West Memphis, AR.
Michael: It's crazy 'round here. So many people wind up dead, it's ridiculous. A boy I went to school with got beat to death a few weeks ago behind Walmart, on the good side of town. Four or five people. They tazed him, then broke his bones to put him inside a tote and put him in somebody's backyard. They called him Little Man.
BW: Damn. Tell me about your life.
Michael: My life... I've changed a lot. I started going to jail when I was like 12. I've been to juvenile like nine times, penitentiaries, all types of shit. I'm 23 now and I've been out of jail two years. Every charge I ever caught was burglary. Breakin' in shit around here, know what I'm sayin'? But I just had a little boy the other day. That's all I think about.
BW: That's cool. What'd you get locked up for first?
Michael: Stealing a bike. My second time I stole a bike. The third time was aggravated robbery.
BW: Did you grow up in this neighborhood?
Michael: Yeah, I grew up right down the road from here.
BW: What was life like growing up?
Michael: It was good and shit. My grandma, my mom... I didn't really have no dad. I got three brothers and a sister. All my family live right next door to each other.
BW: Was everyone in the neighborhood stealing?
Michael: Hell yeah. Me and all my friends... shit. See, my cousins, and them followed my uncles and grandpa. They turned out to be mechanics and have big ass houses and dumbass country boy trucks and shit. While me, I'm over here with all the black kids, smokin' weed, stealing, robbing and all that shit. That's where I fucked up, being in the streets.
But that's my life. It made me a better person. I done been through hell and back. The penitentiary's a motherfucker, especially here in Arkansas.
BW: I bet. What was it like being a minority in this neighborhood?
Michael: When I was younger I had to fight a lot, but see I'm known now. From this neighborhood to that neighborhood, I'm known in West Memphis. But yeah back in the day here, being white in a black neighborhood, motherfuckers be stealing your shit every day. If you ain't stealing they shit, they stealing your shit. You got to fight. You don't fight, they gonna take your shit every time they see you. I had my shit took a couple of times, but I hustle to hard for what I got.
BW: What made you straighten up this time?
Michael: My grandma and I been with the same girl since I got out. I don't steal no more. I don't do nothin'. My girl be on my ass. She keep me out of a lot of trouble. If it wasn't for me being with her for these two years, ain't no tellin'. I'd probably be dead or back in the penitentiary. I'm off parole, probation, everything. It's a blessing, for real.