Jamal Nasir was 15 the first time he sold drugs. It was an easy choice for the gullible teenager: As a Baltimore high school student in the late ’80s, he watched many of his peers arrive at school sporting flashy clothes, showcasing new cars and brandishing huge wads of cash.
“It was eye-catching,” says Nasir, who lives in North Philadelphia. “These guys had all the girls and made the football and basketball players seem obsolete. I wanted to be part of the team.”
Being a player on the drug-dealing team was as easy back then as it is today: Nasir and a friend were recruited and given a package of crack along with instructions to bring back half the money they made.
“I would go out there on the corner and within 20 minutes that stuff would be gone,” he says.
Before long, the teen had enough cash rolling in to keep him hooked in the lifestyle. But the game has a way of turning on its players, and within a few years Nasir’s choice started him down a 20-year path of crime and prison stints. He got caught in his first undercover sting at the not-so-tender age of 17, and served 30 days in a juvenile detention center.