Juvenile Detention Taught Me A Lot And It Was Not Good

Bertelet Juvenile Detention Center

The first time that I was caught committing a crime as a juvenile I was sentenced to one week in St. Valliers’ Juvenile Detention Center.  I was led out of the court through a side door.  I was led through a corridor that led to an elevator.  The guard pushed me into the elevator and down we went.  The guard then led me through another corridor which led to the processing department.  Here they took my clothing, jewelry and anything they construed to be valuable or dangerous to me or to others.   I was asked  for my shoe and pant size and then given jail clothing.

The next stop was the cavity search room where they took my dignity and self-respect. I had been examined like that for medical reasons, but this was humiliating. To have a non medical person stick his big nasty finger where he did was almost too much.  I was ushered into a stall where some jerk tossed powder on me from my head to my toes without even advising me to close my eyes. I opened my mouth to say something and got a little taste of delousing spray and cold water from a hose. I was led naked back to a shower and ordered to wash quickly dry off and get dressed. I did as I was told and was led to another room to wait to be taken into the general population.

I and the rest of the boys in the room were taken to yet another elevator and began our journey to our floor.  When the door opened we were turned over to a guy in a wheel chair who spoke nothing but french and when he saw I had no clue what he was talking about pointed to a paper on the wall that had the rules and regulations in english.  Twice a day they passed out cigarettes from 1967 and we were in 1970 something.  I took them and let other people have them.  At night I was led to a dorm and slept.   The food was crappy, I did not know the language, but I was pretty much left alone.  The nights were the worst because I would get lonely for home, but by the fourth night even that passed.

When my mother did not come to visit me it hurt a lot and I told the man from the church she sent to talk to me to f—k off.   Seven days later I was set free back into my mother’s custody amid warnings from the judge of what would happen if I came before him again. The only thing that the experience in juvenile detention taught me was that I could do the time.  I gained stature in the street, now I had something to add to my resume.  When I left St. Valliers I was not afraid of it any more, I just did not want to go back.   I would end up in the detention center for the worst of juvenile delinquents called Berthelet.

There was no schooling; there was no counseling; there was no visit from the social worker or child psychologist.  This juvenile jail was not put on this earth to help kids.  We were here to do time and give decent people a break from us for a little while at least. I was sent here because I refused to go to school. I would graduate this school with honors and teach what I had learned to all of my friends.  My life would never be the same and the knowledge that I and the other boys acquired while there would serve to punish this city in a way it never will be again.

There was a cigarettes for good behavior program; there were chocolates and soft drinks for teaching a french guy to speak english and visa versa program (taught us to cooperate with each other and join forces). Then we had 2 hours a day in what was supposed to be crafts, but in reality that was where we were taught by older gang members to make weapons and were taught how to turn chemicals and solvents into bombs and what simple chemicals enhance your high when added to drugs, but were dangerous to your brain.

It was in this place that I as well as the 1st president of the Rock Machine and his brother learned how to organize crime so that it was profitable with someone else taking the majority of the risks. I learned how to make weapons from pipes, toothbrushes, plastic combs and even a bar of soap. It was here that alliances were made between gangs and would change how we operated in the streets forever.

Gangs that would never have thought of doing business or even being in the same space before came together out of need to protect themselves from other gangs.  There was no turf, there was no room for that and there was nothing else to do, so we planned schemed and plotted how to get you adults back for caging us, physically abusing us and trying to break our spirits.

 This jail was supposed to break us and teach us to fear adults and obey without question. None of us came out afraid, but we all came out prepared to live on the street.  We had formed alliances that would take our gangs over the top and enable us to deal more drugs and control every aspect of street crime in the city.  It was a time when gangs prospered and society hid in fear.  Gang wars were almost non-existent back then and the street was run as a business.  Trouble was dealt with quickly and brutally with the guerilla training we learned in this juvenile detention.

There was the boy’s farm and other institutions all over the city training us to be better hoods than we could have ever figured out on our own.  I know that most of these places were closed down and I would like to say because the powers that be understood that these places did more harm than good, but this is simply not so.  They closed mostly due to scandal and the outcry from horrified parents.  Girls were being put on the street in one case by their social worker.  I know because I know who the worker was.  Guys were being abused in the detention centers I know because I know who they were.

Now facilities are spread out and no one talks about the old days.  Try going on the internet and asking for information past or present and you will see that the government has slid back to its secretive ways. Of course they claim that they are respecting the youth’s privacy.

We are also sending young offenders to adult prisons to be raped and turned out.  They will graduate hurt, angry and seeking revenge.  They will have the knowledge and training of how to exact this revenge and the cold heart to do it.  Soulless people feel nothing, fear nothing.  There will be thousands of these soulless adults hitting the streets in the near future and a new era in crime and fear for you will begin, unless you stop it now and get these children some real help. Follow this link and see what the press had to say about what was going on in these institutions when I was locked up there.

Normal bad boys: public policies, institutions and the politics of client …  By Prue Rains, Eli Teram

The Montreal Gazette – Jan 28, 1972 Browse this newspaper » 

Head line reads: Teens commit suicide at detention center (page 4)

About archemdis

I try to say what is on my mind and not hurt others, but some things need to be said whether they hurt or not and I do just that. I try to listen as well as talk, but my opinion is just that mine. You need not take it as your own, just respect the fact that I am entitled to it, as you are yours. I do read all comments, but will only answer, or allow to be displayed those which adress me by name, refer to the post by name in the comment, or that have been sent through the proper channels. In this manner I can tell whether the comment was meant for me and that it is not just spam.
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5 Responses to Juvenile Detention Taught Me A Lot And It Was Not Good

  1. Really like, really like, Love this blog! You say every thing that Im thinking and far more. Youve undoubtedly shed light on a subject that not several men and women can argue with. Youre so good at obtaining what you would like to say out there in a way thats intelligent and entertaining. Im really impressed, man. Really impressed.


    • archemdis says:

      Thanks for the kind words. We all need to do our part in making the world a better place. I have chosen to speak about what others feel they just can not out of fear of reprisal, or because they feel ashamed and can not face. Be well and do not forget to do your part.


  2. Pingback: Blog about an inmate’s experience | StopWaldorfJail.com

  3. Jewels says:

    I am pursuing a social work degree and have a strong desire to help young offenders to not become repeat offenders but to pursue healthy lives and achieve positive goals and dreams. Any ideas about what type of help/counselling would benefit children today who may be at risk?


    • archemdis says:

      I think that one must get at why they are offending in the first place. Home life, abuse, incest, teacher cruelty, bullying, peer pressure and more all play a big role in why a child offends in the first place. I am not saying society does not need to be porotected from them when they act out negatively, but housing them in prisons where they learn how to be good at what they do, is not the solution.

      Getting them interested in some form of alternative interest that will give them hope is the key to not re-offending for most young offenders. When I was in juvenile hall for example for skipping school, I was locked up for weeks at a time with no school in the program, no counselling and the only education I got was from the hardened gang bangers that I was put in there with. I fell further behind and when I got out I hated school , my social worker and the system all the more. I ask you what was the point of my imprisonment? I did not benefit from it and niether did society.

      The question is not what type of counselling, but that there be some kind of counselling and constructive training programs. Stop sending these children back to parents who abuse them, can not control them, or could careless about them. If we are going to take them into custody for their own protection and good, let us make damn sure that they are not just leaving one abusive situation for another. Let us stop putting the truant in with the drug selling gang banger.
      We must learn to listen to what these children are saying and start believing them. I stole because I wanted more and everyone around me was getting things the easy way; the police taking off the crooks, the gangs from the honest people, our parents to give us what they could not afford.

      If you want to help the youths of today not to re-offend you must find out why they offended and give them an alternative way to achieve that same goal. There is no easy way everyone does things for different reasons, but I have learned there is always a good way and sometimes the offender just needs to be shown the honest way.

      In my pages you will find the story of my life and how the system failed me and others in my life . I was who you wish to help today. Read about my childhood it may give you some insight as to what the young people you are trying to help, go through and why they do what they do. The story is in 2 parts and is called, ” The beginning Years a Recipe for Failure” I wish you well in you endeavors and don’t give up on the children. They need your help and if it takes a while and hang in there the rewards for saving a life are great and very gratifying. Thank you for caring.


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