Life Outside Prison Is Not Easy for Minors Tried as Adults

WNYC | October 17, 2016 | Social
Adjusting to life outside prison can be tough on parolees, but one young man is hopeful

Minors who commit certain crimes in New Jersey often are tried as adults. As a result, they face longer sentences. When they are released, their adult records can make adjusting to life outside extra hard. As part of its “Kids in Prison” series, WNYC talked to one former inmate about what it’s like to try to make that adjustment.

Trevor was in a street gang in Trenton; he was 16. A rival gang member shot at him and missed. Trevor got a gun, walked up to the shooter, and shot him six times. His victim survived. Trevor was sentenced to 10 years in an adult prison for attempted murder.

A prison guard challenged Trevor to get his GED, after which, Trevor said, he “made a conscious decision not to become a victim of the prison institution.” Eventually, he taught other inmates to take the GED. After serving eight-and-a-half years, Trevor was paroled. But the terms of his parole required him to live in his hometown, or home county.

“I told them I didn’t feel safe going back to that,” he said. “… They told me, ‘Well that’s our policy, that you have to go back to the city you were incarcerated in,’ which is basically you guys telling me, ‘Go back there and survive.'”

He lives with his father and his son a couple of blocks from where he shot his victim, who knows he’s out. They haven’t run into each other. “I’m trying to avoid it as much as I possibly can,” said Trevor, “so that message has got to him.”

Advocates of prison reform say that minors should not get adult records that follow them for the rest of their lives. Although he is determined to finish his degree in civil engineering, Trevor had to take a semester off college because of money problems.

Recently he got a job cleaning ice-cream machines. He said, “I do get ashamed when I have to explain my conviction to people and it discourages me from a lot of things.” But he believes that by finishing his degree, that will outweigh his conviction.

Listen to the full story on WNYC News, a content partner of NJ Spotlight.