By Guest Contributor Alton Pitre, cross posted from Juvenile Justice Information Exchange
Exhilaration jolted through my body when I stepped back onto the grounds of Central Juvenile Hall for the first time since my release. I finally knew what it felt like to come back as a free man and not as a detained juvenile. I cherished how different it felt. Now, I was wearing my own clothes and not the dull gray uniform of the hall. My arms dangled freely as I walked without anyone telling me to walk in a line with my hands behind my back. I even had a chance to chat with some of the juvenile hall’s probation officers, who were surprised to see me. The last time they had I was sitting in my cell.
My first day of freedom after 18 long months of captivity was Oct. 8, 2010. That was when reality quickly settled in. I was sitting at a table with my father and a few friends at a Denny’s restaurant, eating some bacon. My chest was poked out and my shoulders were buffed up. Noticing this, one of my friends jokingly said “Al, you out. You can relax and quit acting hard now.” I found that really funny because I was not trying to look tough. After being in jail for so long I had picked up the habit of trying to look like a thug while sitting at the dinner table. I was institutionalized. I did not even remember the proper way to use a knife and fork to cut my pancakes.