Letters From the Inside

Ricardo Lara spent 19 years in Texas prisons. He got out the other day.

From then on, all TDC Ad. Seg. recreation ended by 10 p.m. No more late recreation in Ad. Seg.

A riot went on at Ramsey II Unit for at least four to six months. Rattling the cell doors and banging on the steel bunk day and night! I don't know how I got to sleep during those days, but I think it was because I would get so tired during the riot that I would sleep through the noise. People were burning the mattresses and whatever they could. Flooding by flushing the toilet. Broke all the windows, and then broke all the toilets and sinks. When the officers would come into the cell blocks, everyone would throw body waste on them, steel soup bowls and food trays. There was smoke everywhere because of the burnings.

After this riot, when things started to calm down, all inmates who were living by themselves were put to live with a cellmate. This was a big mistake! Next thing you know, gang members were killing other gang members or anyone they suspected was a snitch. Some inmates were stabbed coming back from recreation or showers. Once inside the cell, when the door closed, the officer would tell the inmate to back up to the cell door so he could take off the handcuffs. When the inmate backed up, his cellmate would jump up and attack him.

I myself was put in a cell with a Texas Syndicate member. Nothing bad happened, we got along well. We smoked marijuana, listened to the radio and did our time. I only lived with him for about a month. Then I was moved to live by myself.

Before I was transferred out, the leader of the Texas Syndicate asked me to become one of their gang members. I said yes. He asked for a picture of myself. Those days in order to become a gang member your photo was circulated throughout the TDC system by gang members. This was to see if anyone knew anything bad about you or what kind of reputation you had. It would usually take a whole year to become a gang member after this, but it only took me five months.

I was transferred to Retrieve Unit Ad. Seg. around August 1985. That Ad. Seg. was brand-new. It was fresh painted, wire mesh was welded on the doors and bars, too. It didn't last long -- more burnings and more floodings. But most of the burning was because we wanted to keep warm. It was very cold during winter, and there was no heating system. By then we had learned our lesson not to break the windows, but the officers would sometimes leave the windows open intentionally. We would set fire to the plastic food trays and lean them against the walls inside our cells to get warm. The hard plastic burned for a long time.

TDC decided to close that Ad. Seg., and I was transferred to Wynne Unit Ad. Seg. around the end of January 1986. By then I was already involved in the gang, and used to vote on gang hits through mail. There were other gang activities, business matters, etc. I was taught how to make invisible ink with vitamin C tablets and a yellow marker.

There used to be a team of officers called the Goon Squad. They were dressed like a SWAT team with helmets, shields, vests and all. They would get us naked and handcuff us with our hands behind our backs and put us all in the dayroom or hallway facing the wall. Then they would look for contraband inside our cells. They wouldn't find anything most of the time, but they sure would make a mess inside our cells! Sometimes they would break our headphones or radios or the fans, intentionally. If an inmate would complain or turn around to look, that inmate would get beat up bad. And I mean bad, with the batons the officers carried. I seen these officers break arms and legs.

My mother passed away in 1987, while I was at Wynne Unit Ad. Seg. I spoke to her on the telephone before she died. She told me that she had a feeling she was not going to live long. Well, she got sick and passed away two days later, on Mother's Day.

I had already settled down a bit. I was thinking more about what I was going to do with my future. I didn't have a GED and no type of job skills whatsoever. How was I going to take care of my family when I got married? This seed was planted in my mind by a lovely female officer who cared and gave me advice. We got along well with each other and liked each other, but another gang member wanted me to use her to bring in drugs, etc. I refused because she was good people. So he started a rumor with the other gang members that I was giving her information about our gang activities. I was put on probation and not given gang information until the matter was further investigated by higher gang leaders.

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