What causes childhood incarceration and how did it effect my family. 

I signed the papers and noticed the director of TDC’s name along with the name of Mr. Richard Ross. Mr. Ross is a photographer, researcher and professor of art,  based in Santa Barbara, California. Mr. Ross has been the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Annie E. Casey  and MacArthur Foundations. Mr. Ross is also initiator of Juvenile in Justice to facilitate better outcomes for the 53.000+ children in custody every day. 


It was definately becoming a good year for me because not only was I going to be interviewed by a major publication (Harper’s Magazine), I was also on the verge of having my first novel, MUD (Making Unwise Decisions) published. Staying positive in the face of true adversity is always a daunting task. The reason I agreed to the interview was it dealt with preventive ways of stopping child incarceration. I jumped at the chance.

Afterall as a parent, my beloved daughter was sentenced to a juvenile facility as a child. Yes, she had a very serious charge that could have very well caused her death. While running away in the get away car, it flipped a number of times but she lived.

During her prison stay we communicated very much. This is what I found out. My family treated her harshly at virtually every turn. That was only a small amount of abuse she endured. Had I been home, I am certain I could and would have been that protection that all children deserves. Putting it plainly the abuse would not have happened. She survived prison with my help along with her mother and grandmother on her mother’s side. We did our part but the system provided hours of therapy, school and many other needed things she deserved as a child. I thank the system for that. 

However, as I stated during the interview what my daughter needed most was        L-O-V-E from both parents. Yes, her mother provided her with love but both parents are needed. Having an absent father hurts a child. I know because my father was only a sperm donor as well as I stated in my autobiography. That lack of feeling L-O-V-E hurts me. There’s nothing like unconditional love. I’ve never experienced it as a child from my parents.

Mr. Ross had armed me with a mic and a small recorder and questioned me for about one hour. I talked about my childhood, the physical and mental abuse I endured. I hoped by sharing it, it would help others. I further mentioned poverty as another key element to why children commit crimes. I am certain that my daughter and my other children did without. It’s horrible to endure ridicule because of not having the basic clothing, the basic things that other children have daily. That in turn makes children angry and bitter, not all children but some do. My children as a whole were part of that some. I know my children …  they have my demeanor. We share various abuses, my was bad but thiers were worse. That’s just my children. Imagine what it’s like to have CPS take children? They definitely have a bigger gripe within the prison system. You will find a great deal of people who have dealt with a lot of trauma whether it be veterans neglected and abuse children, spousal abuse, it borders the same. Looking at these dreary situations you would understand why I state L-O-V-E is the key. L-O-V-E would stop the abuse. L-O-V-E would equate protection and not neglect.


After the interview I questioned my situation. How many times coming up as a child did I get hugged in my household? Never. How many times did anyone say: ‘I love you’? Never.  A lady ones told me that my parents did not love me. I was irrate. Not because she told the truth but because she ‘saw’ the truth. L-O-V-E your children – L-O-V-E them often and protect them because they are your gifts!

Derrick L. Griffin, 25-01-2021