Finding Voice, Power, Joy

  • Penobscot County Jail Storytelling Project (IV)

11” x 17” digital portrait and text, 2021.

Bo’s Story

“I grew up on Old Town area, Penobscot Nation reservation. I represent Penobscot Nation. Grew up in a small-knit community fighting and [screwing around]. That put me in county jail quite a bit for small, petty things here and there throughout my young-adult life. Growing up, yeah, I had a lot of hiccups, but at the end of the day, it’s what’s made us who we are for men today. I don’t really have any regrets.

Well, I do regret going to PCJ. That place really turned my life into hell. Looking back at it all, there are a lot of situations and circumstances that probably could’ve been changed a lot differently if I didn’t get the handcuffs slapped on me. Maybe we could have talked out situations a little bit more.

But grow up on a reservation, you don’t have that opportunity to sit there and talk through a conversation with somebody… That’s just the way it was over there.”

Community members frequently describe not having access to their prescribed Medication_Assisted Treatment (MAT) for substance use disorders while in jail. Even at jails where MAT is supposedly available, this situation is extremely common, and the impact is severe. Bo shared, “I really believe if—even if you don’t have a prescription on the street, and you’re seeking Suboxone help when you get into County [Jail], you’re already staying healthy. ..So why not give him the medication, put him on it, and get him started. So at least they’re not coming out and taking a big shot and dying! I’ve had countless friends that have gotten out of that jail and O.D.’d and died.”

Bo cited an ex-partner’s experience working in the Quebec system in Canada. “Instead of putting you in jail, they try to work with you.”

Interview by Brian Pitman/Editing by Zeraph Dylan Moore.

Artist Statement

The Penobscot Jail Storytelling Project is a community-based, multidisciplinary project raising up the voices and priorities of people who have been jailed in Penobscot County, Maine. We are currently a team of 13 interviewers, transcribers, artists, organizers and advisors under the umbrella of community group No Penobscot County Jail Expansion. Learn more here.

Artist Bio

Portrait artist Teresa Lagrange is the current art director of Islandport Press, a small book publisher in Yarmouth. She enjoys traditional and digital art and hopes to see the Storytelling Project educate people on the value of all life.