Heather D’Aoust has written 30 tips for Surviving Prison. Here is Tip #6: Surviving Coed Gangs in Juvie Prison

I got arrested at 14, facing the threat of a life sentence, and at sixteen I was sentenced to 16-to-life in the California Penal System. I am going to take time to tell you the things I wish I had known when I was fourteen, before growing up in the system. I would like to think that if I had known these things prior to my arrest, my life would have taken a different path. I hope my words can help teach my readers what it is like to not only become rehabilitated by “the system,” but what it is like to survive the rehabilitation process itself.

I did time in juvenile facilities which, back in the day, were coed. That means that there were 25-year-old juvenile-to-life males doing time with twelve-year-old minor-felon girls. 

This might sound awful or irresponsible, but in reality it is strictly financial: California simply doesn’t have the funding to make a whole prison for the twenty little girls who decided to break down over the past ten years. There aren’t enough little felons to keep in separate facilities, so what do they do? House them all with the big dogs. 

Male-run prisons are political. You walk in, and the first thing they see is your race. Then, if you are black or Mexican, they ask your affiliation. I learned early on how to throw up an SD, for San Diego (my hometown), and when they ask “Where are you FROM?” to say “the big NW!”


When I was in juvenile hall, there were other white girls. I saw how prison gangs were run and I even started my own set. We were the WW, White Warriors, throwing up the TAFT symbols as they are known for their white gangs. We thought we were doing something with our little pink butts.

Now, when you leave the structure of the Juvenile Hall and walk into a REAL facility like the Youth Authority (juvenile prison) kiddie games go out the window. When I got there, the gangs all already knew my full name, DOC#, DOB and affiliation. Within twenty minutes I went from a regular white chick to getting my hair sawed off with a razor one strand at a time by six Mexicans. I don’t have any hard feelings against those six Mexicans, though, because I knew how these things worked. In that world, we do what we are told, and if an “older homeboy” tells you to attack, you musn’t disobey lest you get attacked yourself. Women are pawns, and I was a statement.

So, I clearly wasn’t welcome with southern-gang Mexicans, but I didn’t fit in with the white people either. Since I am Portuguese and Irish (two bloodlines that Hitler considered “dirty”) I was ineligible for the white supremacist gangs. Odd as it sounds, the only people who gave a damn about a scrawny white kid were the Blacks.

When you do time, you see the differences in the prison-race gangs. Black people are about not tolerating disrespect. I am loyal to that–I was raised up by Bloods. I gave them my sweat and tears. If it was a race riot, I was the first to jump for my Sisters. They protected me when no one else would. Blacks fought one-on-one and they fought fair. 

The Mexicans are about killing, not fair fights, which is too deep for me. They’re not opposed to pulling hidden shanks or sticking needles covered in HIV getting into you when you think you’re in a fair fight. But white people might be even worse–how are you in PRISON still acting like the Neighborhood Watch?

If you ask a Mexican for help, North or South, they’ll call the homies to come too. If you ask a Black person, Blood or Crip, they will watch for the cops while you handle your business. But if you ask a WHITE person… they’ll call the police! Then they have the nerve to talk down on the other races in here like they are all trash. They act hard and tough when you get about twenty together, but maybe half of them are wearing a wire recording everything for the undercover police.

I’ll keep it level with a Mexican OG: you don’t want to wake up to someone stabbing one of your eyes out with a pencil while someone else holds you down and five more are on-call. I give my dubbs to the Black Bloods and Crips who are doing time for their loved ones and taking the blame out of loyalty. Most of them are factually innocent. But you could never catch me in conversation with a White “Supremacist” unless I need some school/legal supplies and tips on the laws.  

Maybe I am just too much of a thug to be Caucasian. Either way, I always say I’m Portuguese instead of a Hillbilly.

Heather D’Aoust is serving 16 years to Life in California for killing her mother at the age of 14.  She has written a book — a collection of three stories, a murder mystery, a classic campfire story and a thoughtful story about justice.

Heather D’Aoust  WA4003

California Institute for Women

16756 Chino-Corona Road

Corona, CA 92880