How did I get here? Those were the only words that kept crossing my mind every hour on the hour, or at least that’s what it felt like. I didn’t have a clock at the time, nor did my wrist bare a watch. Laying in that bunk, my legs were crossed and arms folded behind my head, relaxed in my palms. 2017 was one of the most my emotionally taxing years, maybe even more than 2020. For the twelfth time in my life, I found myself locked up in the Los Angeles County Jail for a crime I didn’t even commit. This time, in the brand-new Lynwood Correctional Facility for Women. Right when everything in my life was finally coming together, it all seemed to come crashing down. We were wrapping up filming on my documentary, Game Girls, and preparing it for release. My girl at the time, Tiahna, and I were in a good place. We had just bought a truck, we finally had our housing together, and our catering business was taking off. So what the fuck could have brought me back down so hard? Liars. That’s how I got there, facing my second and third strike, plus fifteen years in prison for assault with a deadly weapon. Like they say, “Three strikes, you’re out.” Even though none of the judges ever mentioned a life-imprisonment sentence, that possibility weighed heavily on my heart. The first came in 2004. I was in the Twin Towers Correctional Facility for a full year. It was nothing I didn’t see coming. I was getting into some bad shit for years: selling drugs, jacking people. Don’t get me wrong. It’s nothing I’m proud of. I knew what I was doing. I knew it was fucking me up, but I had to do what I had to do to survive. Life ain’t all butterflies and rainbows, especially not on Skid Row. I was just working with what I had available to me. I got away with a lot of shit, but they finally picked me up for an armed robbery charge. I was running with my home girl, Cali. She had been my ride-or-die since we met back in 2003, up until we stopped talking in 2020. She even made an appearance in Game Girls while we were filming in Vegas! See, we used to hustle together all the time when my brother, Tim, and I were homeless. We were living motel-to-motel, doing whatever we had to do just to make sure we could afford to have a roof over our heads at the end of the day. Cali was in that same game. She and Tim met up in one of the motels, and she’d been riding with us ever since. They became friends in large part because she reminded him of me. Shit, I can understand why. We were so much alike, even though we came from different backgrounds. Just like me, she was having trouble at home that drove her away. She came from a background of gang bangers, pimps, and hustlers, but we wanted to get her away from all that. Even though Tim was a pimp, he wasn’t getting her involved in his business. See, she ran with me. Call me Aladdin, because I was introducing her to a whole new world. I got her into robbing people with me. Nothing violent, though. That wasn’t my style. Up to that point, I was what’s called a white-collar criminal. Instead of holding a gun or a knife to someone and demanding they gave us money, we’d make and cash fake checks. For us, that was the only way to make sure we had a place to sleep each night. At least, until we could reach our goal of being female rappers. Until then, though, that was the only way we had to survive. Little did we know, survival was about to get a lot harder. Like I mentioned before, Tim was a pimp. That’s not all he was getting into, though. He never mentioned anything about it, but he was robbing. Not just jacking and hustling like me and Cali, though. He robbed banks. I don’t even need to say how bad that is. It’s not like holding someone up for some pocket change; it’s a-whole other level. Bank robbery is a federal crime, punishable by anywhere from four years to life in prison. And you don’t just have to worry about the teller remembering things about you, but everyone else in the bank and the security cameras all over the place. Then, you have to avoid any police that are inevitably called to the scene. And even if you do manage to get away, you still have to hope the security cameras didn’t catch enough of you for the FBI to track you down. Getting away with that takes even more than skill. It requires sheer dumb luck. But apparently, luck was on Tim’s side. He was able to get away without getting caught. Even then, though, escaping comes with its own stresses. The cops don’t just stop looking for you. For a crime like that, they’ll do whatever it takes to track you down, even if they have to go through the people you love. See, back at our mother’s house, we had two younger brothers to think about. They were good kids, too. They weren’t into all the shit Tim and I were doing, and he wanted to keep it that way. He didn’t want the cops raiding our mother’s house, exposing the boys to what a life of crime was like. That’s why not too long after his prostitute got picked up, he went down to the police station and turned himself in. That morning when I went to visit him at his friend’s house was the last time I would see him for thirteen years. From then on, Cali and I had to kick it into high gear. We went on a robbing spree, expanding out from just white-collar to blue-collar. We were on-one, too. After all, we had to start making up for what Tim and his bitch weren’t pulling in anymore. And we were able to keep it up for a while. That spree lasted for the rest of 2003 and into 2004. Ultimately, it was a bad job that did us in. Or, I guess did me in. Cali was let go because she was only sixteen or seventeen, but I wasn’t so lucky. We wound up getting pulled over in my truck for a strong-armed robbery. They arrested her first, but here my luck ran out. The reason they could only get Cali at first was because I had already jumped out of the truck. I was hiding in someone’s backyard, and I stayed there for six hours. Going to jail was the las thing I wanted to do. I was just a girl trying to keep a roof over me and my home girl’s heads, and food in our mouths. I figured after a while, the police would give up the search in that area and move on. I figured wrong. As soon as I came out of hiding, they were right there waiting for me. I was arrested, facing five years in prison. Thankfully, they offered me a deal. I had the option to take five years of felony probation instead, and only spend one year in county jail. Even still, I had such a bad attitude the whole time. Looking back, I understand why I was so indifferent. I knew what I had been doing, and I was already prepared to face the consequences. Still, I must have been crazy or something to even hesitate on a deal like that. I want to make this very clear. I have never been to prison, and I will never go. I’m no criminal mastermind; just a woman who did what she had to in order to get by. I made a few mistakes along the way in how I went about things, but that’s life. You just have to keep moving forward, learn form your mistakes, and let them inform your decisions in the future. So where did the first strike come from? Well, that’s where things get complicated. See, my main motivation for taking this deal wasn’t just because of how great it was. I was already on probation. Back in Long Beach, I had a situation with an ex-girlfriend. I ended our relationship one day, and she wound up following me to the bus stop. When I sat down in the back of the bus, she boarded and came directly back to me. Without hesitating or saying anything, she started swinging on me. Of course, I had to defend myself. I couldn’t just sit there and let her beat up on me. We wound up brawling so hard that the whole bus had to stop, and the driver called the police. The shocking thing is, nothing even happened to her. Since I presented the most masculine between the two of us, the cops assumed I was the aggressor and arrested me. I caught a charge for domestic violence over a fight I didn’t even start. That was my first time ever experiencing something like that. Thankfully, I was released on the contingency that I completed an anger management course. That lasted for a short time, until my ex and I got back together. See, even though it was a required class, I still had to pay
$25 every time I went. Money was tight for me back then, and I just couldn’t afford to pay that every week. As soon as the court found out that I had dropped the course, they put out a warrant for my arrest and had me thrown back in jail. The fallout from that case on top of this new strong-armed robbery charge compounded, and the judges decided to collaborate on their sentences. Since I was convicted of a violent crime while on probation, I was facing jail time once again in Long Beach on top of the year in county jail. See, if all of the jail time adds up to 366 days or longer, that’s an automatic prison sentence. It definitely didn’t help that my probation officer wrote in their report that I was a “danger to society who deserved the highest prison sentence.” But remember, I’ve never been to prison. The judge in Long Beach decided to reduce my sentence to six months in jail due to the epidemic of overpopulation in this country’s correctional facilities, as well as a strike on my record. I wasted no time in accepting this deal, as there was no telling what the rest of my sentence would add up to. I will never forget what the judge in Beverley Hills said when I walked into the court room. “Miss Rogers, I don’t believe this report. I’m going to give you a chance, so don’t make me look bad.” My heart felt a million times lighter once he said that. I had entered the court room so dejected, but hearing that lifted my spirits. He wound up only sentencing me to a year in jail with a five-year probation, and he ordered my time to be served consecutively. So, even though I had been charged officially with a year and six months of jail time, I was only going to be serving one year plus probation. In the end, I only wound up serving four months before I was released with $400 on my EBT card. 2017 didn’t wrap up anywhere as nicely, though. That was the lowest I’ve ever been in my whole life.