We’re reading BAD, a YA novel by Jean Ferris about a sixteen year-old girl who, after a series of unwise choices, winds up in reform school. (Only, they don’t call it ‘reform school’ these days, and I don’t have any idea what they do call it because I’m really just too far out of that loop.) It’s a great book, and the class is into it, even the students who I know have always been good-good-good and can’t imagine being anything like Dallas, the main character.
Tonight we were talking about the rules at the GRC, the Girls Rehabilitation Center. (Can that really be what reform school is called nowadays? It just doesn’t pack the same punch. Oh. Maybe that’s the point? Hmm …) There are a lot of rules at the GRC:
No arguing, no insulting anyone, no talking in the halls, no profanity, no talking about our crimes, present or past, no touching, no food in the rooms, no sharing food at meals, no letters to people in penal institutions, no guns or glue or aerosol cans, no alcohol or gum or Satanism.
And that’s just a sampling. Everyone agreed they didn’t want to have to live with so many restrictions. “They might as well send her to jail,” Tariq said. Josefina argued that it was jail, that it needed to be harsh. “They don’t want her to think it’s nothing to come back there, right? And she’s only there for six months, anyway.”
Six months. There’s strong feeling in the group that Dallas didn’t get nearly enough time. I’m not surprised: when we did our predictions after the first chapter, the consensus was that she’d get three to five years, so her six-month sentence continues to be a thorn. The class is convinced that any of them — with the possible exception of Laila, Jamila and Haila — would have been slapped with a much stiffer penalty.
I say six months sounds plenty long enough to me, that it would feel like six years. Haidar agrees. “When I was in the bookings, it felt like a year,” he says. “And how long was it really? ” “A day.” Ok, yes, we all laughed at that, but then he went on to tell us almost hour by hour what his experience was like being held for a day. And then it wasn’t so funny.
“That six months is no joke,” Desirée said, and everyone nodded. Yeah, six months of lock-down? Six months of having to be searched every time someone from the outside comes to visit? Six months of not being allowed to touch another person? Right. I am officially scared straight!