By Jevonie Rogers
When Prop.57 passed, I was tried as a juvenile instead of an adult. That day something changed inside of me. I felt as if the old me died and a new life began. Ever since that day, I have been working to transform myself. I have dreams of being a social worker, owning my own business and mentoring at-risk youth. I plan on going to college and getting a bachelor’s and master’s degree while majoring in psychology. I’ll be able to understand many of the youth I’ll be working with because I’ve seen and done a lot in my own life. My hope is to use my story to prevent someone else from making the same mistakes I have.
I have been incarcerated since I was 17 years old; I’m 21 now. Being African-American and lesbian in the justice system spelled out trouble. It’s hard to describe what it really feels like to lose your freedom; in some ways it’s similar to death. In a sense it can be worse. Initially, people grieve when a person passes away. The person’s life is celebrated, and they are talked about for a while after. As time goes on the person who passed gets brought up less and less, and in some cases they are forgotten completely. When I first got locked up people were grieving my absence. They posted about all our good times on social media, took time out to send me letters, and put money on their phones to talk to me. As time went on I became a distant memory to most. But I am still here, and I feel everything. I feel grief and frustration as I literally watch myself lose relevance in people’s lives.
Throughout my incarceration I have gone through a series of tragic events. I watched as chemotherapy caused my mother to deteriorate. I’ve lost friends to street violence, tragic accidents and loss of contact. My brother Dallas was recently incarcerated for a serious crime at just 13 years old. When he got locked up he continued this vicious cycle in our family that has carried on for generations. And the biggest blow to my heart was the loss of my Papa. Alonzo Parker was more then just my grandfather; he was the man that raised me while my own father was absent due to his own incarceration and drug addiction. I missed my youngest sister Jayden’s first day of school. I was absent for my sister Madison’s middle school promotion and homecoming dance. It broke my heart to see how beautiful she looked in her dress and to know I wasn’t there to wit- ness it firsthand.
This journey has taken me to juvenile hall, county jail and DJJ. In the county jail, I did a ten-month stint on the maximum security unit when it was rumored that I was in a relationship with another female prisoner. I also was assaulted by an officer during my stay but did not receive medical attention or my right to an attorney call. This experience changed my life and how I viewed the justice system. I had people in my family assaulted by police officers, so discrimination and brutality isn’t new to me. However, experiencing it personally definitely made the topic touchier than it was before. I learned the hard way that day that it was their world, and I was just in it.
“I’ve had people in my family assaulted by police officers so discrimination and brutality isn’t new to me.” Jevonie Rogers says Proposition 57 renewed her determination to change for the better.
When I first got locked up, I looked at it as one of the worst things to ever happen to me. I struggled to find anything positive about my situation and to move forward with my life. Now I look at my incarceration in a more positive light. I see this as a period of time and opportunity that I have been given to better myself.
Change doesn’t happen overnight. I know there will be many obstacles that I will face upon my release. The world has changed a lot, and it continues to change daily. I’m not trying to say I’m going to get out and be this perfect person; that would mean that I haven’t changed. The old me manipulated and fabricated a lot. Today I have more integrity and humility. There will be times that I will stumble and fall. But for every setback I face, I’ll get back up.