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Life at Fifteen--053803

NCJ Number
Robert J. Gagnon
Date Published
339 pages
This book is a memoir of the author’s time spent in the Florida prison system from December 1975 to July 1985 for the crime of armed robbery in the fist degree.
Written in the first person, the author begins his story just before he committed the crime of armed robbery with his accomplice, Zig. At the age of 15 years, Robert Gagnon, the author, walked into a savings and loan bank in Fort Lauderdale on December 19, 1975 and robbed the bank. As he left, the manager attacked him from behind and in the midst of the fight, Gagnon shot and critically injured the manager. After he and his partner were questioned by police, Gagnon took full responsibility for the crime, even adopting the media account of what had occurred, in an effort to save his partner who was an adult. Gagnon writes that he was convinced the State would only sentence him to 1 to 5 years imprisonment, but instead he was sentenced to spend the rest of his natural life in a Florida State prison with a minimum of 3 years before parole. His story of life in confinement begins. He mainly focuses on life with his fellow inmates and the lessons learned from some of the “old convicts.” He tells of learning how to take care of himself in the midst of dangerous offenders and of eluding the many “tricks” of law enforcement and corrections officers. Gagnon explains that convicts have different types of personalities and are referred to as “hustlers, dealers, players, and racists,” to name a few; everyone is placed in a category. He recalls a prison riot in 1982 and about the lost feeling he had after being released following nearly 10 years in institutional confinement. An after note by Gagnon tells the reader he now works as a mechanic and has stayed out of prison.