“We ain't get our rights read to us, none of that. They ain't ask us not one question. Only thing they did was just read our paper. Then it was a man come up in the courtroom. He was like, ‘Just to let you know, they're staying in Tennessee.’ [The judge] was just gonna put us on probation. One of the lawyers stood up and said, ‘No, they going to training school. Make them go to training school. 'Cause they not finna come here in Mississippi, in Panola County, like they running something.’"
The tWins - Jessica and Jalissa's Story
Jessica and Jalissa are twins who grew up in Crenshaw, Mississippi. When they were 12 years old, their mother moved them from their small town up to Memphis, where they would be able to attend better schools and have more opportunities. The following year, while they were staying with their grandmother in Mississippi during spring break, Jessica ran away to a friend’s house and spent the night there, without telling her family. The police found Jessica and arrested her. They wanted to question Jalissa, whose uncle brought her down to the station against her will. When an argument broke out between them in the station, the police arrested Jalissa on a domestic violence charge. Both girls ended up in training school for a period of months on various charges. In this interview, they talk about how they were treated in school growing up, and what it was like being in custody at Oakley Youth Development Center in Hinds County, Mississippi.
“Like I tell 'em all the time, it's a choice in what you make. Whether it's good or bad, it's a choice. They're old enough to make choices and stop being around negative people. Always be around somebody positive that got something going for themselves, 'cause it's real rough on them. I always have a positive mind about life, and not a negative mind. Have your own mind, 'cause life is about choices.”
As the mother of Jalissa and Jessica, Michelle knew that she needed to get her girls out of an environment that, to her mind, increased their chances of getting in trouble or being associated with trouble. She moved them from their hometown of Crenshaw, MS up to Memphis because, “I didn’t want the streets to have ‘em, and that’s where they were headed.” In this interview, she shares her perspective as a parent on the girls’ experience of being incarcerated.