How My Arrest at Age 13 Changed the Shape of My Life

You’ve heard my story before, or something like it. You’ve seen it on TV or in a movie: A lost kid, a life forever altered by a first encounter with our nation’s criminal justice system. It happens far too often, to far too many lost boys in America. It’s a narrative we must change.

As a young Black kid growing up in Washington, D.C., I hoped to become a lawyer one day. I wanted to be like Perry Mason, a heroic figure protecting the falsely accused. I told my grandmother, who largely raised me, that this was my plan.

But my first encounter with the criminal justice system pushed me in a different direction, along a path that ultimately stripped me of those dreams. Here’s how.

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