I suppressed a lot of my anger towards my mom and dad, that would manifest into behavior that was reckless, impulsive and vulnerable. I felt unworthy of love because my parents exposed me to a lot of things that a young boy shouldn’t have been around. I had low self-esteem that led me to get deeper into finding ways to be accepted by my peers.
I watched movies like Menage to Society and Boy’s in the Hood. The movies gave me ideas to incorporate into my style. I listened to a lot of Gangsta Rap because of the lyrics described the rage and resentment that I felt every day. The Buintained became my role models. Drug dealers because my role models, and the “street game” gave me an identity that made me feel I had value. I sought validation from street dudes because it seemed like they were the only crowd that I could fit in with. They showed support, they showed unity and always reassured me that they had my back knowing they had my back, made me feel good. It made me want to be loyal to them and have their back in return.
I was eager to prove myself to them and I was willing to do almost anything to show them I was down, including murder. In the end, I wasn’t ready to be convicted of it. Well, I was sentenced to 50 years to life.
My first day in Juvenile Hall was devastating. I hung around a grown man on the street. And now I was in Juvenile Hall with youngsters my age, and it seemed like I couldn’t relate. It’s true, that a lot of us were the same age, but the war zone I just left from in the stress was functioning dangerously and not fit for no kid.
I remember how my body shut down the first night. I couldn’t eat. I just left the interrogation room with the homicide detectives for about 12 hours, and the voice of my parents when I called them to let them know that I was in jail for murder. The Juvenile Hall counselor asked me am I thinking about hurting myself or anyone and I replied “no” but truthfully, I did. I fell asleep that night. The next day I felt better, but I start thinking about the crime and all the regrets, I wish I could have took it all back.
My stay at Juvenile Hall was like being in a day care center. My anxiety was always high and I had no productive ways to cope, but acting out. I stayed there until I was 18 and sent to Santa Rita County Jail where I felt I belonged anyway. Now that I think about it, jail is a jail. Being locked up in a room or a cell is still locked up. I had no one to help me cope with stress. They call the supervisors watching over the kids counselors but they rarely counseled me. Juvenile Hall was just like a prison to me. The food was better but the food for the mind of a youngster lacked season or taste.