What’s your Opinion?

August 29, 2023: Arlington County Detention Facility, Community Readiness Unit (CRU)“An editorial is an opinionated news story. Editorials are designed to persuade readers to take a particular position, vote a particular way or view a situation in a specific way.” That was the assignment to our 15 writers in the CRU class at the Arlington County Detention Facility. The first part was pretty easy – identify your issue and your position and three facts to support it. Then came the hard part: What is the opposing position? That’s hard for any of us, right? Most of us entrench ourselves in our position and typically seek out facts that justify that.

Our 15 writers were rightfully proud of themselves for putting themselves in the other person’s shoes and wanted to share their work with you. We were especially interested in those opinions around the carceral system, and the viewpoint of those on the inside.

Click here to read the submissions!

Chronicle of an Unsuccessful War

by Luis Carlos Peniche Garces

First place, nonfiction, Heard/Alexandria Detention Center writing contest, July 2023

In the convulsed and battle-hardened years of 1950-1960, when the dusty streets were crowded with trains of mules and horses, the fervor of thousands of compatriots mingled with the red-tinted and gallant blue flags, loud shouts and gnashing machetes in a “Long Live Colombia!”

Dissent and famine, and the lack of basic, necessary programs for the guarantee of survival, made up the daily bread of the Banana Republic.

With the vivid memory of the violent death of the leader of liberal-rooted multitudes, Jorge E. Gaitan, and with the grim suspicion of the criminal apparatus of the state as the principal and intellectual author of the mangicide, the genesis of what would become the longest and bloodiest war in the history of the quiet country was ignited.

What was presumed to be a sterile seed, expected to germinate in the sterile valley of meager democracy in the country of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, turned into a rebirth of hope for a group of workers, students, and peasants who made up an abandoned people ruled by ancient corrupt parties full of a bureaucracy worthy of an autocratic state. That thirst for good governance and tolerance among parties, and therefore among similarly angry people, shaped the spectrum of protest and desire for change for generations.

Nourished by the voices of the new trends in political demonstrations of the Eastern European generation, with the new promising image of a just and equitable world caught up with the revealing theses and proposals of Soviet communism, and in turn with the nearby mirror of the island of Fidel Castro in the development of a socialism announced as a clear son of a communism absorbed in its principles, a sufficient breath of life was given to that incipient seed that the state rejected.

With these demonstrations, and with the indifference of a bureaucratic State that sponsored the elites of a bourgeoisie trained in European and North American schools, the necessary fuel was given to start the decision to take up arms in the centers of public education and in the teaching profession and with the encouragement of a people who cried out for Justice and Equality.

Backed by leaders of the Catholic Church and a peasantry tired of the promises of the day for the candidate chosen by the party, the new People’s Revolutionary Guerrilla was brought to life; they left the fields with machetes and sticks and some shotguns full of rust given from supplies in the closets of some sympathizers of the small movement that did not promise to go beyond some skirmishes that in one way or another would be controlled by the Forces of the State.

An extensive area full of jungle and rugged and broken terrain was the scene of sinister attacks that were not victorious at all by a military force that was unaware of the strategies of unconventional warfare.

Warfare in which the location of the enemy was unknown, and in turn was confused with the civilian population, who appeared as ghosts in the thick and dense fog of the wild tropical jungle.

Encouraged by the revolutionary doctrines of the decade and the innocuous dissent of a youth eager for change, with mirrors of a Vietnam that emboldened courage in the face of the Yankee aggressor and its subsequent failures in the war that culminated in a withdrawal of the North American forces in frank debacle — these gave an effervescent incentive to the generation of “the new revolution” which dazzled the path of a new hope for change.

Thousands of dead and hundreds of orphaned families were the result of the barbarism of a people encouraged by the eccentricities of their nefarious governments and by the inert international panorama that made itself known in the honorable and macabre business of war games, which without a doubt was the best of the “business.”

Consecutive generations became clandestine, offering skirmishes of sudden orgies of triumph with bittersweet flavors that only created excited, short seasons of daring incursions into remote bastions of the so-called democracy of a Failed State.

Great Commanders left, who dreamed of a country free of scum and nefarious city bureaucracy; compatriots also died who offered their lives to some legal ranks misnamed ranks of the National Army, who gave their lives for the head of a snake carrying the poison that killed the very genesis of the people who praised it and gloried in power .

Blood and pain raised a shield and a tricolor flag, heroically exalting martyred heroes from pre-Hispanic times, the same blood with which they freed us from the colonial yoke, and which we now dishonor with this Dantesque comedy of the massacre of a People.

With the entry of new variables to the internal conflict that provided fuel for the bonfire of the confrontation, war spread to the four cardinal points of the country, becoming the start of the roulette wheel of victories for the sides that claimed a victory that they never achieved.

With tears and hunger, a stoic people cried out for Justice and prayed to God and their ancestors in search of the always beloved Peace and Union for their children; they saw themselves punished for decades that paled before the eclipse of The Violence.

Hundreds of millions of dollars, wrongly named “donations” and peace proposals, bloomed in search of economic powers that would multiply their coffers with the apocalypse of War.

A North America shouting the worn-out argument of free and sovereign Capitalism, trying to cultivate a few short-thinking and country-sore sheep. Likewise, a flag showing the hammer and sickle countering at the table of horror with its communist theories in a frank fight like a bet at the Poker table; Poker that only had a great and unique winner: The People of Colombia.

Continuing this long and disastrous nightmare, and approaching the window of this horrible paradise of death, was the great utopian hope of the gods of the sacred leaf of the Andes, the coca leaf, and the great discovery of German and American scientists who transformed it into the appealing cloud of addiction of their people who used it as a mask to cover their lack of human sense and the absence of values in a society caused by the triviality of intolerant and indifferent social awareness.

Millions of green bills flooded the fields and converged in the big cities, thus giving rise to the abandonment of cultural practices and ancestral roots, where value was given to the tools and the craftsman, displacing the daily brotherhood to the conflict between them for a booty that appeared to be an endless panacea, and that ended up being the cancer of a thought that undermined the essence of some of the principles of our parents.

Five decades of an absurd war with a total flavor of failure that persecuted the cook and not his diners — one sees in the results of this erroneous and misnamed strategy the pathetic evidence of decomposition at the root of the primary bases of a defenseless and weak people with total lack of credibility in their current governments and foreign sponsors.

The people sometimes give birth to children who glimpse hope for a dawn that dismisses the twilight of the dark night, and these same children shake off the stormy clutches of the foreign yoke with illusions of escaping the ties of “Insovereignty,” the only bulwark of nations free and faithful to their children.

We see with amazement how by agreeing between the different actors in the conflict, we can accept the diversity of thought and enjoy the benefits thereof. We begin for the first time in the history of the Republic of Colombia a new phase with understanding of the parties and a desire to confront ideas with a simply tolerant position and with the spirit of transformation.

This new alternative misnamed “left” is the manifestation of a people who wanted to build on what was built and improve what was found; It is the expression of the daily sentiment in the voice of a leader who is committed to believing in a better country with equality and in the Country.

“Those peoples who do not fight for their freedom do not deserve to obtain it”

It’s All in the Details, part 2

By Joseph Mark Dorsey II and Eric Green

 Arlington County Detention Facility, July 17, 2023

Two more authors shared a meaningful event in their life, using details of time, place, surroundings, and their emotions and feelings. That’s a lot of detail, and our writing teacher Alexa Fleming guided them through it. Mr. Dorsey, an artist, writes about his high school and college graduations. Mr. Green takes us with him as he describes the events leading up to the birth of his daughter.

Mr. Dorsey:

Mr. Green:

It’s All in the Details

By Charles Hall, John Parker, and Moika Nduku

Arlington County Detention Facility, July 17, 2023

As part of our creative writing series, our writing teacher Alexa Fleming emphasized the importance of details. For this writing exercise, she told them, center on the importance of employing details in everyday life — how these elements add interest, color, and context; make conversation accurate and interesting; and are imperative in improving memory and focus. Memory and focus, she added, are the two components that are backbones of success.

Just look at the level of detail in their essays:

Charles Hall









































John  Parker





















Moika Nduku




Princess Can Prosper

Princess Can Prosper

by Mary Taylor

First place winner, Nonfiction, Arlington County Detention Facility/Heard/OAR writing contest, August 2022


* The Beginning *


2022 — Who would’ve known I would end up here again at A.C.J. or with a new record.


Let’s go back to 97-98. A senior. I know High School was a time your suppose to find yourself and have fun becoming an adult, not me I hated school. That was the year I lost my virginity and found out my mother smoked crack.


See growing up in Elementary School my mom was a drunk her and her BF would drink Velicoff by the gallon. If she wasn’t out with a man she was drunk. I got beat for no reason and kept up on school nights. That’s what I called mental & physical abuse.


In Junior High I participated in every after school activity I could: Cheerleading, Pom-Pom, Double Dutch and Basketball just to escape from the reality of home. I have no siblings it was just me. So in school I didn’t know how to be a good friend or share not to mention I was shy and my wardrobe wasn’t up to par. Shoot, sometimes I had to wear the same thing twice a week and also it didn’t help I couldn’t read.


Yep you guessed it I graduated and couldn’t read they just passed me by, but one thing I could do was write a helleva essay and I was good at it.


My senior year I got accepted to two colleges: U.D.C. and Wesleyan. I knew I wasn’t going to college. There was only so many bathroom breaks I could take when it was my turn to read. So college definitely wasn’t an option. I took the easy way out and got a job at McDonalds and went to Sanz School for medical assistant, but that didn’t last long.


Terminology kicked my ass..so I quit and got me a job at Marshalls, on my way to and from work I would teach myself to read. That’s when I met my son’s father the man I fell in love with, what I thought was love. That’s when everything went down hill.


My 1st Love


I was in love actually he was my first love, we were inseparable. I would sneak him into my room and he would sneak me into his mancave. I was 18 then and he was 21 and neither of our grandmother’s was having it. I thought I had me a good man neither one of us smoked or drank at least I thought.


One night I went 2 his house after work and he got a phone call all of a sudden he became adamant about taking some movies back to Blockbusters. I told him I want to go to, but he told me, “No” Red flag. Anyway long story short his grandmother caught me in his bed and called me every name in the book. Once I got outside I saw him in a car smoking weed with some girl. I just looked at them and walked away. I was hurt until I heard the girl tell him to go after me. Of course he did and I forgave him.


In 1999 we both decided we needed our own placed and moved on R St. NW. In February I found out I was pregnant. We were both still working and everything was good until we found out our rent was damn there $1000 because of my income. So I had to quit my job to make it more affordable.


After that things got worst. One of his sisters moved in and we didn’t get along and he started hanging around females and smoking weed alot, and I hated it. I wasn’t getting no attention and then he lost his job and had the nerve to take it out on me and told me to get an abortion. I like to died, but I knew that wasn’t an option. I would move back home 1st.


Anyway he started hustling with his BG down the west and everything was good money was coming in his sister and I was getting along. At this point I’m 5 months and I found out I was having a boy and I had chlamydia. Do you know this nigga had the nerve to say I gave it to him. I left him and moved back home. A month after that the apartment was raided looking for his sister’s boyfriend, and who did he come running to yep me.


At that point our relationship was over the trust was gone but I still loved him. In November 21st I gave birth to my son 9 lb 10 ozs 21 in. At HUH by C-Section.


My son’s father was some shit he may have came everyday to see him but through labor he was ghost. I left in 5 days but my son stayed 20 days due to complications and I didn’t even indulge.


After his birth I started kicking it with some girls from school. And through them I met Tony Bone and found a G.G.G.F. [good girl friend]. T.B. loved me and my son like he was his. I was 19 and he was 28 and a male hoe.


After what I been through my heart was shut down for repair. So I started messing with both of them on the side.


Good Girl Gone Bad


In 2003 I moved to Woodland SE. I should’ve listened to my family when they said “no way.” I got back with my son’s father and everything was good at least I thought we were working, I bought a car. Then here comes his BF came and put him on again from there he started back hustling. Dude’s there didn’t like that he was in their territory, so they started stealing and robbing him, but that didn’t stop him.

Next thing you know an informant told on him and they raided the house but no one was there. Once again God spared us. I was so scared I thought we should stay with his sister for awhile, that was 2004 that’s when shit hit the fan he started smoking PCP and I was his punching bag. All his money and time went to PCP. There were blackouts, some times he got lost, and don’t forget the flock of dipper heads around. That drug was taking so much of his time.


I tried it and liked it, it was the worst mistake of my life.


When we saw not charges were filed we moved back to our apartment he started hustling again this time my aunt moved in which smoked crack so money was flowoing like water. He got locked up again and he went away for 3 years and I was lfet with a vicious habit. I started taking over the hustling by day and while at work my aunt had the night shift.


The girls around there already didn’t like me because I was fly they really hated me now. I had to idea what this drug was [doing] to my brain, but I loved this drug and it didn’t love me back.


Then I started hanging with this girl who was the devil. At this point Im catching charges every other year. I was so gone I decided to steal my neighbors truck. I pack all my clothes in the truck put my turtle in the front seat with the seatbelt on. I had no money but I was moving to NY to sell my ass for a living, before I left I got 4 dippers and pulled off without paying.


At this moment it’s 2008, my son’s father is home but wants nothing to do with me because I won’t stop smoking. You got to be kidding right. The only good thing he did was take my son with him, because I was done. Anyway I got all the way to Baltimore called my BF who is a officer, and decided I wanted to go back. So I went back home and got a U.U.V. [unauthorized use of a vehicle] charge. I was losing my mind. I didn’t know I lost it when my grandma died in 2006, she was like my mom.


So at this point I got 2 yrs Probation, I’m clean working as a Document Specialists and hustling and hanging with this serpent. In 2009, this girl got me jumped and they hit me with a brick. All I could see was this girl who I thought was my friend dancing and laughing while there damn there killing me. HUH released me that same night why I don’t know my face was so messed up the bus drivers wouldn’t even let me on the bus. I was so embrassed.




One thing I can say is I always attendant church on Sunday because it is only by God’s grace I am here to write this. I’m saved and I got baptized twice at 13 and 42 yrs. At my church I’m in the choir and the production crew, but due to Covid 19 I relapsed and it robbed me of everything I owned and my joy. I’m done with that life of drugs.


I want to now become a Peer Specialist and help others leave drugs alone. I just hope God see fit to give me another chance and let me go home.


To Be Continued