Janet Cooke, Washington Post Staff Writer
September 28, 1980; Page A1
Correction: The following article is not factually correct and is a fabrication by the author. For a detailed account of how it came to be published by The Washington Post, please see the article by Bill Green, then the newspaper's reader ombudsman, published in The Post on April 19, 1981.
Jimmy is 8years old and a third-generation heroin addict, a precocious little boy with sandy hair, velvety brown eyes and needle marks freckling the baby-smooth skin of his thin brown arms.
He nestles in a large, beige reclining chair in the living room of his comfortably furnished home in Southeast Washington. There is an almost cherubic expression on his small, round face as he talks about life -- clothes,money, the Baltimore Orioles and heroin. He has been an addict since the age of 5. His hands are clasped behind his head, fancy running shoes adorn his feet, and a striped Izod T-shirt hangs over his thin frame. "Bad, ain't it," he boasts to a reporter visiting recently. "I got me six of these."
Jimmy's is a world of hard drugs, fast money and the good life he believes both can bring. Every day,junkies casually buy herion from Ron, his mother's live-in-lover, in the dining room of Jimmy's home. They "cook" it in the kitchen and "fire up" in the bedrooms. And every day, Ron or someone else fires up Jimmy, plunging a needle into his bony arm, sending the fourth grader into a hypnotic nod.
Jimmy prefers this atmosphere to school, where only one subject seems relevant to fulfilling hisdreams. "I want to have me a bad car and dress good and also have me a good place to live," he says. "So, I pretty much pay attention to math because I know I got to keep up when I finally get me something to sell."
Jimmy wants to sell drugs, maybe even on the District's meanest street, Condon Terrace SE, and some day deal heroin, he says, "just like my man Ron."
Ron, 27, and recently up fromthe South, was the one who first turned Jimmy on."He'd be buggin' me all the time about what the shots were and what people was doin' and one day he said, 'When can I get off?'" Ron says, leaning against a wall in a narcotic haze, his eyes half closed, yet piercing. "I said, 'Well, s . . ., you can have some now.' I let him snort a little and, damn, the little dude really did get off."
Six monthslater, Jimmy was hooked. "I felt like I was part of what was goin' down," he says. "I can't really tell you how it feel. You never done any? Sort of like them rides at King's Dominion . . . like if you was to go on all of them in one day.
"It be real different from herb (marijuana). That's baby s---. Don't nobody here hardly ever smoke no herb. You can't hardly get none right now anyway."Jimmy's mother Andrea accepts her son's habit as a fact of life, although she will not inject the child herself and does not like to see others do it.
"I don't really like to see him fire up," she says. "But, you know, I think he would have got into it one day, anyway. Everybody does. When you live in the ghetto, it's all a matter of survival. If he wants to get away from it when he's older, thenthat's his thing. But right now, things are better for us than they've ever been. . . . Drugs and black folk been together for a very long time."
Heroin has become a part of life in many of Washington's neighborhoods, affecting thousands of teen-agers and adults who feel cut off from the world around them, and filtering down to untold numbers of children like Jimmy who are bored with school andbattered by life.
On street corners and playgrounds across the city, youngsters often no older than 10 relate with uncanny accuracy the names of important dealers in their neighborhoods, and the going rate for their wares. For the uninitiated they can recite the color, taste, and smell of things such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana, and rattle off the colors in a rainbow made of pills.