Not (really) a choice

To me personally, the question should not be “how do we stop” but rather “how to we avoid the start all together”. My heart was breaking every second I read further into Tyrell’s life.

As a single-parent myself, I could easily identify with his father, John, who against all his desire to raise his son well seems to fail as their relationship sours. As he watches his son struggle with poverty and is unable to provide for his basic needs, yet he remains firm in his view against involvement with drugs. He reaches out for help, like many other parents, according to Rios, desperate for help with raising their children. But real help is hard to find.

According to Rios (2011) “as these institutions advised desperate individuals on how to parent
their children, they passed on their punitive approaches to treating deviant and delinquent
behavior. In a sense, they thought parents how to criminalize their own children” (p. 49).
Through institutions, such as schools, police and court parents are taught to see their children in a negative light. This in return, causes the child to see the parent being against rather than for them. As I thought deeper about the sad situation Tyrell finds himself in by such a young age, I couldn’t help but wonder what the future was holding for him? Sadly, I think being incarcerated; time after time was secretly against his will etched in his destiny. But how will this early participation in crime define the rest of his life?

Is there such as a never ending cycle of generational curse? I would like to say that the answer is no, and such notions are just tales, yet deep down in my realistic mind – not in my heart, because I might not be able to handle that – I am afraid that the existence of such is undeniable.
Not all of us get the same chances in life. It is naïve to say that all humans start at the same place in this crazy race called life. It would be a pure illusion to say that the son of Prince William would have the same chances in “making it” as the son of John and the crack addict. Whoever said life wasn’t fair hit that nail right on the head!

According to Rosie Meek, author of The possible selves of young fathers in prison (2011) “at least 25% of young offenders are fathers, with other estimates suggesting that the figure is as high as 50%”. At least Tyrell had a father who was present for the most part to be an example, a role model. But the financial burden, unemployment and poverty did not allow them to have the kind of relationship that many of us would describe as father-son time. Many sons (and daughters) however don’t even have a father figure at all. It is unimaginable, to me, how a child of any age would hold his or her head up high and face every day struggles, even down to the simplest trials as a difficult homework on a rainy afternoon with the dark reality in the back of their head of having a parent behind bars. And to take this depressive thought even further, the reality that one day, sooner or later they might end up in the same prison.

JUST DON’T DO IT are easy words that roll of the tongue. Not doing it is hard! Selling drugs wasn’t really a yes or no choice for Tyrell. Even though his father advised him against it, punished him for choosing the wrong path, I feel like he didn’t really have a choice. I am not making excuses for his unlawful behavior, I am in no form saying that what he did – repeatedly – was right but I am starting to see that the issues he was faced with, unfairly faced with at such a young age were more complicated than many of us are willing to admit to understand.
The possible selves Meek talks about in her article reflect some of the desires and fears of men who have been or are incarcerated. Jose, Tyrell’s friend has such hopeful views of self for the future, “if I could, I would finish my diploma and go to community college and get some kind of certificate to work on cars. I want to own my own shop one day. […] Maybe a lawyer, maybe helping the community, those in my position now or those who will be in my position.” (p.70).
Reading this quote out of context without knowing much about the speaker, one could assume that this is a young man with noble dreams and a bright career ahead of him.

…Yet, at the end of the chapter where do we find Jose?…

And with that sad thought I leave you. Not because I want you to be sad, but rather because I want you to be so hurt, so disappointed, so bothered by what you just realized that you would want to do something about it. That you could not be yet another unrealistic young mind that believes that we all have the same chances in life and it is up to the individual to make the right choices!


Meek, Rosie. “The Possible Selves of Young Fathers in Prison.” Journal of Adolescence 34.5
(2011): 941-49. Web. Retrieved November 9, 2015 https://www-clinicalkey!/content/playContent/1-s2.0
Rios, Victor. (2011). Punished : Policing the lives of Black and Latino boys (New perspectives in crime, deviance, and law series). New York: New York University Press.

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