A Boy Among Men
What happens when you throw a teenager into an adult prison? Guess.
Three years ago, the young man who would later be known as John Doe 1 shuffled into the Richard A. Handlon Correctional Facility in Ionia, Michigan. The town of 11,000 residents, which sits in the remote center of the state, houses five prisons, and over the years, it has earned the nickname “I Own Ya.” John, who was 17, had already gotten over the initial fear of going to an adult prison—he had spent several months at a county jail near Detroit and an intake facility in Jackson—but he also knew he would be spending longer at this lonely outpost, a minimum of three years for a couple of home invasions. It was still wintery in April, and his state-issued jacket was poor protection against the drafts coming through the broken windows, shattered by men who had passed through before. “It was pretty ragged,” he recalled recently, “a tear down.”
The rituals of intake were familiar. Standing in a line with several dozen other men, John stripped off his navy blue scrubs, squatted, and coughed to prove he wasn’t hiding anything. Once inside, he could try grimacing to look tough, as he had in his early mugshots, though he couldn’t hide his skinny frame or his high-pitched voice. …