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Race, Poverty, Human Rights
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North America
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Incarceration, Reform, Texas, USA, Crime
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Americans are angry about crime and want to see the criminals locked up. They have less interest in reforming those criminals although no young person is beyond rehabilitation if he has the will to change. Jeremy Busby is one such young person who had the will to change.
Kim Ritzenthaler

1994 — student award of excellence

In America today, the young are not innocent. Crime, and particularly crimes committed by young people, has become a social problem of gigantic proportions. The number of arrests for violent crimes by youths under 18 is rising sharply, and nearly doubled between 1970 and 1992.

Why are these kids so bad? From birth, their character is formed in response to the thing they learn from their environment and from what is modeled for them by others. The quality of family life and role models in a young person’s life are two of the chief influencing factors in how a young person learns to act in response to the values and ideas that he is bombarded with on a daily basis.

Americans are angry about crime and want to see the criminals locked up. They have less interest in reforming those criminals although no young person is beyond rehabilitation if he has the will to change.

Jeremy Busby is one such young person who had the will to change.

Jeremy was born in Dallas, and at age 2 his parents divorced. He and his twin brother, Jeremiah, stayed with their mother until she was kidnapped when Jeremy was 4. Jeremy went to live with his aunt and her husband in Oak Cliff, and area of Dallas with reputation for crime and gang activity.  His aunt’s husband was a “big-time dope dealer,” and her two sons were also involved in drugs. At age 13, with connections he made through his cousins, Jeremy began selling marijuana. He then moved to live with another aunt, Mary, in rural Wills Point, Texas. Still maintaining his drug dealing in Dallas, Jeremy rode back and forth from Wills Point, staying with friends in Dallas for three or four days at a time. He got his first car at age 14.

When Aunt Mary moved to Athens, Texas, Jeremy went to live on his own. He became involved in a gang and participated in robberies to collect money, guns, and dope. “We woke up smoking weed and went to sleep smoking weed.”

Jeremy says the reason he got involved in a gang is because he “just wanted to have money. My biggest problem is that I liked the name brand stuff and that’s the only way I knew to get it. I was too young to work. We were more a money-making gang than the type that do drive-bys on people. We didn’t shoot at nobody unless they shot at us first.”

He says that gangs can provide what parents often don’t - love and togetherness.

One particular Friday night, Jeremy and his gang buddies located a Texas A&M fraternity party at a country club on the outskirts of College Station, Texas. They followed the drunk fraternity boys home one by one as they left the party, and robbed them of money, jewelry and credit cards. The next evening, they robbed an undercover police officer, and soon afterward, their crime spree was reported on Crime Stoppers. They had committed the robberies in a rented Blazer, and Jeremy's aunt said to him, "I don't know what you done did in that Blazer, but it's all on the news and Crime Stoppers and everything.   
Ya'll better get outta here real quick."

Jeremy was arrested on eight counts of aggravated robbery. He beat two of them in court, and plead guilty on one. He was sent to a Texas Youth Commission detention center in Brownwood, Texas, where he spent two weeks before being transferred to DayTop, a drug rehabilitation program, for six months. It was at DayTop, a strict and highly confrontational program, that Jeremy says his life was turned   around.

The turning point came after Jeremy snuck his girlfriend in for a visit, saying she was his sister. He said he became so eaten up with guilt that he turned himself in. Randolph, a staff member with whom Jeremy had formed a bond, confronted him and said, as Jeremy recalls, "It's up to you if you wanna make a change or if you wanna go out and do the same stuff you been doin'. If you wanna make a change now you ain't gotta be sneakin' your girlfriend into places like this talkin' 'bout she's your sister or you're gonna be doin' it for the rest of your life."

"And so," he says, "I started takin' a look at it and then finally I said that I'm gonna change and I'm gonna be one of the positive persons in the house. I started changing rapidly."

Jeremy was transferred to Cottrell House, a halfway house in Dallas, for five months before being released. He returned to live with Aunt Mary, who now lives in Kaufman, Texas, about 45 miles from Dallas. He got a job working at McDonald's and intends to register for college classes soon.

A year since his release, Jeremy has stayed out of trouble. Staff from the Texas Youth Commission have asked him to speak before other young people about his experiences and getting his life on the right track. He intends to stay clean and make a success of himself.

He's come a long way, because he had the will to change.

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Jeremy Busby lives in rural Kaufman, Texas, with his Aunt Mary, where the pace is much slower than what he was used to in Dallas.

"In this kind of environment, there ain't nothin' to do," he says. "I like livin' out here better 'cause I know if I was back in the city, I'd probably be goin' back to the same things I usually be doin'.

"Everywhere you go you gotta walk. Not many people come by your house. When I was staying in Dallas, somebody always comin' by my house tryin' to pick me up to go do something. If I get bored I'd just catch the bus over to one of my homeboys house, we'd go do something or call up comebody. Here you can't do nothin' like that." Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy plays with puppies in the backyard of his cousin George's home while George does some work on Jeremy's car. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
After missing the deadline for registration at Trinity Valley Community College, Jeremy unsuccessfully tries to persuade the dean to allow him to register late. His cousin, George, waits. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy plays basketball during a visit to Cottrell House, the halfway house where he stayed for five months. He enjoys visiting occasionally, to talk to the workers and the guys he used to live with.

"I just like to hang out with 'em, talk to 'em about how much time they got left, and what they're gonna do when the get out and stuff like that... what I'm doing, too." Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
After his car was impounded, Jeremy asks his Aunt Mary for a loan to get it out. Jeremy refers to his Aunt Mary, who he has been living with since sixth grade, as "kind of like a mother."

"I look at her like my momma, because I been stayin' with her for so long. She treats me and my brother better than she treats her own kids." Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy writes a letter to his brother, Red, on the living room floor. His aunt's granddaughter, Tish, watches television from the couch.

Tish was taken in by Aunt Mary from a volatile home situation. Tish struggles with fighting and getting in trouble at school. Jeremy tries to talk to her about her attitude, but she tells him he's supposed to be one of her homeboys, and that he shouldn't talk to her about that stuff. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy wakes his girlfriend Charlena from a nap in his bedroom while his cousin runs by in the hall.

Charlena has been Jeremy's girlfriend for the past two years. He says the reason she stayed with him during his criminal years was "because I was a different person when I be around her than when I be around my homeboys. Like I wasn't the violent type, the gang type that thought I was bad and stuff like that. When I was around her I act like I act now, but when I got around my homeboys, I was a whole different person."

"I wasn't the violent type, it's just I liked to have money in my pocket and that's the attitude I portrayed, so I could be violent and fit in with everybody else and make the kind of money they made."

The baby carrier is not hers. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy takes a nap in the bus during a trip to the Irving Police Department to take care of traffic tickets. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy makes a visit to the Irving Police Department to take care of outstanding traffic tickets from before he was sent to juvenile detention. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation
Jeremy watches television during an afternoon at home alone. Kim Ritzenthaler/Alexia Foundation