Photo: Brad Newman
Brad Newman was only 11 when he got locked up for beating up another kid.But he was already acting like the man of his family.
Newman, now 41, says he spent his childhood in Indiana getting into trouble for just trying to survive.
He says he stole food for himself and his brother because his mum was too busy chasing her boyfriends to care for her kids or teach them how to make responsible decisions.
- FACES OF THE PRISON CRISIS: Brad’s story is the second in our series about what it takes to live through prison. You can read the first story here. Look for the third instalment next week.
“People just need to understand [kids] need to be taught now how to go about their lives before it’s too late and they fuck their lives up,” he said.
At the age of 11, Newman was sent away to the Indiana Boys School in Plainfield.
But, in reality, the “school” was anything but. It was actually the place judges sent minors who committed anything from major crimes to delinquency or “incorrigibility,” according to Indiana’s Commission on Public Records.
Newman was put away for hitting somebody in the face with a baseball bat.
As someone used to controlling his own life and looking out for himself, Newman said he had a hard time adjusting to guards who controlled every aspect of his life from the time he woke up, to the time he got to eat, to the time he went to bed.
“They try to strip you down, break you down mentally,” Newman said of the boy’s school. “I just learned not to trust nobody like I used to.”
Newman then spent his childhood in and out of the prison system.
“I felt like I was more comfortable with being locked up,” he said.
But that doesn’t mean it was easy for a young boy to realise he spent more of his childhood behind bars than he did living with his family.
“They had to live their lives and work me into it,” he said of his familial relationships.
He said he was never raped or forced to join a gang and do anything against his will because that type of stuff didn’t happen in a boy’s school, and was much more prevalent in an adult prison.
And as someone who has lived through both the juvenile and adult prison systems — he was locked up in 2000 for two counts of robbery and again in 2005 — Newman knows firsthand kids don’t belong with the general adult population.
“My life probably would have been worse because I would have learned more different types of things to do to get in trouble,” Newman said of what would have happened if he had been locked up in an adult prison.
“Locking kids up in an adult prison system is not a good idea,” he said.
Now, after a long life in prison, Newman is a free man and works as a dish washer in a restaurant in Indianapolis.
“I’m 41 years old and I’m washing dishes for a guy that just turned 30,” he said.
Still, he says he’s grateful for the work and is trying to turn his life around — something that includes fighting for custody of his son so he can teach him to make good decisions that will positively affect the rest of his life — something Newman says he never learned as a child.
“Kids are little people,” Newman said. “They’re the future of America, we can’t neglect them. We need to correct them before it’s too late.”
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