Programming, Connections Help California Youth Deal With Demons of Reentry []


Near a wooden “Death Row” signpost towering in an orange-lit fog, 25 young people huddled together, smiling and laughing.

Few would guess the crowd waiting to enter the Los Angeles Haunted Hayride and Corn Maze was almost entirely made up of formerly incarcerated youth whose daily lives are in some ways more surreal than a scary event.

Used to a totally regulated life on the inside, they are uncertain how to navigate life on the outside again.

“You’re literally emerging from a time capsule,” said Jimmy Wu, who was incarcerated as a teen in the early ’90s. “Even the pace of life — why didn’t you tell us we were going to be leaving a world that moves in slow motion for a world out here in fast forward?”

Wu and the group of young adults he accompanied are members, or alumni, of InsideOUT Writers(IOW), a nonprofit organization that provides programming and resources to youth affected by the juvenile justice system. On the inside, while incarcerated, youth in the program benefit from creative writing classes, introspective journal entries and taking part in writing retreats. On the outside, after release, students are provided with mentorship, resources, writing circles and fun programming to help deal with their struggles with handling masked emotional demons, and navigating their way through the maze of reentry horrors.

[For more of this story, written by Marisa Zocco, go to]

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