Criminalized, Labeled and Thrown in Cold Cells

Tiny - Posted on 30 August 2012

Co-editors note:

Phoenix Kat created this first piece for PNN Toronto, in a POOR Magazine revolutionary journalism workshop held  at Maggies Sex Worker Organizing Project in Toronto


(Image of some of the rampamt gentriFUKation hitting Toronto)


Tap tap..... I didn't hear the door as my mind was swimming some deep stinky muck that made my thoughts stick to the walls. Quickly trying to peel them off and shove them back into my head, all I could think of was: where I was gunna go, what was going to happen to me and the events that had transpired a week before. I was a stone statue eating a BLT sandwich sitting on my friend Derick's couch while his mom vacuumed around me.

Tap tap... Derick must have answered the door because he was calling me to the front hall way. As I turned the corner I saw two stuck up bananas standing in the hall outside of Derick's apartment. Both tall one female and they were both wearing ugly grey suits. As naive as it sounds, especially knowing all of my friends had already been arrested, I couldn't for the life of me figure out who they could be.

That is, until they identified them selves as detectives from 23 devision. My heart fell into my stomach, the room began to spin and my head floated away from my body as if it were full of air or something. I thought really? After all that.... After all the hiding, all the running, after everything, this is how it was going to end - and I wasn't even gunna to get to finish my BLT sandwich. I felt like running, but where? Derick lived on the 14th floor and it was a long way to the ground.

“Can you come outside so we can arrest you?” the female banana said.” I felt like saying why, why would I allow you to arrest me, but being 14, and never having a police woman ask me if they could arrest me before, I didn't know that I could refuse and demand they bring a warrant, so I complied. Yes, I stepped outside. Outside of the last place I had to hide, outside of the the refuge I sought for myself after franticly running and hiding in parks for 7 days, and outside away from my freedom so that two over dressed bananas could cuff me and drag me away to the next year and a half cycle of bullshit that I was about to face....


Everyday young people are harassed, profiled, arrested and thrown in jail. Specifically young black and indigenous youth, youth who trade sex for money, panhandlers, ones that ran away from bullshit homes or foster care, and youth just trying to survive. Many of which are young parents and when there is no other family to care for their children, or the courts decide their family is unfit, their children are placed in the care of the Children's Aids Society.

It is clear how being poor , indigenous, a person of color and criminalized means that you and anyone that comes after you will continue to be sucked into the prison system where it is almost impossible to get out and get a head. Many of the young women I met in Juvie where charged and held in custody for what they called an “A wall charge”. What this means is that they had run away - “A walled” - from their foster care home or group home. So to be clear, first your parent(s) are thrown in jail, then you are taken from the only family/community you know and forced into a bullshit home (if you can call it that), then you are criminalized and thrown in jail your self for choosing to leave and live independently, however that may look for you at the current moment.


Moved around from foster home to foster home, left in group homes for months, often facing sexual and physical violence from the people or workers who are supposed to be caring for them until they are forced to run away and face criminal charges themselves. Criminalized, labeled and thrown in cold cells that would make anyones skin crawl for wanting to be free and define your own life. For wanting to leave an abusive and oppressive place. For wanting to go off into the world and figure out who you really are, create your own home, and choose your own family. This is not a crime its a right. Why does society, our government, and the court want to continue this cycle or institutionalization and criminalization of young people instead of providing the supports young people need to live independently and care for their children.


Right now in Canada, the Federal Government is putting billions of dollars into building more prisons at the same time that the Provincial Government is deciding to cut needed supports such as the community start up which helps young people, women fleeing violence or people getting out of jail get set up in the community with a place to live. In addition, legislation has passed that will create stricter conditions for youth entering the legal system. This new legislation will keep youth in custody longer while waiting for trial and force Judges to sentence more youth to adult facilities. So, again, to be clear, we will be locking up more young people for longer times in shittier conditions and then not even affording them the financial support then need to get a place to live when they get out.


As I look back and remember my experiences with jail and at the same time knowing how things are changing for youth who face the same bullshit I fuckin worry. I worry about the youth that I am close to and I worry about the all the young people who will have to deal with increased surveillance and profiling from police, longer time in custody and being sentenced as adults to serve their time in adult facilities. I worry when I hear that there are more indigenous children in Children's Aid then there was decades ago and I worry when I hear of young black males and people seen as having mental health issues being beaten and killed by police. But most of all, I worry because while it has always been clear how the system sucks us in its getting worse and most of the mainstream think these changes are good thing.

Phoenix Kat's Slam Bio:

am red, sweet roses – hard and loud - White skin and long histories sitting under a tree wearing sunglasses laughing. Hair tied back, no change in my pockets and i’m angry. Sitting under a tree thinking, thinking, thinking and also feeling a bit bitchy…  Stuck in this place, in this body letting my mind do the walking. While I try to talk less and listen more my eyes tell the inevitably story of a sex working ho mother struggling and surviving.

(Click here to read Tiny's piece on Toronto)


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