This story is about a day in a Juvenile Detention Center.
Before reading this story
I wrote a shorter version in my High School psych class. But somehow I lost the story. One day I started writing this story.
This story is the work of fiction and should not be considered to be otherwise.
The places featured in this story are real with the exception of Whitecrest in Colorado.
The Department of Children and Families is a real department however the story should not be constructed to mean how the department operates and so on.
Feedback is of course welcome!
I wrote this between 2005 and 2006 However it has been tweaked to reflect actual juvenile policy in Vermont. The emphases is around the wording.
The kids who are in the Juvenile Justice system
To the Men and woman who work at the Vermont Department of Children and Families
To the foster parents who do the hardest work
To the men and woman who work in the juvenile court systems
The dream changed. It went from a day sunbathing on the beach to a ban and yelling Julie tried to focus. She remembered she was in a cell or as the staff liked to call it her room. She looked out the small window that afforded her a view of the flower courtyard below. She sat up and prepared for another day. Dressing here was simple an orange jumpsuit and sandals, suddenly a voice screamed “Count!”
Julie moved to the door which clicked and she took two steps out into a long hallway. Other inmates filed into line.
Julie was at the White Crest Institute. The institute provided states with a place to send unmanageable kids and those needing Mental Health. Located in the Rocky Mountains north of Denver the institute was in a perfect place. Julie was from Vermont and had a criminal history that started at age 13. At age 15 she hit her foster mother with a bat because she was tired of being mocked at. This time the State pressed Aggravated Assault charges. Julie fought the charges but a judge found her guilty and sentenced her to three years in Juvenile Detention. Because the State could not house her at the Woodside juvenile center for the sentence she was transferred to Whitecrest, Suddenly she was aware of a voice Ms.: Washburn good morning.”
Julie looked into the eyes of the Unit Director Naomi Harris. “Good morning Mrs. Harris.”
“Doing ok I see no problems keep up the good work.”
Harris made a note on her clipboard and moved down the line and stopped in front of another girl four inmates down. Julie realized the girl was a newbie or in another unit “Fresh Meat.”
“Good morning Ms.: Kelly I see you joined us last night.”
“Yeah so what lady this place is so stupid.”
“Umm I am sure you will get used to it.”
“Yeah listen lady I am due at the prom in a week so can you let me make some calls.”
Harris smiled but it was an evil smile Julie recognized it at once. The other inmates stood straight and kept their opinions to themselves.
“Ms. Kelly for future reference you will address me as Mrs. Harris. I think you need more time to get used to this place.”
Harris made a note on her clipboard and spoke sharply “One day’s Observation for Ms.: Kelly!”
A staff member moved forward and spoke softly “Let’s go young lady.”
The newbie screamed at the staff member. Another staff member moved in to help but was kicked. The unit Director spoke sharp command Lockdown!”
The inmates returned to their cells Julie sat on her bed as the door clicked. She heard the new girl fight and scream but soon those screams faded out. Julie knew the drill the girl was going to Unit Max a security unit where she would remain for up to ten days then she would return to this unit. If she had done what she was told the observation was a cell near the unit security desk just off the unit
It took an hour to conclude the Count but after making no one escaped the inmates proceeded to the shower room. A staff member supervised this activity
A few minutes later the shower room filled with steam. Julie allowed the warm water to ease her into thought. Her time at Whitecrest was a little better now having been here since 15. Now just under two years had passed and she had earned her way out of Max Unit which took her six months. Whitecrest had four units Max Detention Evergreen and Psych/Infirmary. Evergreen was split into different levels Blue and Green. Blue was the boys unit Green the Girls Unit. Quest was the last unit on Evergreen this was a transition level. Julie was on Green Quest status was not even in sight.
One thing Julie realized was she was on her own. Vermont never sent anyone to see her. None of her friends Vermont could exactly jump on a plane to see her. Julie had made friends here but that was all she had. Of course Julie had a team of people who coordinated her care at Whitecrest. Her caseworker from Vermont was rarely involved
The shower ended and Julie dressed in a clean Orange Jumpsuit.
Some inmates returned to their cells while the rest were led in a line to the mess hall. A staff member spoke into a radio “Open Echo Golf.”
A click sounded and the door opened “Let’s go ladies.”
After the last girl was through the staff member gave a “Close Echo Golf.”
The mess hall was like a regular cafeteria. Breakfast here was good today service was French toast with fruit and Orange Juice and milk. The café lacked choice which Julie hated. Milk was mandatory unless a doctor approved otherwise. Sometimes inmates got special diet orders. But for the most part everyone ate the same here. Julie seated herself near her friends. Talking was allowed but only when a staff member was at or near the table.
Julie listened to the other girls talk about girl talk. Some talk was about the new girl. The topics never were about crime or escape. Newbies found that out the hard way. Even mention escape was an automatic trip Max for six months. If there was discussion of crime you got a one day observation and loss of supervised grounds privileges. This was why some girls had returned to their cells after shower to eat there.
“Yeah so your guy visit you yet Trish?”
“Oh yeah he was at his Dad’s in Denver so of course he had to stop in.”
Trish was from Aspen she was a blonde and slender. She also had a history of shoplifting and serving a two year sentence. She was 11 month into her sentence. “What about you Julie?”
Julie looked up and realized that the girl asking was one she hated. “Janice you know the answer to that.”
There was a hush at this. Janice smiled and spoke with ice “Yeah I do so what’s with that?”
Julie spoke “What about you Janice?”
What about me Jules?”
The staff member was new at her job so they never picked up on the change at Julie’s table.
Julie flushed red. Janice took advantage of this and laughed Julie pushed her tray carefully and looked around the staff member had moved across to the other table and was talking to another staff member what a newbie she thought not to mention lax.
Julie made her move she spilled her syrup which seeped onto Janice. “Ah damm sorry!”
Janice screamed “Your mine you dumb broad!”
“I am really sorry.”
At this point two staff members moved over to the table “Ok what’s the story ladies?”
“Nothing Mrs. Forrest I spilled my syrup and some got on Janice.”
“Right sure you did.” Janice hissed
Janice was standing by now the Orange jumpsuit was covered in syrup “You’re gonna pay for this Jules!”
Mrs. Forrest grabbed Janice “Move it Janice you’re going to observation.”
Julie watched Forrest and another staff member walk Janice to observation. She smiled to herself
After returning to the unit Julie saw Naomi Harris waiting at her cell. “Ms. Washburn let’s take a walk shall we.”
Julie followed Harris back off the unit and to across sky bridge to the administration building.
Mrs. Harris’s office was a nice place compared to the unit. “Have a seat Julie. Harris walked over to her coffee urn and fixed herself a cup of coffee not offering anything to Julie.
“I understand you and Janice had a disagreement this morning.”
“Not really Mrs. Harris she accused me of something I did not do.”
Harris set her coffee down and took off her reading glasses. She pressed an intercom “Helen can you bring in the Washburn file.”
“Yes Mrs. Harris.”
The door opened and a cart was rolled in. Harris spoke “Get me the file from this month please.”
“Yes Mrs. Harris“. Two folders were placed on her desk.
Without being asked Helen left the office with the cart.
After the door closed Harris opened the top folder and placed her glasses back on “Julie as I told you this morning you are doing well. I know it’s hard for you to be far from home. But the reality is you are serving a detention sentence mixed with treatment. Janice and you are always disagreeing and this is her 5th observation in week.”
“Now Julie what is the real story?”
Julie knew this tactic and was having none of it “Real story?”
Harris read some notes and spoke “Two days ago Janice asked you about if you had boyfriend and you told her no. She’s asked the same question for the last few days.”
“There is no real story Mrs. Harris I spilled syrup and Janice threatened me.”
Harris sighed “Ok Julie then you won’t mind discussing in the unit meeting today with Janice.”
“I thought she was in observation.”
“She is but it’s only until the eve shift.”
Julie was angry at this but did not show it instead she smiled and said “I can’t wait to resolve this Mrs. Harris.”
“Ok now to the next item your caseworker is visiting today she arrived in Denver last night so after lunch you will be allowed to change and meet her in the flower court.”
Julie was surprised so a caseworker did care about her.
“Ok Julie that’s all for now thanks for coming in.”
A staff member escorted her back to the unit for school.
School here was consolidated really and was a little better then Woodside schooling had been where Julie had spent almost two months in pretrial detention which unlike the adult system was not given credit for a sentencing. There were four classes and one “Extra.”
The classes were Science Math Social Studies and English. Julie chose Art as her extra class.
The only nice thing about school here was there was no homework because the schedule really did not allow it. The teachers were therefore required to cram the classes into one hour each with extra after lunch for another hour.
The classes were held in a section of rooms off the day room of the unit. Julie’s classes started with math and she swore that was done to make her upset because she hated math.
There was a downside to school here and that was it was a GED equivalent upon the age of 18 which meant Julie would not be looked upon the same by her peers back home. Before her arrest she was a student at U32 High School and was an average student. Here she was considered an excellent student. Although her math grades were C’s.
Today there was a test and the teacher Mr. Cox was in a joyful mood test were his favorite or that’s what Julie thought.
Social studies was about the French Revolution. Science was limited at Whitecrest in that there were no lab days or field trips Instead it was movies and reading with some lecture time. Today was a movie about the biology of the body. English was Julie’s favorite she could express herself here and read books. Today the class was asked write a story about their lives before Whitecrest.
Julie was now deep in thought the room changed to being in downtown Montpelier at the City Hall Steps drinking. She eventually made it home to her foster mother’s in Middlesex. It was 5:00 in the morning and the sun was just starting to rise. Julie crept into the house as her friend burned rubber. She made it to her room and was about close the door when her foster mother ended and glared “Where have you been young lady!
“None of your business Janet!”
Janet moved into room and screamed “None of your business Janet!
“It is my business miss Molly weather you like it not.”
Janet laughed an evil laugh “Whatever Whatever Whatever!”
Julie picked up a baseball bat she had received as gift and struck of foster mother in the head. Janet fell hitting the floor with a thump. Julie knelt down and noticed Janet was still awake that’s good I did not kill her. Janet moaned “Oh Julie what have you done I was only trying to help.”
Julie kicked her “Whatever Janet you stupid bitch! Julie pouched her knocking Janet out
It was during lunch at school that Julie was asked to go to the office. A State Trooper was there with her caseworker. “What’s up?” Julie asked as if nothing happened
“Julie the Trooper and I are taking you to the station to ask you some questions seems Janet was found with a head injury”
Julie started to cry. The Trooper spoke “Julie I am going to allow you to walk out with us as long as you don’t run I won’t handcuff you until we get out to the car.”
Julie was led out to the cruiser where the trooper informed Julie he was going to handcuff her to transport her to the barracks.
Her caseworker followed them in her car.
At the station or Barracks Julie was led into a small room where her caseworker started to ask questions.
Julie denied she had done nothing wrong and then attempted to assert her Fifth Amendment rights. Her casework said “Ok you wanna do this the hard way we can.”
The worker left and the trooper returned. “Ms.: Washburn I am arresting you for aggravated assault on Janet Maxwell.”
The process was a scary one for someone who had not been arrested Yes actually she had been arrested but always was able to convince her team she would not commit a crime again.
So the team allowed it to slide even Janet Maxwell had been supportive of Julie so what had gone wrong?
Julie was taken by Sheriff Cruiser to Woodside where she spent a night on a hard mat on a hard floor.
She had appeared in court the next day where a lawyer or otherwise known as a Public Defender had listened to Julie blame the system. He was a polite man but was honest Julie had no case
Julie was led into the courtroom where a polite judge took a Not Guilty Plea. She was ordered held at Woodside.
Two months later Julie was Adjudicated Delinquent by the same judge. At disposition the Judge listened to a taped statement by Janet Maxwell tell how her job had been affected by what Julie had done. She had spent a week in the hospital and was still seeking help for the trauma she claimed to have.
Julie’s lawyer tried to get the judge to place Julie on probation and an into a treatment program.
The Judge asked Julie if she had anything to say “Sorry.” was all Julie could say
The judge took an hour recess and came back. “Ms. Washburn you have had a trial and I have found you guilty. I have listened to experts and read the disposition report. I note that you blame everyone but yourself for this crime. I am quite disturbed at this and for that reason you must be punished.”
The judge looked at Julie who was now in tears.
“Ms. Washburn this court having found you a Juvenile Delinquent orders three years juvenile detention with residential placement in the care and custody of the Department of Children and Families. The court further shall order a review on or before your 18th birthday to determine if transfer to District Court is warranted
By now Julie was sobbing and her lawyer tried to comfort her. The Judge continued “Young lady this must stop may you use this time to better yourself.”
With that Julie was taken back to Woodside. But her time here was brief. Her caseworker gave her bad news that the team had decided to place her at a place called Whitecrest. In Colorado. A few days later she was taken by Sheriff to Burlington Airport where a worker Whitecrest met them. The flight was Julie’s first time out of restraints during a transport. The first leg of the flight was to Chicago. At O-Hare Julie was transferred to her next flight with Airport police shadowing her and the Whitecrest worker. The second flight had a meal breakfast actually.
In Denver three Whitcrest staff members met Julie. She was handcuffed and taken by van to Whitecrest.
The admission process was where Julie realized her freedom was limited even stricter then Vermont. A full search was conducted her clothes were placed in storage and any personal items she had were also taken. She was given a shower and an orange Jumpsuit to wear.
Intake came next she was asked different questions and given tests. Next came the doctor’s exam which was smooth. Julie was placed in Max Unit where she had no freedom. Woodside was a palace compared to this place Julie thought.
The cells in Max were self-contained a toilet sink combo. Meals were served in cell. After a week Julie was allowed books to read and paper to write with. Showers were once a day under tight security.
Six months later she was given good news a transfer to the Evergreen Unit.
A bell sound brought Julie back to the present she looked up at the clock it was Noon lunchtime,
Lunch was Pizza today. Julie ate her meal in thought what was her caseworker here for.
After lunch Julie was taken to the Reception Center to change into her street clothes. A staff member led her into the Flower Court which spanned the entire complex. Julie saw her caseworker who looked a bit older now. Of course two years did that to you Julie thought. “Hello Julie.”
“Bet you’re surprised to see me huh?
“Yeah you could say that.”
“I am here to check on you and bring you a letter.”
Julie looked at Carol who extended a sheet of paper. Julie read:
It‘s been two years since we last saw each other. I hope you are OK. I write you to express a few things.
I care for you very much Sometimes I wonder if what we did was right for you. Don‘t get me wrong what you did was wrong but I often wonder about that.
My life has changed I have left foster parenting and am now a teacher‘s aide at U32 . I asked Carol to give you this letter in hopes that we will be able to communicate with each other.
I will be in touch take care
Julie allowed a bit of sadness to creep in maybe some guilt.
Julie sat on a bench “Am I allowed to write her?”
“Yes of course you are the court said nothing about that.”
Carol eyed Julie then spoke “I see you have done quite well here. Are there any problems with your placement here?”
Julie wanted to laugh at that inside she heard herself say “Are you kidding?”
Instead Julie just said “No everything is fine I wish I could go back to Vermont but that won’t happen anytime soon.”
“I know what you me Julie I am glad you’re doing well here and keep up the good work.”
With that Carol walked back into the administrative entrance Julie allowed herself a minute more of the flower court. A staff member stood nearby and was about to call out Julie but thought better of it just letting the moment play out.
Julie reentered the reception area and was given a strip search a shower and a fresh jumpsuit. This time however she skipped the test doctors exam and six month placement in Max. She returned to Evergreen to find that she had missed her art class but that was just as well. She had about thirty minutes until the rec time. She sat at a table in the dayroom and read Readers Digest. The time went fast a bell sounded “Rec!”
The girls filed out to a rec yard which was fenced in. “Hey Jules let’s play some ball!” Trish called
Julie loved basketball. Julie and Trish played one team and two new girls played on another team. The newbies thought they were all that but reality soon set in and Julie played a good game. Trish slapped her five and the newbies spoke of a rematch tomorrow.
Julie and Trish sat at a table both watched the two newbies practice their basketball. “So how was the visit with Mrs. Harris?”
“Great just a walk in the park.”
“Listen I have heard Janice is getting out of observation tonight is there anything you want me to do for you?”
“The time will come for that don’t you worry about that.”
“Just wanted you to know you got all the moves Jules.”
Dinner was served about 5:00 tonight was roast beef. Julie and Trish sat next to each other. Both however discussed only girl talk.
After dinner the group session started. Naomi Harris and Dr Kelly Walker led the group. “Ladies hope you have had a good day.”
After about thirty minutes of housekeeping and check in the real fun started. As promised earlier that day Janice was in group. The look on her face was ice cold. Dr Walker consulted her notes and spoke “Ms. Washburn and Ms.: Burke will discuss an issue that had today
Julie spoke first “I was at breakfast and I accidentally spilled some syrup on Janice. She got upset.”
Dr Walker consulted her notes and frowned “and?”
Julie thought for a second then decided to tell the rest “Janice was teasing me about whether a boyfriend had come to see me.”
“Ahh very good Julie now Ms. Burke?”
Janice stayed quiet the group waited. “Ms. Burke will you tell us your side please?”
Janice stood suddenly and walked over to Julie “You are dead Jules do you hear me are you listening to me!”
Harris was going to call for a staff member but Dr Walker stopped her.
Janice was surprised at this reaction she was sure that staff would have hauled her away but this was something new.
“Ms. Burke are you ready tell us your side of the story?”
Janice walked back to her chair and slumped down into it.
Julie watched her with interest she realized Janice was weak inside the tough shell image.
Suddenly Janice started to cry Dr Walker made a note and spoke “Ok Janice that’s a start we will come back to you.”
The rest of group was a breeze for Julie but she wondered about Janice and inside not help but feel sorry her.
After group a movie was shown in the day room tonight was a romantic one “Top Gun.”
Julie and Trish traded laughs about Tom Cruise and Anthony Edwards playing Maverick and Goose. Of course tears were shed over Goose’s death.
At the end of the movie the unit prepared for bed. Bedtime here was at 10:30 in your room and 11:00 Pm lights out. Julie wished Trish a good night and headed for her room. She removed her sandals and sat at her desk. There was a click her door had just been locked for the night. She opened a notebook on her desk and started to write her thoughts of the day flashing by. She finished her journal entry then turned to a fresh page. Suddenly a scream interrupted her thoughts actually yelling it was a newbie who was not happy about something. That died down after a few minutes then a call “Lights out two minutes!”
Julie closed her notebook and slid into her bed the room went dark a moment later. Soon she faded into her world of freedom.