Letters From the Inside

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

By then I was tired of this gang stuff. Everything was going downhill. Even business was going downhill. The new recruits were too young and stupid. They were not properly investigated throughout the system. Everybody was at each other's throat, and all they thought about was killing each other. I began thinking more about getting my GED and some job skills. I wrote a letter to the gang leader and quit the Texas Syndicate. So a hit was put on me.

I wanted to blend in with the TDC system and get away from Wynne Unit Ad. Seg. and the gangs. TDC didn't and doesn't have any GED programs or job skills in Ad. Seg., so I had to get released to the regular inmate population. There was only one way that I could do that. I had to go to a psychiatric unit.

In order to get to the psychiatric unit, I set fire to my cell. It did not work, but it got me to see a psychiatrist. Then I hanged myself without getting hurt. It didn't work either. Finally I cut my arm. My intentions were to cut only skin, but the razor blade was too sharp and hit a vein. I woke up at John Sealy Hospital in Galveston. This time it did work, but I was not released to regular population. The psychiatric treatment program was moved to Amarillo, Texas, at Clemens Unit. I can't remember what month we were all transferred. I had planned not to take medication, but the medication was not in pills. It was by injections. Everything went by so fast and blurry.

At Clemens, another inmate told the warden I and 15 other inmates were gang members using the psychiatric unit to get released to the regular inmate population. We were locked back up in Ad. Seg., and I was transferred to Ad. Seg. Protected Custody at Ramsey I Unit. It wasn't that bad, but there were no type of educational programs, so I had to file some grievance complaints in order for them to let me take the GED exam. I passed the GED exam and received my certificate on April 23, 1992.

I needed some job skills, but in order to participate in a vocational program I still had to be released to the regular inmate population. I asked the administration in February 1995, and after being in Ad. Seg. for approximately ten years I was finally released to the regular population. It was such a great feeling! Finally being able to go to the gym, mess hall and showers. I was very happy!

Well, I signed up for cabinet-making vocational, but I didn't get to complete that vocational. There was a female officer I was having problems with, and the administration decided to transfer me to Retrieve Unit because of "inmate and officer conflict."

At Retrieve Unit, I did get to complete the microcomputer application vocational. I also became a Muslim. And I tried, I really did try, not to get into any fights. But in prison, there always has to be some idiot who is going to disrupt your peace. The first fight, I got beat, finally beat, after all these years! The second fight, I broke the guy's jaw and nose. He was transferred to John Sealy Hospital to get his jaw restructured and wired.

I was determined to do what I set out to do, and that was to learn as many job skills as I could. I was transferred to Wynne Unit for the welding vocational. I completed the vocational, and after a while I decided to sign up for the sheet-metal vocational at Michael Unit. I wanted to take my chances staying at Michael Unit, but unfortunately I was recognized by some Texas Syndicate gang members. I was approached and told to write a letter of explanation to higher gang leaders about why I had renounced the gang. I knew they just wanted to fool me into thinking everything was okay, while they planned their attack. So I went to speak to the gang intelligence officer and explained my situation. As you know by now, Mr. Patterson, I usually like to stand up and fight, but not this time, no sir! I only had one more year to go, and I wanted to get to see the free world again!

After I explained my situation to the gang intelligence officer, I was locked up in a transit cell to await transfer back to Eastham Unit. I explained there what had happened at Michael Unit and that I was told by the Michael Unit administrator that everything would be explained on my record. The Eastham Unit committee said my record only reflected that I had refused to complete the vocational. So the Eastham committee decided to put me back in the Eastham regular inmate population.

Five days later, on Sunday, February 7, 1999, a friend and I were walking around the recreation yard, when all of a sudden I felt someone hit me on the back of my head. Then I felt someone stab me twice in the back. I turned to look and saw two inmates, one with an ice pick and another with a metal lock tied to a rope. I fought back. I was not going to go down without taking one of them with me if I died. I started punching the one with the knife. He stabbed me on my arm three times. I punched him again and he stabbed me on my side and punctured my lung, which collapsed. Then the other inmate came behind me and hit me with the lock on the back of my head. But then my friend started to fight with the inmate that had the lock. My friend was bleeding badly from his head. I don't know when he had got hit. Anyway, I kicked the inmate that had the knife. He swung at me and I tried to grab the knife, but it went through my hand. He had tied the knife to his hand. I noticed that he looked so young and scared, but I was determined to take him with me to the grave. However, he started to back off every time I walked toward him. Then he finally ran away. I knew that my friend could handle the other inmate, so I turned around and walked toward the tower to wave at the officer to get his attention.

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