2011 Writers’ Retreat at Central Juvenile Hall

IOW Teachers Susan Cuscuna, Jesse Bliss and Gaby Hernandez at the CJH Retreat

IOW Teachers Susan Cuscuna, Jesse Bliss and Gaby Hernandez.


On March 26th, the 2011 Writers’ Retreat was held at Central Juvenile Hall.


Over 80 students from 13 living units recited their original pieces before their peers, teachers and special guests, including students from Occidental College and USC.  Retreats are held once a year at each juvenile detention facility where IOW leads writing classes.  The retreats offer the students a rare opportunity to present their original compositions and celebrate their accomplishments.


The students’ writings touched on a wide range of subjects, including social commentary – “Destruction, mayhem and chaos, the three brothers of men, still roam free…” — the anguish of incarceration –“My pain in my heart is when my mom has to come to visit me in Juvenile Hall…”  —  and despair — “‘Why me?’  This is the question I ask myself every time something bad happens to me. The answer I come up with is ‘I don’t know.’


Students and their guests were treated to a special performance by the multi-cultural teen music group, The Bricks, which was developed from the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations’ youth music and human relations mentoring program, Project One.  The Bricks’ positive and uplifting songs were a huge hit with the students!


The next retreat is scheduled for June 25th at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall.

Retreat Sound Bites

Presented at Central Juvenile Hall Writers’ Retreat on March 26, 2011.




Living in a society where the judge gives people more time than they done lived, or where getting killed is nothing new but almost anticipated.  Living in a society of poverty, violence, power and fear.  But fear is substituted for courage but the courage is used in the wrong way.  It hurts to live in a society where you have a small family tree, but only a couple of leaves left.  In a society where the fact of the matter is there’s nothing to promise but a graveyard… Change is better than a lottery ticket where I come from.  It’s the hardest task known to a human being… In my society I wouldn’t be able to read this piece to my boys because most of them would laugh at me, but most of my boys are dead and unable to laugh…


–– Michael





Remember me as a child, a teenager,

a rebel

a saint, a daughter, a sister,

a small person in this big world,

but significant for my life,

being me, kind-hearted and timid,

moving on…

going on to something bigger,

pushing forward to something else…

Remember me for being myself,

a caterpillar to a butterfly,

a changed person,

no longer vicious and mean,

no longer hard and cold,

no longer plastic,

but flesh and warm blood.

Remember me my hopes and dreams,

my faith.

To me, these things are accomplishments because

Being a survivor in such a big world is

something to be remembered for.


–– Jesselynne