Words Unlocked: Poetry from Young Offenders

Yesterday, we began publishing the winners of the first annual poetry contest for juveniles in secure facilities, hosted by the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings. The response was tremendous; the center received more than 1,000 submissions were entered in the contest.

Yesterday we ran the Third Place winners. Today, The Imprint is proud to publish the Second-Place winners:

Poem Title: Dear You

Poet: Alina           

Facility: Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center, Urbana, IL

Judge: Chelsea Clinton

Dear Xanax bars,

Please take me to Mars,

Where I don’t have to do a thing for


Dear Spoon,

Will you take me to the moon?

Turn this filthy world into a cartoon?

Dear Dope,

You fill me with hope

Have me wrapped around your finger

Tied with a rope.

Dear Me,

Is this who you really want to be?

Locked into drugs

With no key?

Poem Title: The Meek and Humble Shall Inherit this Earth

Poet: Angel           

Facility: Nancy B. Jefferson Alternative H.S., Chicago, IL

Judge: John S. Blake 

In night filled alleys

Where rats scurry

over broken glass

You find her

The queen

Strung out


blanketed only by stars

raped by life

scrubbed clean

till bones show

her limp body lies

mother earth comforts her

whispering sweet nothings

that sound like something

when you want them to

need them to

police drive upon her with midnight stares

they look at her

that prevalent object

just sprawling there

knights in shadows match their stare

young men

rejected citizenship elsewhere

stand in her defense

with 45s




& souls as shields.

Tonight they lay their lives to rest

for these streets are our kingdom

59th street

Poem Title: Untitled

Poet: Marc           

Facility: Minard E. Hulse Juvenile Detention Center, Vernon Hills, IL

Judge: Bryonn Baine 

As I’m thinkin’ for a second

My life is not perfected

My life is kinda hectic

But I don’t know what wrecked it

It’s probably my mom doing drugs when I was younger

The stuff that she had snorted in front of me and my brothers

She needed a needle when we had needed a mother

And then she got the nerve to ask us why we don’t love her?

I think it’s crazy

How she callin’ me her baby

When lately

She hasn’t been around to see me grow and changing

It kinda broke my heart

When I look back at the start

Man I turned the things to light when everything turned to dark

So now they call me Marc,

hope they remember my name

Cuz once I’m up in the game

It’s never gonna be the same

So I sit back and kinda thank my mom for what she did

Cuz I got the lyrics of an adult but I’m still just a kid

Poem Title: “Nothing’s Respite” from a Land that Never Was

Poet: Conan           

Facility: Juvenile Detention Center Clearwater, FL

Judge: R. Dwayne Betts

I wish my parents could see,

The cause of all these changes in me

Is the ignition point of my family tree.

I wish my sisters could know,

The reason why my reaction is slow

Is because I grew on my very own bough.

I wish my family could see,

That all these changes weren’t meant for me,

And just like the child I intended to be,

I’m chained to the abyss, and I’m not sure,

About whether or not I even want to be free.

Because I know no matter how much I try to flee,

All these chains and shackles keep restraining me.

For I’m not the silver seraph, I’m not the one with the key.

My wings rusted away so many years ago,

Silver doesn’t fare well with my wet tears’ flow,

But the winds of change decided with fate, so

I’m so sorry I’m gone, I’m so sorry I’m dead.

I tried to go places no one’s dared to tread.

I went to purgatory to fix myself, but I fell

All the way down to the last pit of hell.

As I was sitting waist deep in ice-cold fire,

My rage flowed into this bright red pyre,

And tossed my soul away like a worn out tire.

So now that I’m a demon with horns and all,

I can hear that dark wolf resound its call.

An angel flew down and gave me some mercy,

But all I did in return, was take its glowing soul,

My rage was burning inside, like an ember sea.

My heart turned cold as such is the toll,

For drinking innocence like emerald tea.

But as it beat its lust, it threw some pity,

And sent me a girl who wasn’t used to hell city.

I couldn’t take her warmth for my own love’s forlorn,

Dear God save me, I’m a glitch, I wasn’t meant to be born.

My very mind, my soul, even my body is torn.

I can’t go back to the light, happiness is just too foreign.

Oh no, I’ve left them all on their own, all crying,

Because they see what I am, all those who are crying,

My leather wings let loose, in my moments of dying.

Heaven’s wrath returned, Hell’s fury incurred,

I betrayed them both: the light and the dark.

As I apologize to her, my words are all slurred,

I’m taken by the beauty of her angelic wings.

They’re beautiful and bright, and colorful like a bird.

She changed my un-life, made me a phantom,

She took off my mask, in return for one,

She hid me away, off into the opera,

Now I write from another prison, for my precious Christine.

Poem Title: Black White I am Both

Poet: Marcus           

Facility: Charles H. Hickey, Jr. School, Parkville, MD

Judge: R. Dwayne Betts

black white I am both

oppressed but free

bound to be an outcast

black white I am both

look into the mirror

was ‘up my nigga

I’m proud of you

am I wrong for loving myself

black white I am both

I speak two languages

both English but both different

slang, hip-hop, shackles, bullets

the streets

business, college, caucasian, country

black white I am both

I am to be judged by both


why do I speak proper, why

do I live life in a beat

look into the mirror I bet

you see color

but black white I am both

ink on my skin

fashion designers matter

Polo, Lacoste, Levi, Trus

but I enjoy books, absorbing

knowledge, poetry, math

black white I am both

I cry as you do I bleed

as you do

I fight as you do I

run as you do

I’m used to the names

it’s sad that they come

from both sides

I’m not white enough not

black enough

but black white I am both

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