Like many Black and Brown men, Mainor Xuncax’s experience with law enforcement began at an early age. Mainor’s crime: he was late for school.

There was never any intervention by teachers or counselors, and no one took the time to ask why he was late. Instead, Mainor was cited for truancy. Law enforcement officials would threaten him, saying they were going to arrest his parents. The citations led to court, where he was put on probation and required to check in with law enforcement while being subjected to random checks on his whereabouts while on campus.

As a result, Mainor felt harassed, targeted and misunderstood. He also stopped wanting to go to school altogether.

His first stint in a detention camp was at 15. By 17, he had been incarcerated in two other camps. One of them he described as a “mini prison.”

“It was so hot; they didn’t have AC. The beds had metal framing and were all used and there was never privacy,” he said. “In the shower, it was like a hose that sprayed six different ways and you have six different dudes right there showering altogether.”

One of the only good things that came out of his time in lock-up was his introduction to Arts for Incarcerated Youth Network, an interdisciplinary collaborative that provides arts programming in order to build resiliency and wellness, eliminate recidivism and transform the juvenile justice system.

Mainor, 19, is confident that he will never be back in the system. Having a support system like AIYN makes all the difference. They provide leadership and advocacy training to make sure underserved and marginalized youth and families are being heard and they connect young people with community resources to help support successful reentry.

“People believed in me at AIYN,” Mainor said.

Arts of Incarcerated Network has taught Mainor the importance of community but he has also learned that there is more out there than the community you come from.

“If I continue doing what I’m doing, I know I can really go places,” he said. So far, he added, he has traveled to Montana and New York.