Meet Quamir Hodges, our Youth Caucus Leader. We recently interviewed Quamir to get a sense for his new book and how he has been doing since his release from prison in March.
How did you become involved with the NJ Youth Caucus?
When I was 14 years old, I was waived to the Garden State Youth Correctional Facility, a state prison that houses offenders between the ages of 18 and 30. Here, I was sent to the juvenile unit, the first-ever youth division inside of an adult prison in New Jersey. I received an intake form from the Youth Caucus and discovered, through my family member on the outside, that this organization advocated for youth of color. I felt very moved by the Caucus’ message and goal, and immediately signed the form to join the organization.
What has your experience been like with the Youth Caucus?
I talked to Kathy [Executive Director for the New Jersey Parents’ Caucus] once or twice per week. I would update her on how things were going in prison, and how [other youth inmates] were deprived of educational and religious services, along with access to seeing our parents. Additionally, I would inform Kathy of the new juveniles who were waived so she could send them intake forms to join the Caucus. The Youth Caucus was incredibly helpful during my time in prison. They would inform me of my rights and provide me with connections whom I could reach out to if I had a question.
Can you tell us about your experience being waived to the adult system?
When I was 13, the court determined I was too young to be waived to the adult court, so I was sent to the Community County Youth House for one year until I turned 14 years old. From there, I was transferred to the adult system.
Were you able to finish high school and take any college classes while incarcerated?
Yes, I was able to finish high school. However, it was very difficult to sign up for college classes. There was a waitlist of 2-3 years before you can start taking the college courses, although you had to get your high school diploma before you can enroll on the waitlist. Once I received my diploma, it took another 2 years to get onto the waitlist because there was a lack of communication between the Department of Corrections, Department of Education, and the public school district in transferring my diploma to the prison facility.
Have you ever been in solitary confinement during your time in prison?
During my 8 years while incarcerated, I was placed solitary confinement about four or five times, and the longest period I spent in solitary was about seven to eight months. Being in the prison system at such a young age already messes with you mentally, but being in solitary on top of that was a whole different ballgame. It was dark. There were limited resources, limited use of the phone system, and you can’t come out of your room. Being in solitary confinement gave me a lot of time to think, and after a while, you have crazy thoughts going through your mind. The prison officials were supposed to provide us books, pencils, and paper, but these resources weren’t provided. We were also supposed to receive assistance from the teachers and other staff, but nobody wanted to do their job. They were supposed to help us, but instead, they treated us poorly and did their jobs at a bare minimum.
What have you been up to after being released?
I was let out in March of 2020. A week after that, I was able to secure a job with Amazon working in fulfillment, which basically consists of packaging and shipping mail. I really enjoy it, and I’ve been working long hours. Additionally, Amazon has a great program where they will pay for 90-100% of college tuition after working for them for a year, so I’m planning on taking college courses once I qualify for the program.
How would you describe your experience with the Youth Caucus in just a few words?
Wow. That’s a hard one. There are too many words. I would say the organization is supportive, loving, caring, trustworthy, and passionate.
Quamir’s book has now published his book and it is available now on Amazon Kindle.
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