The Lt. laughed about their elaborate lies. “In the adult system,” he told me, “they just admit, ‘Yeah, I beat him up, so what.’ But the youth create whole new universes to cover up their behavior.”
During the week of my vacation, my ESL-GED student appeared for body checks with nasty bruises all over his arms. Body checks began a few years ago on our campus to address the problem of our offenders “taking care of business” when we weren’t watching. These acts of aggression and dominance were too subtle for us to catch, but frequently showed up in the form of bruises or welts that regular clothing could hide. As a result, offenders strip to their skivvies every evening so the officers can quickly scan the body for signs of assault.
As I was saying, Mr. P. showed up for body checks unable to hide the evidence that darkened his otherwise very dark skin. All seven offenders in his room received a consequence for the assault even as the administrators sought the truth. Meanwhile, an offender remarked that Mr. P. was the only Hispanic in the “White Room,” which rumbled throughout the other three pods. A true observation, it missed the mark entirely. The administration continued to investigate. One of the white boys of the pod got pummeled in the stairwell, but I learned that he was not the target. The real target trembled to think of the attack intended for him. Offenders from the room were reassigned to different rooms, and the investigation continued.
The original beating, as it turns out, took place in the kitchen where Mr. P. works alongside the offender who charges him rent (a forbidden practice). The “landlord” asserted that Mr. P’s roommates had to take the fall for the bruises, or he’d have them all jumped. One roomie tried to accept the full blame to keep the peace, but no one thought that fair. They took the consequence as a room, and held their tongues. Meanwhile, with all the pods and all the races on edge, the investigation started to unravel the truth about the act of extortion.
By now a week had passed, and with evidence and truth so obscured, the culprit got away with his wily ways–this time. The Lt. sighs as he marvels over the complexity and organization it takes to create massive lies. “If they would just apply the same amount of energy [they use to cover up their actions] toward something productive,” you’ll hear from the staff time and again, “they would go on to do great things.” Is he tired of this, I wonder. Is he bemused? I’m still young and new enough to the trade to admire how they catch their toes in their own lies of deceit and fall flat on their faces while all we seem to do is sit around and ask questions.