It’s almost 2 p.m. on a weekday in early October, and nineteen-year-old Cyrioco Robinson has just awakened. He says he skipped his thrice-weekly GED class because he “wasn’t feeling it,” but actually, he’d stayed up late the night before recording tracks for a hip-hop CD. One thing he doesn’t skip, however, is a trip to Youth Uprising, the nonprofit teen center in East Oakland.
Cyrioco and a friend walk the six blocks from his aunt’s home to the MacArthur Boulevard youth center. Since he first started coming here about a year ago, Cyrioco has become an almost daily presence at Youth Uprising. He spends up to eight hours a day working on rhymes in hip-hop class, laying down tracks in one of the recording studios, surfing MySpace in the computer lab, or just chatting with other kids. He also likes talking to the administrators. While Cyrioco ostensibly goes to the center to mentor younger kids, it’s his refuge too.
Everyone notices his arrival. Dressed in supremely baggy jeans, a long-sleeve camouflage shirt, a puffy black jacket, shiny stud earrings, a long necklace of silvery stars, and a brown knit cap over his chin-length, ruddy-tipped dreadlocks, Cyrioco exudes street cool. He shakes hands with the boys gathered under a tree outside, then makes his way into the student-run cafe. There, he hugs a couple girls eating french fries and watching Maury Povich on TV, and two boys wearing sweatshirts bearing “RIP” logos above photos of teenagers who’ve been killed. With his confidence, style, and presence, Cyrioco clearly stands out. Those very same qualities can also get him into trouble.
Just a few minutes later, he is shirtless and walking aggressively toward the street with a group of boys close on his heels. On his way to the center, a boy he once fought with in high school drove by Cyrioco looking, as he put it, “hella hard.” Now, after venturing out to the parking lot to pick up the shrimp burrito and lemonade a friend has dropped off for him, Cyrioco encounters his old antagonist again. This time, the boy keeps looking.
“What are you looking at, dawg?” Cyrioco asks.
“Dude, I’m looking at you,” the boy replies.
Not one to back down, Cyrioco strips off his shirt and threatens to “take it down the street.” That prompts the other boy to drive off. As Cyrioco recalls the details for a cafe worker who has come outside to see what’s going on, the air is electric with tension. The other boys chime in with their own versions of the event. Then Cyrioco calms down, aware that the others seem ready to throw punches if only he gives the word. He puts his shirt back on and even hugs a clearly concerned adult.
Back inside at the cafe, now hyperalert, Cyrioco sits down with a friend to eat his lunch while scanning the parking lot and passing cars. He is nonchalant as a girl wearing a baseball hat and a black jacket decorated with the Playboy bunny leans over and takes a bite of his burrito.
“He thought he was going to get out of the car and punk me,” Cyrioco says. “Once he saw that I had heart, he got scared and walked off. … When everybody started gathering around I’m going to chill, ’cause I know exactly what’s going to happen. … That right there, that’s how people get killed.”
Some of the boys come inside and linger around Cyrioco’s table, and three take turns eating his burrito. Cyrioco gets up and reenacts the scene once more, boasting how his mother taught him to never let an enemy come within arm’s reach. But there’s an uneasiness in the air, stemming from everyone’s awareness of what could have happened.
Cyrioco knows the potential consequences better than most. Since age fourteen, he has been in and out of Alameda County Juvenile Hall ten times. Those trips were followed by four adult visits to Santa Rita Jail, and a stint at San Quentin federal penitentiary for selling heroin.
To understand why it’s important to pay attention to youths like Cyrioco, one need only look at Oakland’s surging crime rate. The city is facing its highest homicide rate in ten years, with 129 murders as of press time, claiming numerous teen victims as young as fourteen years old. Meanwhile, juvenile crime appears to have spiked. Oakland Police Lieutenant Kevin Wiley said the majority of the city’s criminals are sixteen- and seventeen-year-olds. Moreover, he said, their crimes have become increasingly violent.
Although only Cyrioco is responsible for his own actions, his extensive interactions with Alameda County’s criminal justice system certainly haven’t kept him from a life of crime. His punishment has typically consisted of short periods of detention at juvenile hall, followed by a single, promising stint at the Camp Wilmont Sweeney residential treatment program. Home monitoring, informal probation, and community service were additional attempts at deterrence.
Courts often threatened to send Cyrioco to prison, but never followed through. Nor did a more holistic approach get him to walk a different path. Instead, juvenile hall became his primary refuge from the streets.
Cyrioco’s fifteen trips in and out of juvenile hall and jail are a case study in the failure of the juvenile justice system. The probation department’s revolving doors let Cyrioco commit ever more serious crimes without either successfully rehabilitating him or finally giving up on him and taking him off the streets. Instead, it all but set him up for a life as an adult criminal. Indeed, each time he was let go, he went straight back into criminal life.
On a drizzling evening in October, Cyrioco’s 59-year-old mother, Ruth Stovall, sits at the dining room table of a sparsely furnished new home in a semi-industrial suburb of Ceres, near Modesto. Three baseball trophies — one of them Cyrioco’s — sit atop a glass buffet hutch, which is empty except for a few wineglasses. An open copy of the Bible lies next to a bowl of plastic grapes on a separate wooden buffet. A copy of Suze Orman’s The Money Book for the Young, Fabulous & Broke sits on the table.
Ruth’s husband and Cyrioco’s stepfather, the Reverend Follis Wayne Stovall, sits in one of two plastic lawn chairs just a few feet away from the television, watching a gruesome kung-fu movie. Meanwhile, he tries to keep their puppy, a black chihuahua-poodle mix named Precious, from whimpering too loudly by snapping his belt against the dog’s cage. Follis is on medication because of hip pain associated with a recent car accident. Ruth says the drugs are causing him to have trouble “thinking of stuff.”
Follis and Ruth moved in with her eldest son about six months ago, to get away from Oakland. Her life in the Bay Area was far from idyllic, and Cyrioco, the youngest of her five children, was most affected by the turmoil.
He was born on December 13, 1986, weighing ten pounds and one ounce. Pictures in a worn photo album show Ruth and Cyrioco’s actual father as a happy young couple wearing matching yellow outfits and feeding each other wedding cake. Follis retrieves several photo albums from the garage, but neither he nor Ruth can readily find a picture of Cyrioco. Still, Ruth proudly points out how her son’s eyes and nose came from his father.
The couple got divorced when Cyrioco was just one. Ruth, a devout Christian, says her husband was abusive to the family and used religious teachings to control her. “He was a menace to anyone,” she says.
Cyrioco’s father moved out of state when the boy was three or four — during the time Ruth was serving 26 months in prison. The authorities say she shot and killed a man. Ruth claims her fiancé, a cocaine addict who was suicidal because she wanted to break up with him, took her pistol and shot himself in the chest. Initially charged with first-degree murder, Ruth accepted a plea of involuntary manslaughter, but proclaims her innocence to this day.
In any case, her incarceration had a profound impact on her youngest son. Cyrioco and his siblings moved in with Ruth’s mother, who would take them to visit her in prison. “He looked so hurt,” Ruth recalls. “He thought they were hurting me, he was crying. It was bothering him a lot, so she wouldn’t bring him back.”
Cyrioco grew close to his grandmother and was devastated when she was diagnosed with liver cancer and died three years later. He and his brothers then went to live with an aunt, but his mother said that only worsened matters. “That’s when troubles came, because my niece is a devil,” Ruth says. “She would pound on him.”
Ruth adds that her sister also was abusive and would lock Cyrioco in a room while favoring her own children. After her release from prison, Ruth moved in with her sister and lived there for a year. She witnessed her sister letting the kids watch pornographic movies. “I don’t know why my sister was looking at it,” she said. “It messes up they mind.”
Ruth sought work as a hairstylist but says she had trouble finding a job. She went on welfare, then eventually got a job putting parts in computers. With her three sons in tow, she was essentially homeless, staying in various motels and sometimes forced to leave the children alone when she went to work.
She met Follis at a gospel concert. After they married, the family relocated to East Oakland, where he lived. Ruth was the disciplinarian, she says, because Follis spoiled Cyrioco and only pretended to spank him when he was in trouble. His stepfather also bought the boy everything he wanted — radios, stereos, and expensive toys.
Going to church was important for Ruth, and her youngest son, too. Cyrioco sang in the choir and played drums. But after their pastor told the fourteen-year-old to get off the drums so that his own grandson could play, Cyrioco stopped attending. They started going to another church, but he walked out of that one too. “He thought I was making him go to church too much,” Ruth recalls. “You’re in my house, we’re going to church, that’s how I feel.”
Things started to look up for Ruth in East Oakland. She found a job taking care of the elderly, and put her two youngest sons on public assistance, which allowed her to buy them more clothes. But just as she started putting her life back on track, Cyrioco’s began unraveling.
By his own account, it’s hard to say exactly where Cyrioco’s childhood ended and his criminal life began. He has difficulty remembering the exact timeline. His mother recalls certain events differently than Cyrioco and disputed others altogether. But things deteriorated when the family moved to East Oakland. While the neighborhood they lived in was relatively safe, peer pressure began influencing Cyrioco for the worse.
“He loved his friends; he wanted them to spend the night,” Ruth recalled. “But they stole from out of my house. If they were decent children I wouldn’t have minded them coming over. I don’t want them sleeping in my bed, standing over me. He couldn’t understand that.”
The extent of Cyrioco’s generosity troubled Ruth. She took his house key away because he was giving food to his friends, and she remembered seeing three or four boys walking down the street wearing his clothes. When her brother once received a donation from a food bank, Cyrioco gave it away.
“He has a good heart,” his mother concedes. “He would give his life. But you don’t have to do that to gain friends. His friends was his life, like his sisters and brothers.” Convincing him otherwise was nearly impossible, she said: “He was always a child with his own mind. He didn’t like to be corrected.”
The youngster’s sense of loyalty, coupled with his fondness for dressing sharply, often got him into mischief. Ruth said the only jewelry she has left is that which she currently wears. “Things in the house get legs,” said Ruth, who didn’t quite want to admit that her son steals. “It doesn’t happen until he comes around.” His older brother accused Cyrioco of having a hand in some of his stolen clothing.
Cyrioco’s relationship with the justice system began at age fourteen. He had asked his mother to teach him to drive, and after she refused, he got his friend to steal a car. For two days he taught himself, and on the third day, he took to the freeway. As he was exiting, an officer pulled him over. He was sent to Juvenile Hall.
Alameda County Juvenile Hall, located in San Leandro, is a facility where juveniles are held temporarily before they face detention, adjudication, and disposition hearings. While the hall is not used for long-term detention, the California Welfare and Institutions Code lists seven circumstances in which a child can be detained: if a minor is destitute, requires protection, has an unfit home, has violated a court order, poses a danger to the public, needs parental control, or is likely to flee. In rare cases, a child convicted of a serious crime is sent to one of the youth prison facilities operated by the state Division of Juvenile Justice.
A judge, bench officer, or district attorney can dismiss those cases in which there isn’t enough evidence, or send a minor home if it’s likely he or she will show up in court. Cyrioco was held for a few days before being sent home with his mother.
Juvenile hall is not focused on rehabilitation, mainly because of the short time offenders spend there, typically 22 to 26 days. Still, Bill Fenton, the county’s deputy chief of juvenile services, said probation department employees try to offer some services such as schooling and medical screenings. The “guidance clinic” assigns mental-health professionals to kids as needed, and is run by the county’s Behavioral Health Care Services. Counselors at Camp Wilmont Sweeney have more one-on-one time with young offenders, and can tailor their treatment to the kids’ assessed needs. Often, parents are involved in the treatment plan.
Still, critics of the system say the approach isn’t working. “Generally speaking, the aggressive, crime-committing population looks at the juvenile justice system and doesn’t really feel it’s a deterrent,” said Matt Golde, the Alameda County assistant district attorney who heads the juvenile division. “These jerky kids, the bad ones, they’re chaos. You get to adult court, you’ve got three strikes. Juvenile court isn’t punitive at all.”
Cyrioco wasn’t deterred by his first brush with the law. Reasoning that stealing cars hadn’t worked out, he decided to start robbing people. He said he was tired of being made fun of for not having the latest clothes.
One of those robberies allegedly occurred after buying corn from a street vendor who pulled out a wad of cash. Cyrioco said he plotted with a friend to take the money, but police caught him in the act. His mother claims Cyrioco didn’t actually commit the crime, and was merely taking the beef for a friend who had taken a bullet for him.
This time, he spent about a month in the hall. “Juvenile hall wasn’t really cool,” Cyrioco remembered. “You don’t have no bathroom in your room in juvenile hall. You use the bathroom when they say you can use the bathroom. You can press the buzzer and be like, ‘I got to use the bathroom,’ and they’ll tell you, ‘Well, I don’t feel like getting up right now.’ And me, I had a problem when I was younger so I got bladder problems, so when I have to use the bathroom, like I really have to go, and there’s a whole bunch of times they told me I couldn’t use the bathroom and I had to pee on myself or in the corner. Me and my roommate will be like, ‘Man, that’s nasty.’ But I be like, ‘Man, I can’t hold it,’ you know what I’m saying. They think I was just doing it to be rebellious and not be follow the program, but it wasn’t even that. The real deal was that, I mean, I had to use the bathroom and I couldn’t hold it, you know what I’m saying.”
When the guards weren’t letting Cyrioco use the bathroom, he said, they were getting him to fight with the other kids. Because the hall was full at the time, he said, he was placed briefly in the maximum-security unit. While in “max,” he said, the guards would have the boys drag out their mattresses and wrestle each other on Friday nights. Because he was good at fighting, Cyrioco said he never got hurt, but other boys did. Six counselors were placed on leave in early 2005 in connection with reports about such wrestling matches.
Cyrioco said the guards occasionally beat boys if they got out of line or didn’t cooperate. He said he avoided beatings by obeying orders and hardly talking at all. This refusal to speak landed him in anger-management class, he said, where a counselor tried to talk to him about why he was so quiet. To Cyrioco, the answer was obvious. What was there to be happy about?
When Cyrioco was released, he was given an ankle bracelet to monitor him at home. He said the black plastic device would have notified the authorities if he violated his probation by playing tennis at the park or going to the library, so he cut it off with scissors.
Still facing taunts at school over his wardrobe, Cyrioco looked to his mother for guidance. “‘I don’t know how you feel about it, but I don’t like getting talked about, I don’t like being the laugh of the school,'” he recalled telling her. “And she’s like, ‘Well, you gotta deal with it because we have money problems right now.’ … So I turned to an OG from the ‘hood, and I’m like, ‘My mama, man, we’re not doing too good. I don’t know what you want me to do, but whatever it is, however I got to make this money, I’m going to make it. You just show me the way and I’m a get it.'”
His gangsta friend taught him to sell weed. Soon, Cyrioco said, he was making thousands of dollars and buying everything he wanted — clothes, shoes, and jewelry for himself and his mother, nephew, and aunt. But he was caught for cutting off the bracelet a couple months later, and spent two more months in the hall. When he was released, he again went on informal probation.
Soon, Cyrioco stopped coming home altogether. He resented his mother for not giving him his “privacy,” and started living with a friend’s mom, whom he called his godmother or “g-mama.” His g-mama was lenient, and allowed Cyrioco to bring girls over — something his mother never would have allowed. It was there that Ruth says her son nearly choked a man to death after he accused Cyrioco of sleeping with his girlfriend. Cyrioco was so angry that he punched through a window, leaving him with a curved scar on the inside of his right forearm and the loss of feeling in his fingers. “He said he was seeing blood,” Ruth said. She reported him missing, and he went back to the hall for another month and a half.
This time, Cyrioco’s mother couldn’t handle him anymore, so when he was released he was sent to a group home. “The group home, it was kind of cool,” Cyrioco recalled. “But the people that was working there, they not too older than us. So they don’t really care, they’re just there to get the money or whatever. They don’t really care about us doing the right thing or nothing. … So that’s when I was like, ‘Aw, naw, if I’m going to do this, I might as well just be on the street.'” Cyrioco ran away, but was caught six months later. Once again, he received two months in juvenile hall.
By this time, the hall had become a familiar place for Cyrioco — even comfortable. “I wasn’t even tripping off being in the hall,” he said. “I was eating better than I do at home. I get to see all my partners I haven’t seen in hella long. … You come out with big muscles. … I didn’t have anywhere to go anyway, so regardless, if I was in jail or whatever, I was eating and had a place to sleep.”
Cyrioco continued to make trips back and forth to juvenile hall, often for violating the terms of his probation, such as by refusing to do community service. “If you trying to help me, show me how to get some money the right way, which they really don’t be doing,” he reasoned. Soon thereafter, he says, someone did just that.
One day, at age seventeen, Cyrioco said, a bag containing about $1,000 worth of heroin and $2,000 in cash was literally thrown in front of him as he witnessed a car being chased by police. Not knowing what to do with it, he brought it to his uncle.
Cyrioco vividly recalled his mother’s brother giving a hit of the heroin to a local “knock,” or drug addict. “At first, this dude is just sick, like he can’t do nothing, he moanin’ and groanin’,” he recalled. “And something was wrong with him. He can’t even talk. … And then now that he took a hit of this dope, it’s like he regular, like it was a cure, like it was a medicine or something. So I’m like, ‘What is this called?’ My uncle told me like, ‘This is heroin. Now heroin, you’re going to forever, forever make money … because they can’t do nothing without this.'” Cyrioco began dealing after that.
Another time he was caught with a bundle of marijuana while driving a friend home. This time, he was sent to Camp Wilmont Sweeney, an unlocked, residential program for male youth run by the probation department. Cyrioco liked the camp, and said he willingly finished the program because the counselors really seemed to care about him. “Counselors up there, they don’t cut you no slack, they stay on you 24-7,” he said. “And it’s discipline.” The camp also provided schooling, which Cyrioco liked because he had attended five high schools in three years as a result of spending so much time in juvenile hall. He dropped out in the eleventh grade.
Camp Sweeney, which is adjacent to juvenile hall, had a variety of extracurricular programs — basketball, baseball, football, a weight room, pool tables, video games — and “a lot more food.” The strict discipline was tempered with rewards for good behavior, such as candy or soda, which Cyrioco reacted to. He started getting As in class.
But during home visits, he continued selling drugs. “After juvenile hall, it didn’t stop for me ’cause I was still hungry,” he said. “Like, man, I gotta eat, I really gotta eat. So I upped my game up.” Cyrioco started dealing cocaine. He said he soon had enough money to give his godmother $20,000 in cash for housing and a car, and bought two cars for himself, though they were eventually taken away because he didn’t have a license.
While Cyrioco understood that his actions were hurting others, that didn’t stop him. “Let me think about all the times that I was hungry and starving and just wanting something and didn’t nobody give a care,” he said. “Nobody cared about my feelings, so why should I care about this person? Yeah, you sick, you sick, I’m hurting people. I don’t care. I’m getting money in my pocket. That’s how I was thinking.”
Cyrioco was barely an adult when he first entered the adult penal system. As well intentioned as Camp Sweeney had been, it hadn’t changed his life on the outside. “There was no follow-up,” he said. “I went back to the same ol’ everything. Same environment, same everything. When you live in Oakland, the street comes with it. You can’t run from it. Innocent motherfuckers get killed every day. Ain’t no running from this shit.”
A little more than a month after he was released from the camp, and less than five months after his eighteenth birthday, Cyrioco was convicted of possession of cocaine and heroin. He spent a couple weeks in Santa Rita Jail, and was placed on three years of felony probation.
But less than four months later, Cyrioco was arrested again for violating his 10 p.m. curfew. And in January, he was caught dealing heroin and failed to report to probation three times. According to police reports, Cyrioco blamed his absence on his lack of transportation. His mother kicked him out, and he was living in an abandoned car or with friends. He spent four months in Santa Rita and three months in San Quentin.
At the penitentiary, Cyrioco and his first roommate, a young man about his age, talked about women, money, and what they planned to do once they got out of prison. Then Cyrioco was transferred to a new cell. At first, he was horrified to see his new cellmate, whom he described as an “old-ass dude” named John Stewart who had piles of books stacked up against the wall with the words “Finished” or “Uncompleted” scribbled on the covers.
For a while, the two never said a word to each other. Stewart read his books and Cyrioco passed the time by working on his rap lyrics. “I’m up there and I’m rapping, but my lyrics, they not heavy,” he said. “They just, like, as far as streetwise, me talking about killing somebody or something or what I want to do somebody or something like that, instead of me sending a message to the younger people.”
Then, one day, Cyrioco asked Stewart a question: “Why do you read so many books?”
“He just started telling me everything,” Cyrioco remembered. “Like, ‘Man, look at me. I’m seventy years old. I been in and out of this place a whole bunch of times. To be honest with you, I don’t even come back to this place because I want to, I come back to this place because I have to. This is the only place I feel safe. To be honest with you, the streets ain’t cool. I don’t care what nobody say. Regardless, it don’t matter where you at, you can get your head busted. It don’t matter what you do, you can really get shot for no apparent reason, just walking down the street, you can just get shot.’ And I be thinking about that.”
Cyrioco had already had his own flashes with death. He had been robbed at gunpoint, shot in the leg, and once witnessed the murder of two men right in front of him, which continues to haunt him. “Every night I go to sleep, I have nightmares about stuff, stuff that done happened in my life,” he said. “And it’s like, I don’t want to live that life no more.” Stewart also read the newspaper, and told Cyrioco about Youth Uprising and the services and classes they offered.
The day Cyrioco got out of prison, he went to the youth center. The staff immediately noticed him.
“He’s like a magnet — everybody wants to be around him,” said Emani Davis, lead case manager and violence prevention coordinator at Youth Uprising. “All the little girls call him ‘big brother.’ … He has what people call a star quality.” Davis said Cyrioco immediately attached to her, and the feeling was mutual. She calls him her son.
“You notice him, he has natural leadership ability,” agreed Olis Simmons, Youth Uprising’s executive director. “When he sees tension building between other people, he’ll intercede. Even though he has no money, I see him feeding other kids.”
Counselors helped convince Cyrioco to finish his GED at Merritt College, and Simmons was so impressed that she secured money to give him a job at the center. As a “Culture Keeper,” Cyrioco would be tasked with enforcing the house rules of “Respect Yourself, Respect the House, and Respect Each Other.” He would be paid $1,000 a month for ten months, and if he succeeded, Simmons would hire him full-time with benefits.
“I have a lot of faith in him,” Simmons said. “I think that Cyrioco wants a different life, and that desire will make him not reoffend. He’s hungry for this opportunity. And that hunger inspires confidence in me.”
As part of his training, Davis was guiding Cyrioco and six other Culture Keepers through three days of intensive exercises called A Framework for Breaking Barriers: A Cognitive Reality Model Curriculum, which is designed for people in prison or coming out of prison. One section that Davis focused on with Cyrioco was the “Reality Model,” which looks at four basic human needs: to love and be loved, to feel important and have value, to survive, and variety. “Almost all of his behavior is driven by his need to be important or his need to love or be loved,” Davis said. “I looked at the most basic thing — sharing his pizza — all the way to his criminal activity, to his relationship with his mom. They all came back to those two things.”
But Cyrioco never made it to the third day of class.
It’s a breezy but sunny Wednesday afternoon in October in Dublin, outside of Santa Rita Jail. Around 4 p.m., a dozen or so people — mostly women and young children — have started lining up on the long cement ramp leading up to the jail, waiting in lawn chairs for one of the scarce passes for the 6 p.m. visit. On the weekends, people arrive as early as eight hours ahead of time. The women come from as far away as Seattle to see their incarcerated sons, husbands, boyfriends, and daughters. They talk about how he says he’s going to change, how he got caught up in crime, and how irritated they are for having to get off work early and stand in line. Some complain about the court process. Many are confused about how it all works. As it gets closer to 6 p.m., nervousness and impatience builds.
Finally, small groups of about thirty visitors are let in at a time. After storing belongings in lockers and passing through a metal detector, visitors walk down two long hallways to get to the visiting area. They look through the windows anticipating the arrival of the prisoners — in this case, men — who are let into small booths. Eventually, a buzzer rings and the heavy metal door slides open, allowing a chosen handful to enter on the other side.
Cyrioco smiles and waves at a familiar face through the heavy glass. He picks up the phone to talk, but at first avoids eye contact. He wears a yellow jumpsuit with a brown T-shirt underneath, and his dreadlocks have been wound tightly against his head.
About a month ago, Cyrioco was arrested for driving a stolen vehicle. He had been released from prison just three months earlier. He claims, somewhat implausibly, that the car was a friend’s rental car, and that neither of them knew it was actually stolen. Although he didn’t have a license, Cyrioco was driving to Jack in the Box for his friend when he was pulled over by police officers brandishing weapons.
He’s back in Santa Rita for a fifth time at the age of nineteen, and this time his stepbrother is in there with him. Although the district attorney hasn’t filed a complaint against him, Cyrioco is being held for violation of his parole. He gets out on February 12.
The young man’s frustration is evident. He tries to remain hopeful despite the setback, and looks forward to being able to go back to Youth Uprising to finish his job training. Though he admits that the ease of drug money is tempting, he is willing to take the pay cut as long as he can eat. “If somebody show you the way and you getting paid, I wouldn’t be mad,” he says. “That would be my way to eat. As long as I’m eating, I’m not worrying about it. It don’t need to be a whole bunch of money.”
Turning his life around is no longer just about him. A former girlfriend is expecting his first child in April.
Emani Davis at Youth Uprising said she cried when she heard that Cyrioco had reoffended. “Even in the midst of doing right and being accountable, there was still a faulty principle intact,” she said. “It was amazing; he was doing the right thing and he was going about it the wrong way, which is kind of the story of his life.”
While she acknowledges that Cyrioco is responsible for his actions, Davis said society at large failed to offer him alternatives. “The juvenile justice system didn’t help,” she said. “The way the system is designed, all they do is prepare kids for adult prison. There’s nothing that makes them any smarter or wiser. There’s nothing that really addresses why these kids got involved in the system to begin with. Nothing has changed. All they have is more exposure to trauma, violence, and neglect.”
Reflecting on Cyrioco’s latest interaction with the system, Davis voiced a frustration shared by many. “I wish it were more uncomfortable for him in a way.”