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.