Finishing School

Sent to TYC when she was 13, Brittany Pollard grew into a young woman and model prisoner in a state prison, but will the lessons she learned there last when she's back in the free world?

One point on which everyone agrees is that Pollard didn't get off to a good start in life, and she never came to terms with it.

When she was 3 days old, her mother gave her up. The relative says the mother was on welfare and in an abusive relationship and couldn't handle another child; she already had three little ones at home.

None of those rationalizations cut it with Brittany. "To me it sounded like a bullshit excuse," Pollard says, "because I didn't understand how you could keep three kids, but you having all these so-called problems."

Brittany Pollard has been locked up since she was 13. Now nearly 18 and housed at TDCJ's Hilltop Unit in Gatesville, Pollard expects to taste freedom soon.
Mark Graham
Brittany Pollard has been locked up since she was 13. Now nearly 18 and housed at TDCJ's Hilltop Unit in Gatesville, Pollard expects to taste freedom soon.
"We call her mother," says Pollard of Alice Tippit, director of the Youthful Offender Program for women. Tippit puts in plenty of off-the-clock hours for the Hilltop girls.
Mark Graham
"We call her mother," says Pollard of Alice Tippit, director of the Youthful Offender Program for women. Tippit puts in plenty of off-the-clock hours for the Hilltop girls.

She lived with that stigma as an adolescent, knowing that the other kids somehow passed muster with Mom, but when Brittany came along, that was one too many. She ended up in the Dallas home of some relatives.

Her mother never sent birthday cards, she says, never called. Brittany grew envious of her older siblings, whom she'd see occasionally. "I used to feel jealous and stuff, because I'm the baby girl," she says. "In most families, the baby girl is the spoiled one; they're the ones that get everything."

The relative gives that a different spin. "She resented the fact that she was not being raised by her natural mother," she says. "She felt like she should have had a Cinderella life."

As for her father, well, there isn't much to say. Brittany never knew him, a man named Russell Adams, according to court records. She bumped into him one day on the street in Lawton, Oklahoma. "Me and my sister was just walking down the street one day, and I seen this crackhead, and she was like, 'Girl, that's your daddy.'"

"You're my baby girl," he said.

"No, I ain't your baby girl," Brittany shot back.

She never saw him again.

In Dallas, Brittany says she had a roof over her head, but that's about it. While she says she was always the smartest kid in her class, a participant in the district's talented and gifted program, "I didn't feel loved at home," she says, "so I just wanted to run the streets." She ended up in a gang--as she sees it, the repository of unloved children. The court records pick up there with an incredible chronicle of mayhem: "Brittany reports an unverified and...somewhat questionable history of both minor and more serious offenses, including assault, theft, selling drugs, abusing drugs, murder and arson. She describes gang-related activity that led to close-range and drive-by murders. She reports a history of association with a Dallas chapter of the Crips gang and claims she can never withdraw her membership. She also acknowledges a significant history of alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drug usage, beginning at the age of 4."

Nonetheless, Pollard says and court records affirm, she had a clean record until the night in 1997 when she shot the relative in the company of two gang buddies.

After the shooting, Pollard did what young offenders often do: get on with life as though nothing has happened. Realistic thoughts of consequences fail to penetrate the adolescent time warp.

Brittany rode the bus, hung out at Redbird Mall and the West End and kicked it with friends in an apartment, where she says she was ultimately caught a few days after the crime. "At 13, you don't really have no concept of the law, except Cops," she explains. "You know what I'm saying? Cartoons and things like that where people get arrested and go to jail, but like two days later they be out."

In Brittany's mind, the relative would simply go to the hospital, get patched up and carry on. Instead, cops showed up at her friend's door, guns drawn for a 13-year-old girl gangbanger considered armed and dangerous.

Charged with aggravated assault, Pollard accepted a plea bargain. Reality kicked in "when that judge hit that thang down and said, 'Eight years TYC,'" Pollard says. "I was clicking, like, 'Brittany, you messed up.'"


The Texas Youth Commission's dismal report on Brittany Pollard makes a strong case for booting the teen-ager to adult prison. The report, a summation of nearly three years at an assortment of TYC facilities around the state, is dead serious, but it's hard to stifle a laugh at times while reading the niggling documentation of adolescent stupidity. Like the time Brittany was assigned a project involving a red pen. Pollard, a Crip, didn't want anything to do with a red hue, the color of her rival gang, the Bloods. "Brittany refused to use or touch the red pen," the TYC report says. "Instead, she obtained a piece of tissue and picked up the red pen with the piece of tissue." Pollard, it seems, reveled in her gang membership and played it to the hilt, spelling words in gangsta style--"bacc" instead of "back," for example. When she was supposed to be learning resocialization skills, she was more inclined to snooze or raise her hand to proclaim that "this is boring" or "this is stupid."

The report concludes, among other things, that Pollard was a drama queen. "Brittany would like to be perceived by others as extremely psychologically disturbed," it says.

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