Scar’d Up but Still Goin’

Date01 May 2022
Published date01 May 2022
Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice
2022, Vol. 38(2) 182 –183
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/10439862221095622
Scar’d Up but Still Goin’
Jessi Fernandez
As a teen in Los Angeles, in extremely violent neighborhoods, I never would have
imagined living long enough to see my 27th birthday, let alone attending Cal. I feel
extremely fortunate to be at a prestigious institution of higher learning because I have
spent so much of my life in carceral institutions.
Losing my mother and grandmother at the age of 10 weighed heavy on me. I was
full of anger, frustration, and abandonment. Hindered by poverty, I turned to drugs as
an escape and joined a gang at 13. Childhood trauma and a lack of support negatively
impacted the way I navigated life. For many like myself we lost our innocence at a
young age and were robbed of our childhood. The gang life was a public facade mask-
ing my private desperation for a sense of belonging.
My life revolved around death. I lost many friends to gang violence, many of whom
were like brothers to me. I think about them every day; their absence brings great sor-
row because they had so much to give in this world. My close friend was murdered in
San Bernardino a few hours after I spoke with him over the phone. He was leaving an
establishment when they shot him on his way to his car. Then if things couldn’t get any
worse my close friend who lived with me was shot outside my driveway leaving to go
see his son. I found him on the next block over hiding, wedged in between two cars. I
ran towards him as he sat in his own pool of blood. He bled in my arms then later he
was pronounced dead in the hospital. Many friends I grew up with were killed weeks
and months after, it was like a domino effect. These experiences resulted in lasting
psychological effects. I try to block it out because it is easier not to think about it. As I
got older I realized when one does not their transform pain, one ends up transmitting
it. My unaddressed trauma reflected in being violent towards others, which became
my coping mechanism. This seemed to be an everyday occurrence for individuals like
myself that grew up in the hood. So much so we begin to normalize them.
My aim was simply to survive. Faith and paranoia kept me alive. At the same time,
life never felt real. Over and over, I saw those close to me improve their situation only to
see them end up dead. I continue to ask myself, “why them and not me?” Where I come
from, the epitome of success is “I got out the hood.” Of course, one can only get out of
the hood if one manages to stay alive long enough. But even then, when is anyone safe?
The gang functioned in my life the same way that a family teaches its young the
norms, skills, values, beliefs, and traditions of the larger society and the ways to com-
municate and reinforce that culture. I was ready to die or do a life sentence for my neigh-
borhood. I have been shot at countless times, to the point it doesn’t even scare me. One
day I recall walking home with two friends. As we turn the corner from my house we
were approached by a minivan when a guy jumps out and shouts “where you from” as I
responded he replied in confusion. In anger I walk towards him and repeat myself louder.
1095622CCJXXX10.1177/10439862221095622Journal of Contemporary Criminal JusticeFernandez

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