Wired on my third cup of coffee at Out of the Blue Cafe (2426 NE 2nd Avenue), I noticed a woman sitting a few seats away with a familiar looking image tattooed on her chest, directly over her heart. After a moment, I realized what it was.
"Um...excuse me, isn't that tattoo from a New Times cover?"
The story referenced by the tattoo, Rough Love, exposed the horrors of Tranquility Bay, a treatment facility for troubled teens located in Jamaica. A young man from South Florida was quoted as saying, "the place looked like a death camp."
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The woman chuckled in involuntary amusement as she introduced herself. Francesca Araya is 18 years old and from Miami. "That article brought back some bad memories," she said. "I was there for 14 months. I had to get this tattoo. Mostly to remember the fact that Tranquility Bay still exists, and that people are going through hell because of it. I was released in December 2005, but the nightmares have not gone away."
Detailing the brutality she experienced, she added, "I was once locked in a room for two weeks. My human rights were completely stripped away from me. I had to ask for a sheet of toilet paper to wipe my ass. You literally could not move without permission. The staff would always call for backup, so you would see five big Jamaicans pounce on a little kid. They would hurt you as much as possible and call it 'restraint'. I saw one girl get her teeth knocked out. The staff threw her down on the floor and bashed her face against the ground."
The cover art, which depicts a girl entangled in heart-shaped barbed wire, was created by Robert Neubecker.
"For her to use that drawing as a tattoo is an affirmation, and it validates the image," Neubecker said in a phone interview. "It is the highest compliment to an artist. It is tragic that kids have to go through that. Parents need to be aware that sending their kids to a place where they get beat up is not the answer." --Jason Handelsman