Cherie Livett Bombell

Kids Behind Bars, Geneva Illinois

Browsing Posts tagged incarcerated

Tweet Savage. His name was on my mind when I woke up this morning. Savage was the nick name of a young Puerto Rican man on Wallace Cottage. He was a born leader. He had poise and an air of authority that the other young men respected and looked to for direction. It eked out […]

Tweet Imagine living in this much space. A tiny cell. Other areas of your ‘home’ are shared with at least 20 other people. There is no where to ‘get away’ except to your room and you can’t necessarily escape to your own space without permission. Prior to the early ’70, all activities were strictly controlled […]

Tweet This is how I remember Illinois State Training School for Girls, Geneva, Illinois. I used to park my car in the lot just opposite the guard station then walk through the middle of the grounds to Geneva Cottage or to Oak and Wallace Cottage on the right (just out of the picture). The cemetery […]

Tweet The following information and photograph was kindly provided by the Geneva History Center. “Beginning July 23, 2011, the Geneva History Center museum will host Who Was Sadie Cooksey?, a photographic traveling exhibition developed by Maine photographer Maggie Foskett. The genesis of this exhibition reaches back to 1979, when Foskett stumbled onto an isolated cemetery […]

Tweet I recently read Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy Tyson. It helped me to make sense of an incident that happened at Geneva in the 70s – one that has haunted me since. A man that worked on Wallace Cottage sometimes made bad decisions. I’m going to call him Mr Jay. He played […]

Mike said when he was first locked up at 13 he was sent to the Reception Center at Joliet. There he was sexually assaulted by a guard that made Mike preform oral sex on him. This abuse he kept totally to himself, trusting no one as the horror replayed in a continuous loop in his mind for eight years. Mike was locked up at that young age to be ‘rehabilitated’ for being ungovernable (truancy) and deceptive practices. The judge probably thought his would help him ‘straighten out’. His mother must felt relief that her son would get the help he needed to settle down and attend school. Everyone’s trust was betrayed but not so much as Mike’s. His world was forever haunted by the horrors of this pedophile’s abuse.

I don’t remember my response to Mike but I’ve never been able to answer those questions to my own satisfaction. Did I unfairly impose my values on him? Did I use my influence and power in my role to create an unrealistic expectation that would only lead to disappointment and self-loathing? Did I make his life harder to live? As professionals in the ‘helping’ careers, where do we draw the line when we have influence and power over others? Do we use a Christian ethos as an excuse to convince ourselves that we must ‘save’ others that are less fortunate? After 40 years, I still can’t find an answer that I’m certain is totally, morally true for me.

Thousands of children are being held behind bars through no fault of their own. Education can raise awareness and make a difference.

The inmates were only a few years younger than me. Most were smart though not educated; most came from inner city Chicago – ‘the ghetto’. Most were born into poverty and I into security. They’re black; I’m white. My color and social standing bestowed ‘privilege’ on me – a valuable commodity that those kids didn’t have access to.

Before boys, the girls would ‘go steady’ with each other. Couples were evident by their dress – slips or petticoats hung a few inches below the hem of the state issue dresses. Socks were mixed and matched between couples. A red sock on the right foot, yellow on the left matched the mirror reverse on the other half of the couple.

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