The jail-issued flip-flops bear messages of violence, distress, anger and hope. They tell stories of young lives battered by abuse, torn by drugs and punctuated by crimes. • Each of the 15 pieces of artwork on display at the Pinellas County Jail was created by young inmates who have been charged or sentenced as adults, said Ramona Schaefer, program services supervisor for the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office. • The art installation, called Walking in our Juveniles' Shoes, was created in honor of domestic violence awareness month, and in recognition that half of the juvenile inmates who come through the county jail have been exposed to domestic violence, Schaefer said. • The art project encourages the teenagers to consider the decisions and experiences that led to their incarceration. There are currently 46 boys and girls held at the jail. The youngest is 14; the oldest is 17. • Each pair of decorated flip-flops is accompanied by a poem or essay from the teenager. To protect their identities, the juveniles are not named. Here are some excerpts:
"I've been arrested 11 times.
At 13, I seen my first piece of dope and once I touched it I became in love because of how quick I got rid of it and made $20. It was the best day of my life! I still love it but that's one thing that lead me to a road of lying, stressing, violence, hatred, and now redemption.
I've been shot at a couple of times and had to backfire and do the same. I'm not proud though because out of all the stuff I've done I'm sitting here in county with a little girl on the way within a week. Now I'm on a long road of stress. But now I've made a commitment to myself to go back to school because I'm still young and I'll let my daughter have the world."
Age 17, charged with burglary, possession of a controlled substance and grand theft.
"I have been through a lot in my life. I have done drugs and I have been hurt to many times. I should have committed suicide already. This life is not for me and the drugs have turned me to trouble. That's why I made this mistake."
Age 17, charged with armed burglary and possession of marijuana.
" Look me in my eyes
Try to feel my pain
Most people don't know how it feels
To be left out in the rain
Each and everyday
There's someone judging me
Worried about my life
And how I live
Everyday I wake
I got a hundred different haters
I'm trying to get this fast paper and
It stacks up like elevators
All this leads
to nothing but violence"
Age 17, charged with burglary of a dwelling and burglary with assault.
"In my life time I've been through all kind of ups and downs. I've been shot at. I've been beat up on. I've been hit with bats, sticks and bottles. … In my life time I've been called all types of names that made me feel down and ashamed. It also made me try to kill myself but I got help from someone about my problem and now I know that I will amount to something in my life."
Age 17, charged with first- degree murder.
"Money, Drugs and Guns are the key to violence around my neck of the woods. What I care about is my Family, Money and Love."
Age 17, charged with robbery with a deadly weapon and aggravated battery.
"When you look at my sandels you see a person that has had his heart broken a lot of times. He has shed a lot of tears in the past. He has had a lot of thoughts of suicide in his young life. He is a young kid that has seen people getting shot and killed and stabbed. He is someone really just living through the violence. As a 14 year old kid, I feel it is very hard living through this situation. At such a young age I haven't lived much of my life. And now I wake up every morning and see nothing but walls. It really stresses me out because I can't be with my family and friends and I'm looking at a 'long time' so it makes it even worse."
Age 14, charged with sexual battery with a deadly weapon, two counts kidnapping and three counts robbery with a deadly weapon.