Next, Slater explains what happens when a person is booked into Alameda County Juvenile Hall, using the reader as an example. At the entrance, a large sign with big, black letters hangs on the wall and reads: “ALL PERSONAL / PROPERTY/ REMOVED IN THIS / AREA INCLUDING / PIERICINGS WIGS / AND DETACTABLE / HAIR PIECES.” Slater says the officers remove your clothes and shoes and issue institutional “replacements” of a sweatshirt and khakis. You are placed in a “holding tank,” and then you are given a cursory medical exam.
Slater’s switch to the second-person point of view has the effect of making the reader feel as if they are actually being booked into Alameda County Juvenile Hall. By addressing the reader directly, Slater draws increased empathy for Richard while also implying that what has happened to him could, in theory, happen to anyone, which is further evidence that he is not inherently a bad person.
You are given two phone calls—one to your parents, the other to your boss or probation officer—and then you are escorted to a cell that is “eight feet by eight feet and brightly lit,” and the only small window is on the steel door. The exercise yard is a small patch of grass “with a mural of wildlife” behind it. If your crime is serious enough, like murder or “setting a person on fire on a bus,” a camera tapes you for the first twenty-four hours “to make sure you don’t become your own next victim.”
Richard’s experiences in Juvenile Hall beg the question of cruel and unusual punishment. By offering an outdoor exercise yard, the justice system acknowledges its importance, yet the outdoor area is hardly “outdoors” and relies on a painted mural to simulate nature. The suicide prevention forced on Richard during his initial days suggests that many teens would rather die than live long-term in the facility.