When LaJoe, Lafeyette, Pharoah and the triplets go to the county jail to visit Terence, they have to talk to him through bullet-proof glass but are all extremely excited to see each other. When Terence walks in, he is visibly thrilled to see his family and smiles happily. Everyone tells Terence that they love him. Lafeyette strives to listen to Terence’s words, but Pharoah soon becomes distracted by the commotion in the room, and in particular, by a woman next to them who is having a fight with her boyfriend on the other side of the glass window.
This scene of family reunion is both heartwarming and tragic, since it highlights the fact that these loving family members are currently forced to live apart. At the same time, the children’s words of love to their older brother serve as a reminder that their family is meant to stay united, whatever actions Terence might or might not have committed. This affirmation of stability offsets the uncertainty of Terence’s trial.
As the initial joy at seeing everyone fades, Terence becomes tense and aggressive, drumming his fist against the counter and repeating that he wants to get out of jail. He also repeats that he is innocent, which he has only done once before and was indeed wrongly accused. LaJoe believes him and tells him not to lose hope.
While injustice might affect Terence’s life greater than his family’s, this scene serves as a reminder that one person’s sentencing does affect the entire family, as it can tear children apart from their parents and siblings, thus making the entire family bear the weight of injustice.
When Lafeyette softly says hello to his brother, Terence gives him a long lecture telling him to stay in school and stay away from trouble, telling him how hard it is to be in jail. Lafeyette listens carefully and nods at his brother’s words, as Terence seems eager to share his thoughts with his younger brother. After an hour, a guard tells them they have to leave. After Terence gives Lafeyette a few more parting words of advice and tells everyone how good it was to see them, they are forced to separate. When Pharoah asks how Terence can get out from behind the glass, Lafeyette tells him to shut up before LaJoe has time to answer.
Terence seems eager to protect his younger siblings and keep them from making the same mistakes he did. His recommendations to work hard at school might seem trite, but they are difficult to commit to in such an unstable environment as Horner, where young people are constantly affected by a host of negative pressures. Lafeyette’s angry reaction to his brother’s question shows that he, like Terence, is deeply angered by the possibility that his brother might be unjustly incarcerated.
A few weeks later, Lafeyette himself asks LaJoe when Terence will get out of prison, LaJoe admits that she doesn’t know and asks Lafeyette to stop asking, which he has been doing repeatedly for the past weeks. He has had dreams about his brother that wake him up during the night, but he refuses to talk about them.
While Lafeyette initially seems to prefer not to dwell on the issue, he soon proves just as eager as Pharoah to know when his brother will get out. His repetitive questions and nightmares indicate how much this apparent injustice affects him under the surface.
Pharoah is also upset by his brother’s incarceration. He is deeply troubled by notions of right and wrong and, in particular, the possibility that his brother might be suffering from injustice. Two years ago, Terence had been arrested for allegedly shooting a young girl in the stomach, but was released from prison five months later when the girl admitted that it was a rival gang member who shot her. The experience was deeply upsetting for the Rivers family, who knew that Terence was innocent.
Terence’s previous arrest proves that some people place gang loyalty before any other considerations, such as justice, and that innocent people often suffer as a result. Such injustice, though, cannot be directly attributed to the legal system itself, but can make Pharoah and Lafeyette distrustful of the law’s capacity to ensure that higher notions of right and wrong are respected.
Lafeyette and Pharoah are upset by Terence’s arrest, as it represents yet another loss in their long experience with losing friends and family members to violence. While LaJoe argues that prison could be good for Terence, as it keeps him from getting into trouble in the street, Lafeyette and Pharoah miss him deeply and want their brother back.
Even though Terence has not yet disappeared from Lafeyette and Pharoah’s life fully, the young boys understand his arrest as a form of violence, since at affects them—provoking sadness, worrying, grief—as any other form of injustice would.