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You suddenly get a lot more freedom when turnin’ eighteen: you’re free to live on your own, drive a car, marry someone, quit school and get a job, or – if you’re completely out of your mind – go to college or university. But you can also lose that newly obtained freedom any second. No one’s ever explained to me how taxes work, for example, but I do know that if I don’t pay ‘em, I’ll end up in jail. Same thing for marihuana: if they find that little harmless plant in your room, solely meant for personal use to escape from all the shite that’s going on in this godforsaken world, you can be damn sure they’ll take your arse to court three seconds later. But the reason I’m behind bars is even more ridiculous than the two I’ve just mentioned. My life’s over before it’s even begun, because I love my girlfriend. Now, you’re probably thinking: oh shit, I must be reading some stalker’s story or one of a misogynistic rapist. Look, believe whatever you want, but I can assure you I’ve never done anything to her that she didn’t want. I’ve always treated Sarah with respect, like a gentleman does. I’ve never forced her to do anything, nor have I ever abused her, made her feel inferior, or manipulated her. She loved me the same way I loved her. Then why am I in this hellhole, you ask? That’s because of our bitch of a legal system, ‘cause that’s decided Sarah’s ‘too young’ for me. We’d been together before my eighteenth birthday and it was clear she loved me back, but apparently the judge couldn’t care less about that. It’s not because she’s still underage that I’m some kind of sexual predator looking for young, influential girls. Sarah’s actually very mature for her age. The problem is her mother doesn’t think that. That cunt doesn’t allow her to do anything. She can’t go out, she can’t smoke, she can’t have a boyfriend … So it’s no accident it was she who turned me in after she’d found her daughter and me snuggling in Sarah’s bed. We hadn’t even had sex or anything – Sarah said she wasn’t ready for that yet – we were just being adorable and embracing each other, I hadn’t forced her to and she had all her clothes still on. Yet somehow her mother thought the sight of us together was shocking enough to accuse me of paedophilia and sue me. And she got what she wanted! That’s why I’m rotting in jail now, surrounded by rapists, human traffickers and serial killers. The worst part is the fact that I’m being treated way worse than those hardened criminals. I don’t know how, but one way or another the inmates already knew what I had ‘done wrong’ before my arrival here. Of course they had only heard half the truth, and so had the guards. And it’s not like they’re willing to hear my side of the story either, so they all drew the conclusion that I’m some perverted child rapist. It goes without saying that because of that, no one here shows any sign of compassion towards me, on the contrary. My cellmates used to spit at my face, beat me up and kick me wherever they could hit me, and I’ve even lost count how many times someone has tried to give me ‘a taste of my own medicine’ by raping me. The guards obviously knew what I had to put up with, but it wasn’t ‘till I filed a complaint to the prison authorities that any measures were taken. And what kind of measures they took! Instead of sanctioning the violators, I’ve had to spend weeks in solitary confinement. ‘For my own safety, until the other inmates have calmed down,’ was the authorities’ excuse. Safety, my arse! Anyway, after I had suffered for weeks all by myself in that blank, tiny cell, they finally released me. Well, ‘released’ might be too strong a word, because I’m still in prison, but at least I can talk to people again. Praise the fucking lord! If it sounds like I’m being ironic, then that’s because I am. You’ve probably noticed that I’m not holding back whatsoever regarding language and frustration, either. Well, that’s because I am fucking frustrated! Fucking frustrated because of our society that thinks foul language is less acceptable than locking up innocent people, because of our bitch of a legal system, because of that cunt that calls herself Sarah’s mother, because of all the shite I’ve had to go through the last couple of months, because of the fact that I’m not the only innocent one here. You’ll never believe how many other inmates have been falsely accused of a crime. Of course there are also inmates whose innocence isn’t legit, I’m not that naïve. But trust me: I can tell when someone is behind bars for something they didn’t do. You just can’t mimic that relatable disbelief and realistic amount of despair they express in their voices; or you’d have to be one hell of an actor to pull that off. But they don’t give a shit about that here. In here, you’re guilty until proven innocent. Said innocence can only be proven when a guard wakes you up in the morning to tell you that they were wrong and lets you go. But I suppose I don’t have to tell you that that doesn’t happen often. If it does, though, you’re very likely to have wasted a huge part of your life in prison and then there’s also the challenge of starting over. If you’re lucky, people will believe you’re actually innocent, but more often than not they’ll still be convinced you are guilty, that you somehow managed to manipulate the system and enforce your release by bribery, blackmail or threats. Meanwhile, those who should actually be in jail are still walking around freely. I’m talking about those rich world leaders, politicians and CEOs who start wars, are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people, or deceive and exploit others, while they keep on experiencing the benefits of their inordinate decadence. That shit makes me wanna throw up. While those real criminals keep leading their scandalous lives, I’ll still be rotting here for five more years. Alone. My family and people I considered my friends no longer want to see me and I’ve been denied any contact with Sarah. That’s why I’m letting you read this. I want people to read and spread my story, so they’ll take action and as a result innocent people like me can be released from this hellhole. I’m suffering. Not a day passes by without me not thinking about the time everything was still alright between Sarah and me, when we could still go to the amusement park or the fair, when we could still tell each other everything, when I could still wait for her at her elementary school every Wednesday afternoon and she would cheerfully run towards me with her cute little backpack. She might only be eleven years old, but she knows how to make me happy like no other woman ever will.