A Prodigal Son?

Published date01 May 2022
Date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 173 –175
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221096717
A Prodigal Son?
By Virgil Lee Hawks
I witnessed violence at a very young age as my dad brutally beat my mother when he
was drunk. When they separated I was six years old and my mother began abusing me.
She would knock me to the floor and beat me with her fists as she screamed, “I hate
your daddy and you because you look like him.” She locked me in this small space
under the kitchen sink. She denied me food as she and my two younger brothers ate. I
was sent to school with no lunch and no cafeteria. I remember being so hungry I once
ate an orange peel another student was going to throw away.
Even a child has a will to survive. I often went door-to-door collecting money for
underprivileged kids Cub Scout uniforms. A man once asked “where is your uniform
young man?” I told him I was one of the underprivileged sir. And he gave me a dollar,
which in the 1960s filled my stomach a couple times.
When all else failed I would go into a grocery store and run out the door with bread
and bologna. At age 8 I found a child’s reading glasses by the creek and spent a whole
day finding the School principal’s house. I was nearly blind from an ulcer in my right
eye and knew someone needed them. At school I was called into the hallway and given
$5 by a grateful parent. I had the money to eat until my mother was told about it and
she took it from me. The next morning I broke into a store (Jones Grocery) and stole
candy to eat and a muscular dystrophy change box to eat later. I got caught and was
placed with my dad.
My Mother had threatened to kill me many times, twice holding a butcher knife, if
I ever told she’d beat or starved me. I was labeled a bad kid without anyone ever ask-
ing why I stole food, not toys. No one ever pressed me about the black eyes, bruises,
why I didn’t bring a lunch to school.
I had been with my dad 2 weeks having food to eat, not being abused, when he went
to prison for six months for beating his girlfriend. He had seen her with another man
and they argued. She broke his foot with a large ashtray and he beat her up.
I went to foster care where I was sexually abused by their older adopted son the
whole time. I told the Foster mother who did nothing to stop it. Back with my dad at
age 9 I had to be a parent when he was drinking. I cooked for myself, cleaned house,
got myself ready for school, broke up 2 a.m. fights between my dad and his drunk
friends. I had no reason to steal. I had food but with no supervision. I grew indepen-
dent and did as I pleased. But at 11 years old my dad dumped me on my great-grand-
mother. I remember her as loving and letting me watch her cook on visits when I was
so small I don’t know my age.
1096717CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221096717Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeHawks

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