Speaker 1: Here's a game about climbing up and sliding down. It's called shoots and ladders.
Kai Wright: You know the game, you spin the wheel and fate sets your course. You either get a boost up in life-
Speaker 1: You're going up a ladder.
Kai Wright: -or you get shoved down the shoot.
Speaker 1: First one to climb to 100 wins.
Kai Wright: If only it were just a game, there is no better metaphor for how society deals with kids who screw up, or more to the point, how some people get to learn from their mistakes, and others, they get shoved down the shoot of cops and courts and jails. That divide, that stark sorting of innocence and irredeemable guilt, it starts very young.
Speaker 3: I first came here when I was 13, when I was littler. I don't know, at first it was scary. I wouldn't even wish jail on nobody, because it's not a nice place to be.
Kai Wright: I'm Kai Wright, and this is Caught. It's a podcast about crime, youth and crime, but there's no murder mystery here, no who done it? We're going to tell you a bunch of stories about young people who are not innocent, and yet, depending on their zip code or skin color or just plain luck, they face very different consequences for their guilt. For millions of them, once they make contact with the criminal justice system, that's it. Their course is set.
Speaker 4: Everybody been through stuff, but when you really get to know me and really see me, I'm not that person on paper. I'm not that person no more. I try every day to be a new person and not to go back to my old ways.
Kai Wright: The young people you're hearing are among roughly 53,000 youth who every single night churn through our criminal justice system in some form. We've spent the past year hanging out with some of these young people, and in this podcast, they're going to tell their stories.
Speaker 5: Were you there?
Speaker 6: Yes.
Speaker 5: Why didn't you tell us last night?
Speaker 6: Because I was scared.
Speaker 7: It wasn't until after my sister left and I looked down my hands and I realized that, "Oh my God, what have I done?"
Speaker 8: I was always getting lucky or things just happened to work out, or people were giving me second chances constantly.
Speaker 9: It's literally the stupidest crime that you could ever commit. I'm dumbfounded now as a relatively intelligent 16-year-old, that if I was choosing to commit a crime, that's the crime I would commit.
Kai Wright: America incarcerates more people than any country on the planet. A lot of people are ready to change that fact. First, we got to understand that it starts young, at the moment when kids get caught, stuck in a system that will shape the rest of their lives.
Speaker 10: Every day I wake up, every time I go to sleep, I think about being locked up. I'd be having dreams.
Speaker 11: What happens in the dreams?
Speaker 10: I get locked up and I'm doing time, and I remember standing in front of the judge and seeing everybody inside the courtroom and I just picture myself being remanded, they putting those tight handcuffs on me and bringing me to the back room and lock me in the cell.
Speaker 11: How often do you have these thoughts?
Speaker 10: Every day. Every day I wake up.
Kai Wright: The first episode drops March 12th. Bookmark us at wnyc.org/caught and subscribe now.
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